November 18th, 2012
12:03 PM ET
2 years ago

After hearing Petraeus’ testimony, legislators' questions on Benghazi remain

(CNN) – Republican legislators on Sunday questioned the motives behind the Obama administration’s initial description of the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, after Friday briefings on Capitol Hill from the former CIA director.

Asked whether the Obama administration’s initial description of the attacks as “spontaneous” was an attempt to avoid a discussion about terrorist groups being involved, Sen. Roy Blunt said, “Until you hear a better explanation, that's the only conclusion you could reach.”

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“You have to have a really good reason why you don't give the American people the information you had, unless you think you're somehow going to really endanger the people that are in other parts of the world,” the Missouri Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The attacks resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. David Petraeus, who recently resigned as director of the CIA, said in closed-door congressional briefings on Friday that the attack was planned and launched by terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda, according to lawmakers and those who attended. He downplayed the use of the word “spontaneous,” according to these accounts.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has faced sharp criticism from Republicans for describing the attack as “spontaneous” in appearances on Sunday talk shows the week of the attack. The questions have included why she was the administration’s spokesperson on the matter and why references to terrorism were removed - and by whom - from the declassified talking points she used in her appearances.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has joined with fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in saying he would not support a promotion for Rice. They say they don’t buy the suggestion that the “spontaneous protest” explanation was part of the public narrative so that al Qaeda would be unaware of the U.S. intelligence community’s suspicions.

“Isn't it kind of off - if the reason is to take al Qaeda out of the equation to make sure that al Qaeda doesn't know that we're onto them - that the story they told helps the president enormously three weeks before the election?” he asked on NBC. “Because I don't buy that for one bit, that doesn't make sense to me.”

Graham and McCain have said they would block Rice’s nomination to serve as secretary of state, should she be nominated. Rice is seen to be a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has said she does not want to serve through President Barack Obama’s second term but will stay in her post until a candidate is ready.

Obama fiercely defended Rice at a news conference on Wednesday but did not say who his top choices for the position are.

"If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after someone, they should go after me," Obama said. "When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me."

Graham has said that there are “a lot of other qualified people” who could be chosen and that Rice’s comments following the Benghazi attacks cause him to distrust her. "The reason I don't trust her is that I think she knew better, and if she didn't know better, she shouldn't be the voice of America," Graham said.

Sunday on “Meet The Press,” he said that if her name is advanced, “I'm going to listen to what Susan Rice has to say, put her entire record in context - but I’m not going to give her a plus for passing on a narrative that was misleading to the American people, whether she knew it was misleading or not.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, said on NBC, “I don't know who we were protecting” by removing references to terrorism from the talking points.

“I do know that the answer given to us is we didn't want to name a group until we had some certainty,” Feinstein, a Democrat, continued. “Well, where this went awry is, anybody that brings weapons and mortars and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and breaks into an asset of the United States is a terrorist in my view.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, echoed Blunt’s sentiment.

“I know the narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right,” he said, also on NBC. “The narrative as it went, from at least the CIA and other intelligence agencies, was accurate, as we know today, was an act of terrorism.”

Rogers, a Republican, said it appears references to terrorism were removed from the talking points, but not by the intelligence community. “When asked, there was no one in the professional intelligence community (who) could tell us who changed what,” he said.

Rogers added, “This isn't just about parsing words and who was right. There was some policy decisions made based on the narrative that was not consistent with the intelligence that we had. That's my concern.”


Filed under: Congress • David Petraeus
soundoff (199 Responses)
  1. Jayson

    @dave
    a 'Trial' Dave? A Trial for what? Like we had a trial for BUSH? for LOSING 3,000 lives on AMERICAN soil and nearly 5,000 in Iraq in a Bogus war. You are a complete idiot. Maybe you can bring that imbecile McCain his prune juice every morning on his front porch. Go back to your faux bubble.

    November 18, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. texas woman

    why all the mean spirited comments from dems? Are you afraid of any investigation into something the American people, not to mention the families of those killed, have an absolute right to know? Are you afraid BO's halo might be a little crooked?

    November 18, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  3. Alina77

    This is is't Repablican Party, this is party of bullies.... I sought after Obamas win, these people will learn something... Not them.

    November 18, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  4. kaplunk

    even with full blown coverage of Benghazi tragic event the GOP still lost the election. is it because it did not happen as POTUS said it did? no, it is because it is hard to believe that the GOP are motivated for a purely patriotic reason and it is very hard to believe that they are trying to tell the truth at this moment when they have proven to be compulsive liars.

    November 18, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  5. just wondering

    The Republican leadership will try and keep this alive until the next election....

    November 18, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. shazzam

    either way GOP would have lost the election. what does that tell you?

    November 18, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. Cheryl

    People recognize a politically motivated witch hunt when they see one. And an arrogant old man struggling to stay relevant as his power slips away. How convenient for McCain to propose himself as the head of a new committee on Benghazi just at the time his term on the Armed Services Committee ends. Some day the details of the covert mission in Benghazi will come out and the Republicans will once again be shown to be the party that puts politics ahead of country. Just ask Valerie Plame.

    November 18, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  8. GlueckAuf

    It's time we faced the hard truth. Our president lied to us. Period.

    Just like LBJ, Nixon, and Clinton lied in the aftermath of a debacle to try to spare their reputation. And in doing so, soiled it all the more.

    Time to get over it.

    Good road,
    GlueckAuf

    November 18, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  9. Gurgyl

    BENGAZI issue is BS. I mean big BS.

