November 18th, 2012
12:03 PM ET
10 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. dawoof

    I can not believe these Republicans. They will do anything to get rid of Obama. They were unable to do it in the last election so they will find a way, no matter who flimsy it is. I wonder where these Republicans were when the Bush Administration was laxed on security or did not mind the clues given to them by other countries about the terrorists in our country. How come these terrorists that killed thousands of Americans in our own soil, got away from security in this country? How come dudya and his cronies were not subjected to the kind of scrutiny that Obama is now about Libya? These Republicans ought to just stop. It is really annoying and they are not fooling anyone around. People know what they are up to. Just stop it! It is really sickening. Enough!

    November 18, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. Mike Buck

    RepubliCONS voted against a bill to provide more security for ambassadors and then play politics when something goes wrong. When George W. Bush was president there were at least 7 attacks on embassies and at least 31 people killed. The RepubliCONS were not screaming about these attacks and demanding investigations then, were they? Muslim extremists and other extremists make the world a dangerous place. Stop complaining for political gain.

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

    hey dave we can have that trial into 4 deaths as soon as we investigate and trial bush/cheney for the 1000's of deaths he cuased by lying about wmd and not pursuing bin ladin more. as well as a few other little things he did for his corporate buddies in the oil markets now quiet down and accept defeat at the hands of american voters!

    November 18, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  4. honestmidwest

    GOP-move on please! You have made this obvious to everyone that this is all you have to complain about, but there are things you were hired to do and you continue to FAIL at it. Please – stop harping on this!

    November 18, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. Bringiton1

    McCain the looser just can't get beyond it!

    November 18, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  6. michael

    CNN, why won't you push back on repuglican hypocrisy, when it comes to the attack on Bengazi. There were no crying like what we hear now from repuglicans like Mccain or Grahm when: 2002 U.S. Embassy Karachi, Pakistan: 10 killed, 51 injured
    2004 U. S. Embassy bombed in Uzbekistan: 2 killed, several injured.
    2004 U.S. Consulate Saudi Arabia: 8 killed
    2006 US. Embassy Syria: 1 killed, several injured
    2007 U.S. Embassy -Athens: building bombed with an anti-tank grenade...fortunately no one was in the building at the time.
    2008-U.S. Embassy – Serbia: 1 dead; Embassy set on fire
    2008- U. S. Embassy- Yemen- bombed 10 killed

    November 18, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. lloyd roberts

    Wow, this is the most pressing problem of America at this time. I am so glad the republicans are there protecting American's access to the Intellegence community and will examine each and every single word that anybody anywhere said during this whole thing and then analyze it word for word and nuance for nuance. This is such a major problem that i think everyone involved should face criminal charges and ruined reputations for the rest of their lives. Now, if only they had been so careful with the words, "weapons of mass destruction". Don't these adults have something better to do

    November 18, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  8. AtlJack

    For 30 years the GOP has continued to try to manufacture FAKE scandals. This is the latest one.

    You LOST. Accept it. And Senator McCain. Obama beat you in 2008 – Let it go. You were a brave man in the war.
    Now you are embarrassing yourself.

    November 18, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. gwill55

    I live in Missouri and Roy Blunt is worthless. The man gets elected then disappears. The only time you notice the guy is when he is supporting something stupid. Original thoughts and solutions to anything is beyond his grasp. He just needs to go away.

    November 18, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  10. DJ

    This is a waste of the taxpayers money. The Repugs are just using as excuse to continue doing nothing, and get paid for it. McCain needs to go !!

    November 18, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. GonzoinHouston

    Pure-T, 100% politics. The GOP has been beseeching the fundamentalist God for an excuse for a drawn-out impeachment hearing, and Pat Robertson has intervened with God to deliver this. The Republicans dug themselves into a hole by their constant obstruction, and now they're digging even deeper with this. Ya'll keep it up; it will pay off in the 2014 elections – for the Democrats.

    November 18, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. Mabc

    The GOP did not win. The next best thing is to cripple the administration. Waste time on
    something that has nothing to do with the welfare of this country.

