Senators took to the floor Thursday to express their continued outrage over Benghazi. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AR) blasted the administration for misleading the American people, and threatened to re-open the Benghazi investigation. The immediate cause was the appearance by National Security Advisor Susan Rice on “Meet the Press” on February 23.
Rice was asked by host David Gregory whether she regretted misleading Americans about the cause of the Benghazi attack on the Sunday talk shows September 16, 2012, five days after the assault on the U.S. consulate:
“What I said to you that morning, and what I did every day since, was to share the best information that we had at the time,” said Rice.
“That information turned out, in some respects, not to be 100 percent correct,” Rice conceded. “But the notion that somehow I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false. And I think that that’s been amply demonstrated.”
By rejecting responsibility for misleading the American people in the first place, Rice reignited the controversy. (Maybe the White House handlers should know better than put Rice before a camera by now.) The fact is that the Benghazi talking points on which Rice based her comments have repeatedly been demonstrated to be wrong. They were NOT the best evidence the Obama administration had.
The CIA’s original draft talking points mentioned potential al-Qaeda involvement, evidence of planning in the attack, and prior intelligence warnings of danger to U.S. personnel. Through the inter-agency process and the heavy hand of CIA Acting Director Mike Morell, the talking points memo was whittled down to a mere three bullet points, very general in nature, which blamed a non-existent demonstration outside the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi. Morell’s involvement was documented by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee in its report in January.
Yet, when Morell testified before the Senate in November, 2012, he did not admit to making any changes to the talking points. Later, he even placed the blame on the FBI, which reacted with consternation. Now members of the Senate, as well as Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, talk about bringing Morell and his former boss David Petraeus back for further interviews.
Why is all this important? Because the false narrative concocted by the Obama administration deflected blame away from the State Department and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not protecting the dedicated diplomats she had posted in post-Qhaddafi Libya. This was a highly volatile environment and a burgeoning haven for terrorist groups, something the Obama administration did not want to admit. Morell has since left the CIA and joined a consulting firm founded by former aides to Clinton, front-runner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president. This is a key issue of public trust that must be addressed.