This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It is obvious to everyone but, apparently, the Obama administration -- House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa insisting when your ambassador is murdered on September 11, it probably is terrorism. So why is the White House still defending its story about the YouTube video?
We spoke with Congressman Issa right after today's hearing.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you learn today anything about the security that concerns you?
REP. DARRELL ISSA, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It does. What concerns us is that the career professionals on the ground were saying -- and this is multiple professionals over time -- that they didn't have the resources or they were losing the resources they needed to protect their diplomatic missions. And ultimately, those warnings were not heeded and resources were cut down to the level of September 11.
VAN SUSTEREN: How were the warnings? I mean, were the warnings as blunt as, This is really serious, we're unsafe, and you better send something fast, or is it, like, Things are getting a little bit rugged here and we're getting a little concerned?
ISSA: Well, some of the diplomatic correspondence from the ambassador himself described a deteriorating situation. It described continued problems. It described the volatile nature. And these were in actual cables.
But more importantly, they were reporting on an almost successful attempt to murder the ambassador, the successful looting of the Tunisian consulate nearby in Benghazi, 234 separate attacks, and I think, oddly enough, Ambassador Kennedy said, well, only 20 percent of them were in Benghazi. Now, 20 percent of 234 sounds like an awful lot of violent attacks, and it was.
VAN SUSTEREN: Al Qaeda -- there was a question put to one of your guests today about al Qaeda. Is al Qaeda in Libya? And what's the status?
ISSA: Al Qaeda's in Libya, and our career professionals said they are stronger and they clearly are a force. We didn't have any ambiguity in the remarks there. And that's part of what these cables tell, many of which have not been released by the State Department yet.
Ultimately, al Qaeda is getting a foothold through allied organizations, some of whom have the cover of government.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is al Qaeda growing, though? Because, I mean, look, you know, I -- we're following everything in the campaign right now, and even three or four days ago, President Obama did fund-raisers in San Francisco, said that al Qaeda is on its heels, meaning that, you know, we're having some really good work and putting them back. The evidence -- the testimony today sparked my interest that they said it's growing.
ISSA: When you have an organization in a country like Libya, Libyan nationals who are willing to work with and do the bidding of al Qaeda, that means they're not on their heels in that country. If ultimately, you could eliminate all the, if you will, global al Qaeda people, great. But it's not that kind of organization. It's an organization with real chapters in Egypt, in Libya, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq. And those chapters can operate in coordination or independently, as they did in Libya.
VAN SUSTEREN: Has Congress denied any requests from the State Department for money to beef up security at our embassies?
ISSA: Not at all. As a matter of fact, we didn't even get into the General Accountability report that showed tremendous amount of waste and a need for a comprehensive review, particularly as to security, and the budget that they were operating on on September 11 had a majority of Democrats, 149 Democrats, 147 Republicans, bipartisan by any standards, voted for that funding that they're living on today.
VAN SUSTEREN: One of the sort of startling pieces of information I thought today -- and it came out actually last night -- on the phone call that the State Department had with members of the media was that the State Department was monitoring this event in Benghazi in real time. They were receiving phone calls as it was happening, started about 9:40 PM local time, and the State Department was monitoring it.
There is -- the State Department said there was no information, no suggestion that there were protests. Now, protests is what the Obama administration, the White House has said in the beginning, that led -- because of a video. So a completely different story. You agree?
ISSA: Absolutely. That's one of the sad parts about this is you had a real terrorist attack. All the signs were clear. And now with a lot of finger-pointing, ultimately, the administration is still trying to cling to that precious week of implying that things were OK, it was just an incited video from somebody in Los Angeles, and nothing could be further from the truth.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't get it, though. What do -- what do they get out of pushing this story that even from the beginning seemed peculiar? I mean, we've all lived through 9/11. It's our embassy. It's -- you know, it's an attack. It seems -- I mean, it has all the earmarks of terrorism. There's -- there were -- there was no information, even our State Department monitoring it, that there was a protest about a video.
Why would the White House in the early days, including Ambassador Rice -- why would they push that story?
ISSA: Well, Greta, it wasn't necessarily the early days. This was the whole week that they pushed this wrong story. And we were baffled. The only explanation that we've heard from people is, in fact, that they were hoping to deflect the fact that conditions are bad. Conditions were so bad in Libya that they had -- they had upped the hazardous pay to our foreign service officers all the time they were reducing the appearance of security.
They were eliminating the size of convoys. They were doing everything to try to make it look like we were peaceful, while they were paying more because the risk was high.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you suspicious that it's incompetence in terms of getting that -- or misinformation and confusion? Or do you think it's a coverup?
ISSA: Greta, I'm concerned for both. If it's a coverup, then it's bad policy and bad politics coming right out of the Oval Office. If, on the other hand, it's incompetence and it's bad leadership over four years or more, something that President Bush prided himself on -- love President Bush or not, he focused -- and Vice President Cheney focused on improving our security footprint for our men and women here and around the world. That's important. We need to maintain that competence. I hope we can turn it around. That way, I hope it's not actually politics with American lives.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which do you think more, confusion and misinformation or the possibility of a coverup?
ISSA: I think everyone on the dais, including my Democratic colleagues, found it pretty hard to believe that confusion lasted a week. Some tried to defend it. Some stayed away from it. I believe it couldn't have lasted seven days the way the administration would have you believe.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.
ISSA: Thank you, Greta.