    November 18, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. fekt

    How about the BUDGET. They're asking for a six month extension now for the bush era cuts to the wealthy included so they can "work on closing loopholes in the tax code" in an effort to insure they stay around afterwards. No more of this distraction. Do your damned jobs. The cuts for the top 2% are gone. Deal with it. No more kick the can for six months to find loopholes you didn't find in the last six months. It's over. It's time for the rest of America to be heard. State by state recall elections of House GOP Obstructionist Benghazi Deflecting Budget Nordquist Slaves to be out. Recall em all. Anyone who didn't run this year and is part of the problem RECALL THEM.

    November 18, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. Floyd from Illinois

    A careful reading of the article does not reveal just what it is that McCain and Graham are squawking about. They just appear to be squawking, pointlessly.

    November 18, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. DJ

    Graham needs to go also !!

    November 18, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. itsovergetoverit

    Dave, rvoter....What you still dont understand is that Obama took on Bushes failures with deficit spending, his fathers deficit spending and reagans failed reaganomics that also contributed to the negative spending and you expent Obama to get the country out of it in one term. Not to mention the do nothing congress this term. If congress ,specifically the house republicans and the Tea Pary, dont get their act together its going to be a very long time before the GOP gets back in the White House.

    November 18, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. Charles

    What happened to JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. Business as usual I see. Everything is politics and all the Republicans care about is position for the mid-terms. There is nothing here, please get to business on some REAL problems.

    November 18, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  18. zapper

    Dave, I guess one difference is that Bush's a) incompetence or b) lies (take your pick) resulted on the deaths of over a half million Iraqi civilians and 4,000 US troops. Benghazi, as sad as it is, killed four Americans.

    Why SHOULD we stop talking about Bush, the first modern president to "lead" the US into a completely unjustified war?

    November 18, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. albert

    People will remember this Republican anti President publicity stunt in 2016.

    November 18, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  20. w l jones

    If some people spent time in and around a combat area they would know you never show your hand when it come to intelligent,

    November 18, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  21. Joe M

    There is no question here, Inpeach Obama, end of story!!!

    November 18, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  22. Steve

    There is a lot of advice coming from Dems to Pubs. We can't take advice from people that do nothing except blame others for their problems. It's the PRESIDENT'S job to bring people together people. He has never once been able to do it, EVER! Clinton did it and 10 times the opposition Obama has. It's his problem and no one else's. If he continues to to blame and accuse others for the next 4 years it will be another disasterous 4 years.

    November 18, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  23. republican's are crumbling

    Republican's are falling apart at the seams and I love every second of it. Trapped in their own stupidity and ignorance. Don't change a thing. Stay ultra hard right wing and you'll have the next 4 elections in the bag for sure. I'm gonna go grab some popcorn and maybe take the year off watching the right wing self implode on live TV.

    November 18, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  24. Drmirabilis

    The Republicans got beat in the election (except where redistricting in the House protected them) and on policy questions in the exit polls. Obama and the Democrats have the advantage now, so McCain, Graham, and the Republican's propaganda arm (Fox "News" and Rush Limbaugh, etc.) need to fabricate something bright and shiny in hopes of changing the direction of the country. At first, it was the rumor that the Petraeus affair was just a cover to keep him from testifying (whoops, that didn't work for long); now, it's a lot of innuendo about what the President knew and what information intelligence officials decided NOT to publicize to the WHOLE WORLD just days after the attack, before all the information was in (Not everyone can make snap judgments and pronouncements in the middle of the night without all of the facts, like Romney. Talk about an attempt to take political advantage of a tragic event.) . But despite all of the hoopla, watch the interviews carefully: when any of these guys are asked directly, "Do you have any evidence of wrongdoing or manipulation," they always are forced to say "No." They then run quickly back to their accusations and their leading questions and suppositions. There is no soul-searching going on in the Republican Party, as some have suggested, and I doubt there ever will be. All there will be are promises, spin, and pretty faces, although the promises will be about how they NOW care about the middle class and the faces will not ALL be of old, white men.

    November 18, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
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