OTR Interviews

Chaffetz: 'Politics dictated security' in Libya tragedy

Rep. Jason Chaffetz returns from fact-finding trip to Libya and responds to reports of State Dept. refusals to grant more support and security


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 8, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, I bet you're wondering this one. Why didn't the Obama administration just tell us the truth? They knew within 24 hours that the Libya attack and four murders of Americans, including our ambassador, was tied to terrorists, not to a YouTube video. That was the cover story.

Well, Congress is now investigating, and Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz just got back from Libya. He joins us. Nice to see you.


VAN SUSTEREN: Your thoughts after getting back from Libya? Your thoughts about being in Libya?

CHAFFETZ: I left with the impression that politics was driving the security decisions, rather than security dictating what security should be.

They wanted a narrative that they were moving towards normalization, the appearance of normalization as swiftly as possible. But that, unfortunately, I think led to the idea that we didn't have the security in place to protect our assets in Libya.

VAN SUSTEREN: There's another part of it, it's part of your investigation that's coming up in your hearing this week, and this was in a Bill Gertz article. And Bill Gertz has been here "On the Record." He's been writing about national security for years.

And he quoted an unnamed official -- I emphasize unnamed -- that the Obama administration is afraid to admit al Qaeda is running rampant throughout the region because it would expose the truth instead of what President Obama so pompously spouted during the Democratic convention, said the official, is the quote from the article.

And of course, I just said I was naive about what people do for political reasons. However, I thought that this -- is there any possible truth to this?

CHAFFETZ: I wouldn't disagree with that at all. I mean, I left with the impression that they were driven to try to create this appearance of normalization. You got to remember...

VAN SUSTEREN: What are they hiding, though?

CHAFFETZ: The idea that there are bad guys out there that want to kill us. And we didn't let security dictate security. Remember, in Benghazi -- you go to Tripoli, about two hours to the east is Benghazi. Twice in the six-month lead-up to this attack and death of the four Americans -- twice the British ambassador had an assassination attempt and twice our facility in Benghazi was bombed! No other place on the planet had that happen!

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, but there are two things. It can either be gross incompetence which, you know, now has cost the lives of four people, meaning that -- there were a lot of warning signs and they ignored it, or it could be that they have -- that they were trying to cover up a failed Middle East policy with terrorism growing, and that there's some deceitful or sinister reason.

CHAFFETZ: I was there all day...

VAN SUSTEREN: Or that it was -- or is it just an unpreventable incident, I should add. But go ahead.

CHAFFETZ: I spent most all the day on Saturday, first member of Congress to go into Tripoli. I met with a host of people. Never once, not one time, did a single person actually mention a video, a riot, or something like that!

That's what the administration has been telling the American people and the world, that this was a result of a video gone awry. Never once did anybody on the ground ever mention that that was a factor!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've got Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, who said on every single Sunday morning show within days. You've got Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, former member of the media, also repeating that false story. You've got -- I mean, people - - it's -- the administration did everything it could to do this video.

There's got to be a reason, if they knew within 24 hours that this was terrorism probably related to al Qaeda, why were they pushing this ridiculous video story to the American people and hoping it would stick?

CHAFFETZ: The American people are going have to come to their own conclusion. I can tell you that the security personnel on the ground were asking for more personnel to protect them. Not only did they not get that, they got a reduction in the American personnel.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but that -- that's -- that they did a lousy job. They did a...

CHAFFETZ: Yes, right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, let's -- we've got four dead people. I'll concede that, either through incompetence or through just horrible luck or whatever on their part. They did a lousy job.

But the thing that I just can't get off is this business about this videotape. Why, if they knew it was terrorism, why did they keep pushing the videotape, and they kept pushing it for days? There had to be a reason because it's so patently ridiculous.

CHAFFETZ: The idea that this was the result of a video gone awry is somewhere between patently false and an outright lie. I don't know where...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why? But why?

CHAFFETZ: I don't know because I don't think it fit their narrative. I don't think it fit the narrative that everything was fine, if we just be good neighbors, if we -- you know, if we're just nice to everybody, they'll like us.

Look, al Qaeda is still very active in the region, as you said, and we have to deal with that reality. Like I said, the security personnel wanted more personnel, they wanted more fortification of the buildings. That was denied!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if you read the Bill Gertz article, the thesis which I take away from reading from it and I posted it on GretaWire, so viewers can read it -- is that it was done to hide the fact that the Middle East policy has failed, that al Qaeda is growing, and that it's now up against an election, and this whole thing was -- it was hoping to sort of put the lid on it.


VAN SUSTEREN: That's -- that's the theory I read from the article.

CHAFFETZ: I wouldn't disagree with it. I'm trying to be a factual as I can. They asked for more personnel, were denied, asked for fortification of the buildings, denied. In fact, there was a reduction in personnel. We had two bombings in -- preceding the one on 9/11. We had two attacks on the ambassador from Britain. And still we walk into 9/11 thinking that there was no actionable intelligence? Are you kidding me?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's a whole -- that's a whole 'nother story, is the quality of our intelligence gathering. But that's another night. Anyway, thank you, Congressman.

CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Greta.