In an appearance on Face the Nation this morning, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) revealed several new pieces of information about the Obama administration’s controversial description of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, casting doubt that the White House mischaracterized its cause by mere accident.
“The talking points were right and then the talking points were wrong,” Issa explained in response to a question about reporting at the Weekly Standard. The CIA and Greg Hicks, who took over as Charge d’Affairs in Libya after the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, both knew immediately that it was an attack, not a protest.
Hicks, who did not appear on the show but whose reactions were featured based on transcripts of interviews with Issa’s committee, said he was stunned by what UN Ambassador Susan Rice claimed on five different news shows on Sep. 16. When she appeared on Face the Nation, she followed an interview with the President of Libya who claimed he had “no doubt” it was a terror attack. Moments later, Amb. Rice contradicted him and claimed a spontaneous protest was more likely.
Acting Ambassador Hicks watched the Sunday shows and said he found this contradiction shocking. “The net impact of what has transpired is the spokesperson of the most powerful country in the world has basically said that the President of Libya is either a liar or doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” he accused. Hicks added, “My jaw hit the floor as I watched this…I’ve never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career as on that day.”
Hicks believes the stunning failure of diplomacy on the Sunday news shows explains why ittook the FBI three weeks to gain access to the Benghazi site. The U.S. had effectively humiliated the Libyan President on national TV. That decision, he believed, probably compromised our ability to investigate and track down those responsible.
According to Hicks, no one from the State Department contacted him about what Amb. Rice would be saying in advance. The next morning he called Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affaris, and asked her why Amb. Rice had made the statements she had. Jones responded, “I don’t know.”
A report published Friday by the Weekly Standard suggests that State Dept. spokesperson Victoria Nuland took issue with the initial talking points and, with backing from the White House, removed any evidence of al Qaeda involvement and of prior attacks on western targets in the region. According to emails reviewed by the Weekly Standard, Nuland said her superiors (unnamed) were concerned about criticism from Congress.