House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) stood by his committee’s investigation that found an al-Qaeda link to the Benghazi attack, and disputed any assertion that the New York Times story on the attack undercuts that finding.
The Times reporter, David Kirkpatrick, “did some very good work,” Issa said Sunday on Meet the Press. “But interviewing people in Benghazi after the fact, after the world has been told about this video, is really not real time,” he added.
“So we have seen no evidence that the video was widely seen in Benghazi, a very isolated area, or that it was a leading cause. What we do know is that September 11th was not an accident. These are terrorist groups, some of them linked to or self-effacing or self- claimed as al-Qaeda linked, but I think David made a — and before I go on, I wanted to make a very good point that David put out. Look, it is not about al-Qaeda as the only terrorist organization any more than Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas or Hezbollah,” Issa said.
“Al-Qaeda is not decimated and there was a group there that was involved that is linked to al-Qaeda. What we never said — and I didn’t have the security look behind the door; that’s for other members of Congress — of what the intelligence were on the exact correspondence with al-Qaeda, that sort of information. Those sorts of methods I’ve never claimed,” the chairman continued.
“What I have claimed, and rightfully so, is Ambassador Stevens and others alerted well in advance that they had a security threat, including, of course, the attempt — two attempts to kill the ambassador, the British ambassador, the closing down of these facilities and so on, on the day that — that the ambassador was killed, he said it was in a table, it was not a question of when or if, but when there would be an attack. So we had warning beforehand and we — instead of increasing security, we reduced security. During the attack, eight and a half hours, we didn’t launch so much as one F-16. There’s a lot of questions about not what the military capability is today which has been improved but what the military capability in response was there and why there wasn’t a greater security.”
Issa stressed that people also need to not forget about the cover-up aspect of the tragedy.
“They went out on five stations and told a story that was at best a cover-up for CIA and at worst, something that cast — cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi,” he said. “And by the way, there is nobody from the U.S. government in Benghazi today. It is too dangerous to go there.”
“There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al-Qaeda. Now, al-Qaeda is not a central command in control. It was, in fact, a loose group that could take general statements and act on them. The important thing in our investigation, in the Oversight Committee investigation, where people have said under oath repeatedly they were not given the security they asked for in advance, they can’t understand why there were not clear attempts to help them during those eight and a half hours,” Issa added.
When asked by host David Gregory if there isn’t “a distinction between fog of war and an attempt to deceive,” Issa reminded viewers of testimony from the second in command in Libya for the State Department at the time of the attack.
“Gregory Hicks hearing the last words of Ambassador Stevens to the outside world was told, ‘We’re under attack.”‘And under oath when asked, if you — if the ambassador had seen a protest or anything else earlier, would he have reported it, he said ‘Of course, yes,’” Issa said.
“The fact is people from this administration, career professionals, have said under oath there was no evidence of any kind of a reaction to a video and, in fact, this was a planned attack that came quickly. That’s the evidence we have by people who work for the U.S. government and were under oath.”