Graham threatens to hold up CIA director confirmation
January 8th, 2013
01:21 PM ET
10 years ago

Graham threatens to hold up CIA director confirmation

(CNN) - Saying he has "not forgotten about the Benghazi debacle," Sen. Lindsey Graham called for a delay in the confirmation process of John Brennan, the president's choice for CIA director, as investigations still continue surrounding the September 11, 2012 U.S. consulate attack in Libya.

"I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered," Graham said in a statement.

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The Republican senator from South Carolina has helped lead congressional efforts to address the deadly attack in Libya. He was one of several Republican senators who sharply questioned U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and her role in the aftermath of the violence.

Days after the incident, Rice appeared on television news shows and described on the violence as a spontaneous attack spurred by outrage over an anti-Islam film. The intelligence community, however, later called it a terrorist attack.

Rice used unclassified talking points from the intelligence community in her television appearances, which apparently went through multiple drafts before landing in her hands. In briefings to Congress, intelligence officials said the initial draft was more specific in linking individuals to 'al Qaeda.' But when the document was sent to the rest of the intelligence community for review, there was a decision to change 'al Qaeda' to a broader term of 'extremists' for the final version.

While some members of Congress said the reason for changing the term was unclear, a senior U.S. official familiar with the drafting of the talking points said the change was made for legitimate intelligence and legal reasons, not for political purposes.

"First, the information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources," the official said. "Second, when links were so tenuous – as they still are – it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers so you don't set off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions. Third, it is important to be careful not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages.

When former CIA director David Petraeus testified, he also said the unclassified talking points did not make mention of extremist elements because it was still classified – and could have compromised intelligence sources, according to several Democrats who were briefed.

While Rice withdrew her name last month from consideration for secretary of state, questions from Capitol Hill continue and Hillary Clinton, the nation's top diplomat, is expected to testify before she leaves her job as secretary of state.

She was scheduled to so in December but canceled after suffering a concussion. Clinton was later hospitalized with a blood clot but was discharged last week. She returned to work Monday.

As for Brennan, an intelligence committee staffer said the hearing is expected to be held late January or early February. The upper chamber is currently in recess until January 21.

Graham's communications director, Kevin Bishop, said the senator has "not placed a hold on the nomination yet" but added it was "a real possibility." He said Clinton's testimony is separate from the issue and reiterated Graham's call for a select committee to be set up to investigate the Benghazi incident.

The decision, Bishop said, is contingent upon Graham getting the information he has requested.

"Who changed Ambassador Susan Rice's talking points and deleted the references to Al-Qaeda?" he said, adding the various answers he has thus far received (Read the full statement below).

"This ever-changing story should be resolved. It is imperative we understand who changed the talking points just weeks before a presidential election and why. The stonewalling on Benghazi by the Obama Administration must come to an end," he said.

Graham, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, stressed that a delay is "not directed" at Brennan but that such a step may be "necessary action" to get more details from the administration about its handling of the aftermath.

- CNN's Pam Benson, Kate Bolduan and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Statement on the Confirmation of the Director of the CIA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) released the following statement on the confirmation of John Brennan as Director of the CIA.

Graham said:

"I have not forgotten about the Benghazi debacle and still have many questions about what transpired before, during and after the attack on our consulate.

"In that regard, I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered – like who changed Ambassador Susan Rice's talking points and deleted the references to Al-Qaeda? My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary action to get information from this Administration.

"I have tried – repeatedly – to get information on Benghazi but my requests have been repeatedly ignored.
"We were first told the Director of National Intelligence deleted the Al-Qaeda reference in the talking points because they did not want to let al Qaeda know we were monitoring them. We were then told the FBI changed the talking points so as not to compromise an ongoing criminal investigation. Finally, during a meeting with Ambassador Rice and acting-CIA Director Morrell, I was told it was the FBI who changed the talking points. However, later in the day the clarified it was the CIA who had changed the talking points.

