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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript


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SCHIEFFER: Joining me now from Chicago, the number two Democrat in the Senate leadership, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, we should just start right out with what Senator McCain just said. What's your response?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: Eight years ago, when President Bush suggested Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state, some people said, well, wait a minute, wasn't she part of misleading the American people about intelligence information that led to our invasion of Iraq? And it was Senator McCain and Senator Graham who stood up and said, don't hold her accountable for the intelligence that was given to her, she was simply relating what she had heard. Eight years later, Susan Rice, who may or may not be a nominee for secretary of state, is being held by Senator McCain and Senator Graham to an entirely different standard. What she reported on your show and others was what she was told by the intelligence agencies. As more information came in, that rendition of facts was abridged and changed. But it wasn't her fault. And to say that she has to be held accountable because an intelligence agency didn't tell the whole story initially for reasons of national security is totally unfair.

SCHIEFFER: Well, we -- I would point out just one thing, she came on -- on this broadcast immediately after the president of Libya, who said flatly this was the work of terrorists, some of them from Mali, others outside the country. And Secretary Rice stuck to her -- stuck to her story, as it were, and said, no, our best information is, it was a result, a reaction of those demonstrations that were happening in Egypt. I guess what I would ask you, Senator, do you honestly believe as an ambassador, one of our key ambassadors, to the United Nations, that all Secretary Rice would have known about this was what somebody gave her in a set of talking points to be on television?

DURBIN: Well, Bob, that's exactly what happened. And to say "she stuck to her story" I don't think is accurate. She stuck to the story that was given her by our intelligence agencies a very short time after this incident occurred. Now General Petraeus and others are explaining, well, we didn't quite tell everything because we didn't want to jeopardize friends of the United States and Libya who were providing us with information. To hold Ambassador Rice accountable for a decision by intelligence agencies -- not by her, not by the White House, to withhold some part of the information is fundamentally unfair.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think there's anything, kind of, peculiar about this, though, Senator? I mean, why is it -- why is this controversy going on? Why was the administration reluctant to tell us what we now know they knew?

DURBIN: Well, the intelligence agencies were reluctant, as I mentioned earlier -- they didn't want to compromise sources. That is part of this intricate network of information that keeps America safe. And I understand that. But I also think that this issue was stoked up because it was in the midst of a presidential campaign. Bob, you can remember, throughout history, we have had these terrible incidents. It was under President Reagan that 230 United States Marines were killed in a barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, a terrible tragedy. People didn't call for the impeachment of President Reagan. They said let's find out what happened, hold those responsible accountable. That's the same thing we should do here. And as we hold these hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee, which I attended last week in a classify setting, in the intelligence committees, more and more information comes forward. We'll be able to make America safer and keep those who represent our country in dangerous places safer if we take an honest and objective view of what happened in Benghazi.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, senator, we didn't have a lot of time this morning, but I do want to thank you for coming by and giving that side of the story.

DURBIN: Thank you.


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