House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said over the weekend that recent disclosures by intelligence officials that once again revise the narrative on what happened during the deadly attack last month in Libya suggest an “orchestrated defense of the administration.”
The Michigan Republican congressman did not specify what disclosures he was talking about, but was likely referring to recent news articles downplaying the role of Al Qaeda in the Sept. 11 strike, as well as comments by intelligence officials claiming once again that protests elsewhere over an anti-Islam film may have played a role in inspiring the attack.
"It appears from a spate of articles that there is an orchestrated defense of the administration underway with selective disclosures of (intelligence community) products to support what policy-makers have said publicly,” Rogers said in a statement.
Claims that the film played a role would support in part the controversial comments by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on the Sunday after the attack. However, officials still claim there was no actual protest in Benghazi at the time of the attack and that extremist elements were involved. Considering other indications that suggest a broader and coordinated plot, Rogers cast doubt on the latest effort to support what some administration officials have said.
“Since there is also intelligence controverting what policymakers said, the administration should acknowledge to the American people that in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, there was intelligence collection and analysis on both sides of the issues, including intelligence collection and analysis that was directly contrary to the position of some administration officials,” he said.
The administration originally said the attack was a sparked by the video, then acknowledged it was a coordinated act of terrorism. The latest assessment seemed to update the narrative once again with a more nuanced picture.
Rogers is among the most outspoken on Capitol Hill about the administration’s handling of events prior to and after the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
He also said he was concerned about the administration discounting intelligence “in a rush to embrace the narrative that the video caused the Benghazi attack” and that officials compounded the problem by making poor policy choices in its aftermath – including the funding of ads in Pakistan addressing the film.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday the Obama administration’s handling of security for the consulate is a “case study in failure” in American foreign policy.
“This is Exhibit A of a failing national security policy,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This is failed presidential leadership at its worst.”
Graham, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, also raised concerns about reports of eight attacks on the consulate six months prior to the fatal attack and Stevens’ concerns and requests for additional security.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin on Fox defended the administration’s handling of the situation, saying President Obama is a “strong responsive leader.”
The exchange followed a Capitol Hill hearing last week on the Libya by the Republican-led House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Committee Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in connection with the hearing released 166 pages of documents related to the Libya security issue that administration officials said Saturday threatens the lives of several Libyans who are named in the documents and who worked with the United States.
Durbin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday on Fox the final answers to the security concerns will be answered when “the investigation is complete,” and that the response to the attacks by Republicans and others “shows the length many will go to politicize the situation.”
Rogers’ comments also follow the intelligence community on Friday again modified its assessment of what caused the attack – returning in part to claims that the violence was in reaction to a protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo over the film.
At the same time, the latest assessment acknowledged there was no actual protest in Benghazi at the time of the attack and that “extremist” elements were likely involved, a U.S. intelligence official told Fox News.
The latest assessment appears to fall somewhere between the flawed account U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice gave on Sept. 16 claiming the attack was spontaneous and a subsequent revision on Sept. 28 by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claiming it was a coordinated terror attack.
Essentially everyone in the administration now describes the attack as terrorism. But the U.S. intelligence official said there does not appear to be a whole lot of planning involved, despite the fact the attack occurred on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.