May 13, 2013

Parties continue to spar over Benghazi

The House Intelligence Committee chairman says 'more whistleblowers' will soon be coming forward.

By SEAN SULLIVAN The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that he thinks "more whistleblowers" will come forward with information on the deadly attack last year on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

"I do think we are going to see more whistleblowers. I know certainly my committee has been contacted, I think other committees (have been contacted) as well," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on "Fox News Sunday."

Rogers's comments came days after three State Department officials, at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, criticized the Obama administration's actions regarding the Sept. 11, 2012 attack.

"I will tell you, we have had people come forward because of the testimony and say, we would also like to talk, we feel a little bit intimidated by this, but have information we think is valuable," Rogers said.

Rogers also charged that the administration "changed the narrative" on Benghazi. New details surfaced Friday about emails that illustrated a clash between the State Department and the CIA over talking points in the aftermath of the assault in which four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.

"We know that there was at least the general consensus at the time going into the 16th (of September) that it was, yes, it was a terrorist attack, but they changed the narrative. And I think that's what the investigation needs to focus on -- why did they change the narrative, did it have a consequence," Rogers said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said in November that the only change the White House and State Department made to the talking points was substituting "diplomatic facility" for "consulate" in the final version.

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, defended the administration, saying it didn't mislead anyone. He called for lawmakers to direct their attention to the groups responsible for the attack instead of focusing on talking points.

He also charged Republicans with playing politics. "This has just become a very, very partisan-focused, scandal-focused attack by the Republicans investigating this instead of trying to figure out what happened," he said, echoing what Carney said Friday.

"I doubt anyone can say we've been partisan or political in this," countered Rogers.

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat suggested Sunday that Republicans are going after former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over the attack with an eye on hurting her image ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.

"Unfortunately, this has been caught up in the 2016 presidential campaign -- this effort to go after Hillary Clinton," Sen. Richard Durbin, Ill., said on CBS News's "Face the Nation."

"The reason she wasn't interviewed was she didn't have any direct-line responsibility for the decisions that were made, but they want to bring her in because they think it's a good political show, and I think that's unfortunate."

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said she was "surprised" an independent Accountability Review Board did not investigate Clinton "in detail."

However, former ambassador Thomas Pickering, who chaired the board, defended the decision.

"You had Secretary Clinton, but you didn't ask her any questions? And why not?" asked "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer.

"Because in fact, we knew where the responsibility rested," Pickering said. "She had already stated on a number of occasions, she accepted as a result of her job, the full responsibility."

 

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