WASHINGTON, May 5 (UPI) -- The White House made a political decision to disregard terrorism in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, the chairman of a congressional committee said.
Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif., head of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" the Obama administration intended to gloss over the fact the mission in Benghazi had been the target of an al-Qaida raid in favor of the idea the so-called war on terrorism had been won.
"That may have gone in a great way to getting people to say well, we can't call this a terrorist attack because then the war on terror is back alive," said Issa, whose committee this week will conduct hearings on the incident.
Issa said the committee would hear testimony from State Department officials he said had sounded the alarm about al-Qaida's role but were blocked in one way or another by their superiors out of purely political concerns.
Issa added the implications were important. He said painting the attack as a spontaneous act by protesters delayed the dispatching of FBI investigators to Libya and was a slap in the face of the new president of Libya, who had called the incident a terrorist attack early on.
"Secretary (of state Hillary) Clinton should have been the person who was on the same sheet of music with the Libyan government, and she wasn't," said Issa, who contended the U.S. relationship with Libya was damaged by the perceived insult.
The ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. C.A. Ruppersberger, D-Md., told CBS he was happy to have an open hearing on Benghazi with input from a variety of witnesses. But he urged people to hear the testimony before making up their minds and engaging in partisan finger-pointing.
"It was a volatile situation," Ruppersberger said. "A lot of the same information that we received initially had to change."