    November 18, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  10. KeepFearAlive

    Just a quick reminder .. the Black man won by Huge Margins .... AGAIN ... , The Senate GAINED Democratic Seats .... by large margins ... The GOP House of Representatives lost the popular vote .. by large margins, though their unscrupulous Gerry-mandering of the electorate allowed them to keep the house.. proving there-by that the only way the republicans can ever win, is NOT by selling the Dog Food they perpetually sell that no one wants.. by by suppressing votes, gerry-mandering districts and doing away with early voting ... because they only understand one thing ... people don't wanna buy the GARBAGE they are selling .. dear republicans ... go join the Taliban if thats the kind of country you want to live in .. the rest of ust would like to enjoy some light spirited equality ...

    November 18, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  11. ty

    by maintaining this false outrage the GOP is trying to punish obama for winning the election and continue to be obstructionist. they have heard the facts and gotten the hearing they wanted but still want to make it all an issue. where was this sense of outrage when 9/11 happened and investigations discovered that bush and company ignored intelligence reports. where was the outrage when no weapons of mass destruction were found in iraq? wher was the GOP outrage when we spent a TRILLION dollars and did not fund it? where was the outrage when over 100,00 Iraqis were killed because of a fake war. clearly the GOP knows that the far right and fox will push this BS and make life hard for obama to govern and that is the only thing they ever really wanted.

    November 18, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  12. Andrew

    Dear GOPers,

    Where are the "WMD's?

    You do not know?

    Ok, next!

    Susan Rice?

    November 18, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  13. CP

    I am baffled by the electorate.

    The first comment poster here, Bill, for example. Bill has actual knowledge that the Obama administration purposefully lied to the American people, sending Susan Rice to tell a story-line about a movie inspired attack, that day even re-stating "Al Qaida has been decimated" (a quote) to explain how it couldn't have been them, when we now know that the CIA "talking points" memo had specifically stated it was an Al Qaida linked terrorist act. Four Americans were murdered over the course of 7 hours. And Bill, and other non-American, but Democrat posters like him, are simply okay with being lied to by this administration. It's baffling. If we no longer expect even a semblance of truth from our government, we should call this 200 year old experiment finished.

    November 18, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. mattinacan

    yawn, give it up republicans, no one cares anymore but you

    November 18, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  15. WayneMer

    Dave – and Iraq was Bush's failure. Did you call for a full investigation and trial then? I think not. And if you think that Benghazi is on a par with Iraq, you have a problem with proportionality.

    November 18, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  16. MFVJR

    Remember the WMD???? The main reason for the Iraq war?? A superb intelligence?? Reason for invasion?? How many American lives lost and with it our economy?? Where these GOP's?? They should be tried for genocide and for crimes against humanity??

    November 18, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. conrad

    All this tells me is that losing badly in the recent election wasn't enough of a wake-up call to the Republicans. We are tired of this!! We don't like or want your hate tactics. You are wasting tax-payer time and money. GO DO your jobs and work on the economy. This is a non-issue.

    Obama called it terrorism in his very first response to the nation regarding the attack. AND even if he had made a huge deal of it and called it Terroism by Al Qaeda he would still have won the election. Obama took out Osama bin Laden, we don't think he is weak on terrorism. DEAL WITH IT REPUBLICANS!!

    November 18, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  18. SHawn

    This is why nothing gets done in congress. We are wasting time trying to wonder why certain words were used. Brave people died in Libya and they do everyday in Afghanistan and Iraq. Move on. Start working on the fiscal cliff.

    November 18, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  19. FloydZepp

    Old white man Republicans. They cannot change so they will fade away now desperately clinging to a non-issue like Benghazi.

    November 18, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  20. John M

    Not to sound like K in Men in Black, but there are always a lot of things going on in the intellegence community and foriegn relations that the american people shouldn't know.
    I think that this will become a bigger issue than it needs to be, but I am curious about one thing that maybe someone can help me with – I remember that the person that made the film that supposedly triggered this event getting arrested and having to go into hiding – was that all part of the "cover-up"?

    November 18, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  21. NYVeteran

    Anything to avoid governing. DId you just no hear the electorate? Do we need to come to Washington with pitchfoirks rakes and torches held high to get you to doyour friggin jobs! Cut to crap and get to work and fix ths fiscal cliff and GOVERN!

    November 18, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. bill frenel

    That's ok. What we really want to know about is how Karl Rove tried to rig the election but Anonymous prevented it this time. That's the real news!!

    November 18, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Interesting that republicans talk about policy decisions based on intellignece reports. There kind of a long war that ignored the intelligence.

    November 18, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. Graptoids

    Let's remember, whether your are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, we have to know the truth! This is a burden the current administration has to explain.......................Or there will be no cooperation between the parties for the next four years and we all lose.

    Currently, we have: Fast and Furious, Benghazi, General Patreaus scandal, Fiscal Cliff, Post Office Bailout, Federal Housing Authority Bailout, Obama Care costs, EPA regulations, and current Middle East troubles................Did I miss anything?

    So why can't the President just accept the Bush Era tax cuts just the way they are for everyone? Our tax base needs to be expanded to include the other 50% of people not paying into the system, if you want to argue "FAIRNESS"

    November 18, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  25. socereauss51

    Is there any other angle in this story why the administration suppress the facts, is any body wants the Ambassador to be dead, who instructed he should be in benghazi while he should be at Tripoli, Is there any financial interest acted in the distribution of money for various counter insurgencies in that country involved and try to divert into vested interested peoples, Is the Ambassador acted against it............. Why the administration watch the attack in the real time , is it to make sure every thing end in a calculated way.......God knows.

    Nice revelation, confusion arise out of 20 or such reports from different parts, BUT THEY ARE WATCHING DIRECTLY IN BENGHAZI IN REAL TIME THERE IS NO DEMONSTRATION, HOW COME THEY THINK AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE STUPID. Its easy to make people stupid so as the election result. But there is almighty is there whoever involved in the blood of these 4 innocent people will get their punishment from god no matter what.

    November 18, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
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