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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript - Benghazi

Interview

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Bob Schieffer: So Mr. Issa, why would the administration put out a storyline that was so different from what US officials in Libya knew immediately?

Darrell Issa: Bob, that's the great question . We can't find a classified reason for it, we can't find a diplomatic reason for it. Understand that Gregory Hicks, who became the charge, became the acting Ambassador, witnessed our relationship with Libya on this show go the wrong way. Because on this show, Susan Rice says, it was a protest. Well the President, the elected President saying, no it's a terrorist attack. You can't insult a foreign leader in a greater way than happened literally here, just those few days later.

Bob Schieffer: But do you think they were trying to cover up the fact that the State Department had turned down requests for more security, that had been coming in from the diplomats on the ground there. Is that what this is about?

Darrell Issa: Well perhaps in part. But it does seem like it's bigger than that. There was this normalization, sort of a mentality, where you had to pretend like things were safe. The war on terror was over and that may have gone in a great way to getting people to say well, we can't call this a terrorist attack because then, the war on terror is back alive. Well, Bob, the war on terror is very much alive. Whether it's Chechen nationals that come here or it's what's going on in Syria, it's Al Qaeda around the world and that's the reality that hopefully state department people will feel at least they are being properly protected after this attack.

Bob Schieffer: The Weekly Standard reported that the first reports that went out from the CIA, including the assertion from the U.S. government that they knew there were Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participating in this attack but after seeing the first version of the talking points, the Weekly Standard says, a ranking official at the state department who they have identified as Victoria Nuland who is a spokesman for the department sent a message, they were worried that members of congress would use the talking points to criticize the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings about needing more security. And it was after that, that these different versions of the talking points came out. Can you confirm that?

Darrell Issa: Well I think your next witness can talk to many of the things that have been kept away from us. These talking points and how they changed. But we know one thing, that the talking points were right and then the talking points were wrong. The CIA knew it was a terrorist attack, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Gregory Hicks, knew it was a terrorist attack, the Ambassador, before he died, one of the last words he ever said is, we're under attack.

Bob Schieffer: Well let me just go back to these questions that you asked of Greg Hicks.

Bob Schieffer: Five days after that attack, THE UN Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on all five Sunday talk shows, including this one. But on this broadcast her interview was preceded by our interview with the new President of Libya, Mohammed al-Magariaf. I'm going to run a clip now of what he told us and what she said in response, which totally contradicted him.

Bob Schieffer: Was this a long-planned attack, as far as you know? Or what do you know about that?

El-Magariaf: The way these perpetrators acted and moved, I think we - and their choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no - this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined.

Susan Rice: What our assessment is, as of the present, was that in fact it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo.

Bob Schieffer: But you do not agree with him that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?

Susan Rice: We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was pre-mediated or preplanned.

Bob Schieffer: Now here is what Mr. Hicks said about Secretary Rice's answers that morning. He said:

Greg Hicks: ... 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. The impact of that is immeasurable. Magariaf has just lost face in front of not only his own people, but the world... 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... I never reported a demonstration; I reported an attack on the consulate. Chris's last report, if you want to say his final report, is, "Greg, we are under attack." ... It is jaw-dropping that - to me that - how that came to be.

Bob Schieffer: Mr. Hicks went on to tell your investigators that no one from the State Department contacted him before Ambassador Rice's appearance. He said:

Greg Hicks: ... I was personally known to one of Ambassador Rice's staff members... I could have been called, and, you know, the phone call could have been, hey, Greg, Ambassador Rice is going to say blah, blah, blah, blah and I could have said, no, that's not the right thing. That phone call was never made.

Bob Schieffer: Again, what was going on here?

Darrell Issa: Well clearly, there was a political decision to say something different than what was reasonable to say. And I think Bob that one of the tragedies of this is it took three weeks to get our FBI in. Well, when you tell the President of Libya, who by the way went to Benghazi at personal risk, did that broadcast from Benghazi, as a courageous act-if you tell him he's wrong, that it's not terrorism, what a surprise that you have a hard time getting FBI to the crime scene. If anything, we may have compromised our ability to know what really happened there as far as catching the culprits, because more weeks went by with no FBI on the ground.

Bob Schieffer: Well, let me just read something more from the interview, which as you now know, and we stress, this was Mr. Hicks' opinion. In response to questions from investigators about the impact of Secretary Rice's statements, he said:

Greg Hicks: ... I firmly believe that the reason it took us so long to get the FBI to Benghazi is because of those Sunday talk shows.

Bob Schieffer: Which is, basically, what you're saying.

Darrell Issa: And ambassadors know that the one thing you don't do is contradict your host, especially at a time when you need their cooperation. This was a fatal error to our relationship at least for a period of time and we can't find the purpose. Secretary Clinton should have been above all else, the person who was on the same sheet of music with the Libyan government and she wasn't.

Bob Schieffer: Well, Mr. Hicks' had also testified that he had called Beth Jones, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the state department, the morning after these Sunday shows and he asked her,

Gregory Hicks: Why did Ambassador Rice say that?

And Beth Jones told him, "I don't know." So Mr. Hicks is saying that a key State Department official said she didn't know why the Ambassador has indicated the attacks were spontaneous.

Darrell Issa: Not only that, he indicated in his testimony that these were unwelcome. That he felt very much like Beth Jones didn't want to hear from him, and in the days and weeks to come, that continued. One of the amazing things is, here you have the person on the ground who probably, of anyone in Tripoli knows more about what was going on, he's never seen the classified ARB report. They have not let him see it. So when he says that that is a flawed report, he says so with the same information we have publicly--

Bob Schieffer: This is the State Department's investigation?

Darrell Issa: The State department's questionable investigation because it clearly meets a statutory requirement to do an investigation but it doesn't answer any real questions or place blame on people who were involved in this failure.

Bob Schieffer: It does seem to call attention to the actions of some very low level people in the administrant but as the Weekly Standard was reporting, apparently the State Department spokesman, if their version of this is correct, she was worried that this was going to reflect badly on people above her.

Darrell Issa: No question at all. And certainly, Patrick Kennedy, a Senate confirmed career professional, is at a minimum very much at the center of knowing everything, either speaking to or not speaking to Secretary Clinton, but in testimony on October 10th, he basically pushed back on everything and even implied that somehow it was a lack of funding or other issues when in fact, clearly, he was at the table during what we believe at this point is a misinformation campaign, at best, and a cover up at worst.

Bob Schieffer: So, Mr. Hicks' will be your probably main witness when you open these hearings on Wednesday. Who else will be there?

Darrell Issa: Well, Mark Thompson is another career professional, former marine, counterterrorism expert who will testify more than anything else that shortly after this began, he got locked out of the room even though he was the individual who was supposed to react to these kinds of things. Again, part of some process of denial that it was, it could be terrorism. And then Eric Nordstrom, who was the person who was the canary in the coal mine, and if you will, that was pushing for more security saying that this was a problem, leading up to and shortly before the attack, and we believe this gets us back to, where we were on October 10th. It takes us forward to the next step of the unanswered question, even after we gave the State Department plenty of time to give those answers.

Bob Schieffer: Well, as we understand it now the State Department is reviewing its investigation now, I guess that comes at your request.

Darrell Issa: It, it does. But this is one of those things where we gave plenty of time. We stayed out of the politics of it, we let them, the process go through. And it left us with more questions than answers and certainly it doesn't give the most key answer that I think we all want is, if we knew it was terrorism, if the President said, at least in his debates, that in the Rose Garden, he called it an act of terrorism, then why is it they deny terrorism essentially rebuking the President of Libya on your show a few days later.

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