Lawmakers have just scratched the surface in their investigation of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, but Congress has made progress on getting to the bottom of the biggest mysteries: Why the State Department denied requests for more security at the consulate and what information the White House initially received from intelligence sources.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is chairman of its Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. He said the Democrats have an explanation for the lack of security that simply doesn’t hold water.
The Democrats’ contention is that Republican budget cuts in security spending are responsible for the consulate being vulnerable to attack. Rohrabacher said the State Department official responsible for turning down the request for more security in Benghazi told his committee that theory was wrong.
“I personally asked her, ‘Was budget consideration any part of your decision not to have a higher level of security?’” said Rohrabacher. “And she answered, ‘No, there was no consideration of budget.’ So the Democrats trying to politicize this and get away with it doesn’t work.”
Rep. Rohrabacher said the official believed local militias could adequately enhance consulate security, a conclusion that was obviously wrong. But the congressman sees another troubling reason as to why the administration rejected calls for security upgrade.
“The administration has been trying to downplay the threat of radical Islam for the last few years. The president can’t even get those words out of his mouth, ‘radical Islamic terrorists,’” said Rohrabacher. “They’ve been excusing every one of these actions as something else other than radical Islamic terrorism. You have a mindset in the administration of minimizing the danger, and perhaps that had something to do with her decision as to having a lower level of security than was necessary.”
As for the administration’s explanation of the attack to the American people, Rohrabacher said United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice blatantly misled the American people by claiming several days after the attack that an Internet video was responsible for inciting the attacks.
“You got the ambassador to the United Nations out there saying something that is factually not true six days after it was clear to the CIA … that it was a terrorist group and not a movie rage that resulted in the deaths of our diplomatic personnel,” said Rohrabacher.
While Rohrabacher finds Rice’s conduct unacceptable, he aims far more blame at President Obama.
“It was also the president himself who kept, over and over again, talking about this movie rage and how we need to be more sensitive,” he said. “Meaning blaming us, blaming the United States, blaming us for having freedom of speech so somebody could make a film, that somebody else was upset about.”
Nonetheless, Rohrabacher is among some 100 House members to sign a letter to President Obama strongly urging him not to nominate Rice as the next secretary of state.
“Rice was a good soldier. She was going along,” he said. “What we don’t need are good soldiers who will go along if the American people are being lied to.”
The congressman is also deeply troubled by the conduct of former CIA Director David Petraeus, in that Petraeus has now offered two very different stories about his assessment of the Benghazi attacks.
“What’s going on with Petraeus is mighty peculiar, and there’s a lot of questions there,” Rohrabacher said. “This man changed his testimony between the first time he testified and the second time. During the middle there, he was kicked out of the CIA, and we found out that people were keeping a secret dossier on his private life. There’s a lot of bad implications to that we need to tie down and investigate.”