- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2012

Democrats pushed back Sunday against criticism of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice for her comments about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, saying Republicans are wasting time and using Mrs. Rice as a scapegoat.

Republicans pressed their charges that Mrs. Rice had given politically convenient answers, rather than statements based on the latest intelligence, when she attributed the attack to “spontaneous” protests against an anti-Islam video made in the U.S. and not terrorists in five TV talk show appearances Sept. 16.

“If you really understand what went on, it is terribly unfair that [Mrs. Rice] should be the scapegoat for this, when really the failures ought to be at the lap of the head of the intelligence community,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “Why are we spending all this time [on this matter]?”

Mr. Warner, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, noted that Mrs. Rice, who reportedly is being considered to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has not yet been nominated.

[Corrected paragraph:] He said, “What we ought to be looking at is, what happened in Benghazi [and] how do we make sure it never happens”

Congressional panels are looking into the Obama administration’s response to requests for more security at the Benghazi compound before the attack and to the assault itself, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“Somebody was absolutely negligent in not providing the right security for the ambassador and the employees that lost their lives, and somebody should be held accountable for that,” Rep. Michael Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Republicans have accused administration officials — and Mrs. Rice in particular — of downplaying the incident days later to mislead the public and preserve a key theme in President Obama’s re-election campaign, namely, that al Qaeda had been decimated. She met with several Republican senators last week in an unsuccessful attempt to quell concerns about her public statements.

Mrs. Rice and her supporters have argued that she had relied on unclassified “talking points” prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies that were based on tentative and inaccurate assessments, including that there had been a protest outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, before the assault on the compound by dozens of heavily armed extremists.

“The talking points came from the intelligence community, yet you don’t hear one criticism for [then-CIA Director] David H. Petraeus. It was his shop that produced the talking points that Susan Rice talked about. … But none of these guys will say a word about David Petraeus,” Mrs. McCaskill said on “Meet the Press.”

A matter of security

The issue of security at the mission and a nearby CIA annex was given renewed life last week by the revelation that the compound did not have special physical security barriers that the State Department inspector general recommended, despite widespread intelligence reports about the growing strength and boldness of Islamic extremist militias, some affiliated with al Qaeda, in Benghazi.

Mr. Rogers, the House intelligence committee chairman, said “the intelligence was correct” about the threats, although it failed to learn in advance the date and time of the attack. The mistake was in not providing adequate security or closing the building, he said on “Face the Nation.”

“What went wrong was that the policy and decision-makers at the Department of State did not make the right security call, and I argue it’s gross negligence,” Mr. Rogers said.

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