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Senator John McCain is both a long-time supporter of freedom for Libya. He supported President Obama's actions to remove Gadhafi. He's been critical of how the administration has handled the Benghazi aftermath. We spoke earlier today. Take a look.
COOPER: What do you make of the response by the administration in the early days, Ambassador Rice, and now what they're saying now, I mean, they're now saying it was a terrorist attack. The president did use the word terror early on in the Rose Garden, but we heard from Ambassador Rice, who is saying link this to the video that's been released. I mean, what do you see as going on?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I see a fundamental misunderstanding in the larger picture and then on the smaller picture. In the smaller picture they were either incredibly naive or willfully deceiving the American people. I don't -- I don't know which. But to think an attack of this nature with heavy weapons, mortars, and a very sophisticated direct fire and indirect fire, that somehow that could be the result of a spontaneous demonstration is just impossible for me to understand.
COOPER: Let me just throw in a third option, though, which supporters of the administration would say, is look they want to be cautious about how they characterize it early on and so they were, you know, taking a go-slow approach and saying -- not jumping the gun and saying it was a terrorist attack, but basically kind of wanted to see where the investigation led.
MCCAIN: A casual observer, a first year cadet at West Point will tell you that that kind of attack is not a spontaneous demonstration. Here, darling, let's go to a demonstration, bring the mortars. This is -- this is -- it's insane that they would somehow believe that could be the result of a spontaneous demonstration.
And second of all, they've got it all wrong when they blame the video. It's not the video. It is the people, the Islamists, radical Islamists, that are pushing this video throughout media in the Middle East to crank up the anti-moderate, anti-pro democracy force.
COOPER: There was reporting yesterday from Fran Townsend at CNN with sources and also a writer for the "Daily Beast" who said that intelligence sources he had talked to had said that in the intelligence community, there was within the first 24 hours were saying this was a terrorist attack, had even some people identified.
Have you heard that? Can you comment on that? And if that is the case, why does the information that the intelligence community has not something that the administration is saying publicly?
MCCAIN: I don't know. But it doesn't take intelligence information to watch an operation take place with heavy weapons, mortars, that is not then a spontaneous demonstration. This is why it's reprehensible for our ambassador to the U.N. to go on all networks and say that -- and deny that.
I mean, it flies in the face of the facts. And so I don't know what intelligence we had or what we didn't have, but I know that when you have that kind of operation, even the most casual observer knows that it is a terrorist attack.
COOPER: Has the State Department given you or the lawmakers information?
MCCAIN: As I'm sure you may have heard, we had the worst, most disgraceful hearing -- meeting with the secretary of state and General Clapper, the head of DNI, an FBI guy, and a Navy admiral. They told us nothing and then the very next day, in the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" was the hour-by-hour operation that took place.
Their answer when we asked that in this secret room, they would say, well, the investigation is still going on. Well, obviously the investigation is still going on, but somehow, the media had -- I mean, almost exact detail, as you know. It was really an insult to the Congress, to tell you the truth.
COOPER: So what needs to come out of this? I mean, does there need to be an investigation? Are you confident in the investigation going on? Secretary Clinton has come forward and said, look, the FBI is in the early stages of the investigation but...
MCCAIN: So early that they haven't gotten to Benghazi.
COOPER: Well, that's the thing. They're not even able to go to Benghazi and the site still is not secure. What does that tell you?
MCCAIN: I think it tells me that over time the details always come out. I'm not sure what we can really be gained in immediate investigation of the kind you're talking about because the crime scene is basically so badly compromised but over time, we will -- there were intercepts, there were other information.
There's some information that convinced the president or the legislative assembly to go on our nationwide TV and say we know it's al Qaeda. Now I don't know that, but it was clearly a terrorist attack and the administration described it as not being so. They owe the American people an explanation.
COOPER: There are some Republicans who are saying, though, that this is a -- I talked to a congressman and a senator last night who said this is a failure of the Obama administration. Do you see it as that? The way, what we're seeing in the Arab Spring, what we're seeing happen in Libya?
MCCAIN: I think obviously because of the tragedy that we have to know whether measures could have been taken and there is already evidence coming -- forthcoming, including Chris' diary that there were threats and, you know, I think we need to investigate that aspect of it. But this is still a very dangerous part of the world. We still have these jihadists coming across their borders.
They -- if there's anything we can help them with, it's border security. And so all I can say is it's a great tragedy and I'm not so concerned about the fact there may have been intelligence failures as I am about not telling the American people the truth.
COOPER: Senator McCain, thank you.
MCCAIN: Thanks for having me back on. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: You can see the whole interview with Senator McCain shortly on AC360.com. We're going to put it on there.
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