Senators ‘troubled’ by Rice’s answers on Libya

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Opposition to Mrs. Rice’s possible nomination centers on the charge that the administration knew al Qaeda supporters were involved in the sophisticated two-stage attack, which targeted first the consulate and then a CIA facility nearby known as the annex, but chose not to say so for fear of undermining President Obama’s campaign narrative.

In closed-door briefings to the intelligence committees in the House and Senate before Thanksgiving, senior intelligence officials told lawmakers that a reference to al Qaeda supporters being involved in the attack had been removed from the talking points.

Instead, the attackers had been identified as “extremists,” an intelligence official told The Washington Times.

But the officials — representing all the intelligence agencies who collaborated to produce the unclassified talking points — each denied their agency had made the change, leading Republicans to conclude the edit had been made by the White House.

The change is significant, Republicans say, because Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign was promoting a narrative of U.S. success against al Qaeda, which would have been undermined by any public acknowledgment of the group’s supporters’ role in the attack.

Last week, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told reporters that officials in that office had made the change, but did not explain why.

The office declined to comment to The Washington Times but said the spokesman’s comments had been accurately reported.

‘Many more questions’

Republicans say that, by the time Mrs. Rice appeared on television five days after the attack, the involvement of al Qaeda supporters in the Libyan Ansar al-Shariah militia had been widely reported by the news media.

“It is clear that the information she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video. It was not,” Mr. McCain said Tuesday.

“It’s certainly clear from the beginning that we knew that those with ties to al Qaeda were involved in the attack,” Mrs. Ayotte said. “I have many more questions that need to be answered.”

Polling data released Tuesday suggests she is not alone.

Forty percent of Americans say they think the inaccurate statements that Mrs. Rice and other officials initially made about the attack “were an attempt to deliberately mislead the public,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. Fifty-four percent “think those inaccurate statements reflected what the White House believed to be true at the time.”

CNN commissioned ORC to gauge public opinion about the Obama administration’s handling of and response to the attack. The Nov. 16-18 survey sampled 1,023 adult Americans by telephone. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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