"This ever-changing story should be resolved. It is imperative we understand who changed the talking points just weeks before a presidential election and why. The stonewalling on Benghazi by the Obama Administration must come to an end."

Filed under: John Brennan • Libya • Lindsey Graham • Senate • Susan Rice
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Dennis Freeman

    The clown show continues...

    January 8, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  2. ddblah

    Bring it on, please!

    January 8, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. JustAO

    The more 'NOs' we keep hearing from GOP legislators on every issue that places profits for corporations and lobbyists over solutions for American economy and consumers, the more likely they will be voted out in upcoming elections. The future seems brighter with less of them in congress.

    January 8, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. Mark from IN

    I am so sick of Linny Graham! He blocks everything and gets other repubs to block items he couldn't get to. Is it just me seeing the action of one individual holding up 90% of what should go on in the senate? Geeezzzzz, he is not the president. He does not call shots over the president. The level of arrogance Linny is showing is out of this world.

    January 8, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  5. PJ

    Senator Graham has forgotten that nobody is perfect, including himself.
    He and McCain's continual vengefulness is becoming borderline psychotic. They took down Susan Rice, will try
    to do the same on Hagel, and now Brennan.
    McCain needs to either get over the losses he inflicted on himself, or get out of town. And Graham needs to
    grow up.

    January 8, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  6. Wake up People!

    It looks like my first comment got moderated out. Please Mr. President, please tell Graham, McCain and any other obstructionists to do the exact same thing Boehner told Harry Reid to do. Who do these people think THEY are that they can tell you who to have in your cabinet? Also please call John Kerry and tell him thanks but no thanks you are choosing Susan Rice as SoS.

    I can imagine the uproar coming from the right had Willard won and the dems were throwing tantrum after tantrum.

    January 8, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. sonnie3

    We need to get the Benghazi situation behind us and that won't come to be, until Mrs Clinton answers some real tough question about the security of our Ambassadors & why they were not protected and why did they at election time lie about the facts and spread false messages about what really happened?

    January 8, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. Luke Brown

    Graham is running for re-election and needs to get some mileage out of this to appeal to the Tea Party.

    PS As was demonstrated with Susan Rice, they think nothing of destroying people for particularly good reason.

    January 8, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. Peace

    This man makes everyone feel flawing up. First he tweeted after Presidents comments on Susan Rice. That was really disgusting. He (Graham) thinks he is something while he is not. No one can think of making him even close to the White House. Anyone who has the right thinking, why should he make as many enemies as he can instead of friends?

    January 8, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. PaulCat

    Who in the HELL is going to un-seat this man? He has so much anger inside himself. This is just one (1) reason they can't get any work done. On my job you would be fired by now. And poor John McCain!

    January 8, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. The Dude

    What a joke this guy is. Pandering to his base no doubt. Come on South Caroline, you can do better than this!

    January 8, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. Wake up People!

    Why is Benghazi so damned important?? Weren't the other embassies that were bombed under other presidents just as important?? I understand lives were lost but what about the other lives that were lost??? What do you people think is going to happen?? My goodness, Benghazi wasn't even a real embassy. And anyone that thinks President Obama or Secretary Clinton would purposely leave anyone to die really needs to turn off Fox News, take off the tinfoil hat and seek help immediately from your closest mental health expert, for real.

    January 8, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. Nick

    What good will come of this witch hunt? Stop the stunts and go to work getting this economy back on track! This political theater is getting old.. I'm so tired of it. If you don't like Obama that's your right.. but don't hold the country hostage so that you can play games.

    January 8, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  14. elle

    Lindsey Graham is the bromance of John McCain, they vote as a two-some and McCain is cheesed off because he lost the election...every time one turns around LG or McCain attacks much for a sore loser

    January 8, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  15. bergeron

    Dear South Carolina:

    Will "somebody" – " anybody" please replace this clown.

    Enough is enough! IT'S GETTING OLD.

    January 8, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  16. on StreetWise

    The more that Graham obstructs our government, the more damage he does to him and his party... bring it on!

    January 8, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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