Lawmakers to probe Benghazi talking points

Nov. 19, 2012 at 2:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Lawmakers say they would probe why Obama administration talking points didn't at first reflect CIA findings that terrorists attacked the U.S. mission in Libya.

"I know the narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We're going to get to the bottom of how that happened."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told the same program David Petraeus, CIA director at the time, told lawmakers "very clearly" Sept. 12 -- the day after the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans -- "that it was a terrorist attack."

Petraeus even "outlined who he thought might be involved in it," she said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told five major Sunday morning interview shows Sept. 16 the attacks began as a "spontaneous reaction" to an anti-Islamic video widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world that had also set off protests elsewhere.

"I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence," Rice said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that day. "Whether they were al-Qaida affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al-Qaida itself, I think, is one of the things we'll have to determine."

Rice later said her statements were based on CIA talking points given to her in briefings the day before her television appearances.

Republicans have alleged an administration coverup to play down a possible al-Qaida link before the Nov. 6 presidential election. President Barack Obama said during his campaign his administration weakened al-Qaida and killed its founding leader, Osama bin Laden.

Feinstein said she felt certain the White House was not behind any change in the talking points Rice used.

"With the allegation that the White House changed those talking points, that is false," Feinstein told "Meet the Press," adding the only adjustment the White House made was to change the word "consulate" in Benghazi to the more accurate "mission."

"That's the only change that anyone in the White House made, and I have checked this out," she said.

Still, "we gave the direction [Saturday] that this whole process is going to be checked out," Feinstein told the program. "We're going to find out who made changes in the original statement. Until, we do I really think it's unwarranted to make accusations."

She said it was not right for Rice to be exposed to public contempt, ridicule and scorn for comments that were consistent with the approved statement she was given to speak from.

"She was within the context of that statement," Feinstein said. "And for this, she has been pilloried for two months. I don't understand it. It has to stop."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told "Meet the Press" the misstatement would hurt any Senate approval of Rice if she is nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in Obama's second term.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Rice had "a lot of explaining to do" and would need to explain her comments to the Senate if she is nominated.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was "totally unfair" to hold Rice responsible for relaying information she was given.

He accused Graham and McCain of hypocrisy for using the incident to potentially block a Rice nomination.

"Eight years ago, when President [George W.] Bush suggested Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state, some people said, well, wait a minute, wasn't she part of misleading the American people about intelligence information that led to our invasion of Iraq? And it was Senator McCain and Senator Graham who stood up and said don't hold her accountable for the intelligence that was given to her -- she was simply relating what she had heard," Durbin said.

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