Saxby Chambliss slams W.H. for Libya emails
senator slammed the Obama administration on Wednesday and called for
additional hearings on Libya after emails surfaced showing that White
House officials knew within hours that an Islamic militant group was
taking responsibility for the attacks on the Benghazi-based U.S.
“I don’t know what the White House’s problem has been through this whole thing,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on Fox News Channel’s”Fox & Friends.” “Here’s what really concerns me: You’ve got four Americans dead, you’ve got an ambassador, a very important person in any administration, dead — and you don’t have the president out there getting briefed on a regular basis, you don’t have the president informing the public about what happened to four key Americans.”
The Georgia Republican’s comments came a day after a report from Reuters indicated that White House and State Department officials “were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack,” according to official emails.
The question of when the Obama administration acknowledged that the attacks in Benghazi resulted from terrorism, rather than from “spontaneous” protests in response to an anti-Islam video, has been a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats for weeks, hitting a boiling point during the second presidential debate.
When asked whether he would pursue hearings on Libya as vice chairman of the select committee, Chambliss said, “we are,” adding that he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the committee, have had “a couple of conversations about this.”
“I told her, I said I think we need to have an open hearing — which is unusual for us, most of ours are classified — but we need to have an open hearing, we need to get the intelligence officials in and just let them lay it out there,” Chambliss said. “This thing is getting more and more traction, more and more legs, and it’s getting uglier every day. And I think the thing we need to do is be honest with the American people — and say, here’s what we knew, here’s when we knew it, here’s what the president knew and when the president knew it.”
Three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee sent a letter to President Barack Obama Wednesday in the wake of the report, writing that “the American people deserve answers” to myriad questions surrounding the Benghazi attacks, and the administration’s response in the days and weeks after the Sept. 11 violence in Libya.
“These emails make clear that your Administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to Al-Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for it,” wrote Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte. “This latest revelation only adds to the confusion surrounding what you and your Administration knew about the attacks in Benghazi, when you knew it, and why you responded to those tragic events in the ways that you did.”
McCain (R-Ariz.), Graham (R-S.C.) and Ayotte (R-N.H.) have been especially vocal critics of the administration’s handling of Libya, making the rounds for weeks on morning talk shows and issuing statements demanding answers.
“We believe the American people deserve answers to these and other questions that you and your Administration still have not adequately answered,” they wrote.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, argued Wednesday that there were consequences to erroneously blaming the anti-Islam video for the attacks in Benghazi.
“And why this is important — not because who did what, when, is a problem here,” Rogers said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “It’s about the fact that decisions were made, big policy decisions, including elevating the video that, if you…read those e-mails, nothing about the video, it elevated the video and actually caused more protests across the Middle East.”
He referenced protests that occurred in places like Tunisia in the days after the Benghazi attacks.
“What I believe happened…is that somebody saw something that they thought was the way that they wanted to talk about it, versus what the facts on the ground were,” Rogers said. “Because, think about it, even when that narrative was starting to develop, ‘Oh, this was spontaneous, it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t really a terrorist attack,’ on Sept. 13, we had another jihadist attack on an embassy in Tunisia….So you see this pattern of activity; it’s really hard to come to this conclusion that was just spontaneous, and just kind of happened. So that’s what we’re trying to figure out.”