Mr. McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been one of the most vocal critics of Mrs. Rice and her Sept. 16 appearances on five Sunday TV talk shows in which she said protesters, not terrorists, had attacked the State Department’s Benghazi compound. His meeting with her Tuesday did not sway his opinion.
“I am significantly troubled by many of the answers we got, and some we didn’t get,” he said Tuesday.
Mrs. Rice said in a statement issued Tuesday by the State Department that she had “explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi” against the video.
“As is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved. We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process,” she said.
Republicans have accused administration officials of trying to downplay the attack to preserve the Obama re-election campaign’s message of the administration having decimated al Qaeda – and the so-called talking points figure largely in their criticisms.
The administration’s account of what happened in Benghazi has changed several times, which officials attributed to changes to the talking points prepared by the U.S. intelligence community.
But officials representing all the intelligence agencies that collaborated to produce the unclassified talking points each denied that their agency had made the change, leading Republicans to conclude the edit had been made by the White House.
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 reported accurately.
Mrs. Rice’s participation in the administration’s differing accounts has soured her possible nomination to the head the State Department, a position for which Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also is being mentioned.
Mrs. Collins, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said Wednesday that she “would have to have more information” before deciding her stance on a potential replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said she wants to leave politics.
Benghazi, Kenya and Tanzania
“At the time that Ambassador Rice made these assertions, there was conflicting evidence, it’s true, but we had the president of Libya saying that 50 people had been arrested, that people, terrorists from other countries had come to Libya and that the attack was premeditated and planned,” the Maine Republican said. “I asked Ambassador Rice why she did not qualify her comments more in light of this contradictory reporting from the president of the country. Her answer was that she relied on our intelligence analysis. I don’t understand why she would not have at least qualified her response to that question.”