White House Benghazi Emails Call Into Question Rep. Issa's Motivations
On Tuesday, the White House released 100 pages of emails about Benghazi. The emails give a fuller picture of the crafting of the talking points regarding the Benghazi attack.
The emails, a letter from Accountability Review Board co-chairmen Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, and new revelations about Ambassador Chris Stevens's security concerns show that Representative Issa (R-Calif.) is primarily interested in political gain.
Issa has leveled several charges at the White House and State Department regarding the aftermath of the Benghazi affair. The most serious charge is that the talking points were altered by the State Department and the White House to reflect that a video caused the demonstration that resulted in the attack on the Benghazi facilities. UN Ambassador Susan Rice followed those talking points on five television talk shows on Sunday September 16.
Republicans fixated on using Rice as an example of White House participation in a cover up. They blocked the potential nomination of her as Secretary of State in retaliation. Issa and others claimed that Rice was involved in crafting these talking points. However, the 100 pages of emails exonerate Rice of any participation. Rice is now being considered as the next National Security Adviser, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.
The released emails counter congressional charges that the White House was involved in a massive cover-up leading into the 2012 election. There is no evidence within the emails that supports that theory.
In fact, it turns out that CIA deputy director Michael Morell was responsible for removing the section that detailed CIA past warnings about growing security threats in Benghazi. An internal review by the CIA of why and how the talking points were changed reveals that they were responsible for removing references to Al-Qaeda and agreed with the State Department to remove references to Ansar al-Sharia. The CIA felt that it was both premature to identify who was involved in the attacks and that it would hinder the FBI investigation.
On Meet the Press, Issa suggested that the ARB investigation was insufficient, and said that Pickering and Mullen had been blocked from testifying to his committee. That appears to be a lie. Pickering and Mullen released a letter requesting to testify in open public forum. Issa, who has been shouting about transparency, wanted the decorated civil servants to testify in a closed session.
In the letter Pickering and Mullen state "In the past weeks, members of your Committee have publicly criticized — in both an open hearing and in the media — the work of the Accountability Review Board. Having taken liberal license to call into question the Board's work, it is surprising that you now maintain that members of the Committee need a closed-door proceeding before being able to ask 'informed questions' at a public hearing. The Benghazi Accountability Review Board is perhaps the most transparent accountability review board ever."
Pickering and Mullen note that Issa has changed his position since he agreed with Rep Chaffetz's (R-Utah) request to have them appear for a public hearing with a sub-committee. They note that it would be highly irregular for chairmen of an independent review board to meet with a sub-committee before the full committee and even more irregular to meet with the full committee in closed sessions rather than first having a public session.
McClatchy.com has reported that Issa's committee may have been aware that Ambassador Stevens twice rejected offers of additional security made by Army Gen. Carter Ham but failed to bring this up during their hearings last week.
Ham was the head of the U.S. Africa Command at the time of the Benghazi attack. Ham personally called Stevens and offered to help allay the ambassador's security concerns. Stevens declined to accept the offer of security aid then and again when he personally met with Ham in Germany.
It is not clear why Stevens rejected the offer for aid, but it is clear that Issa's committee failed to probe for answers during the hearing held with Deputy Chief Gregory Hicks. Hicks maintained that he was fully aware of all of Stevens's feelings on security so it is curious that he would not know of this discussion. Hicks through his attorney declined to comment.
According to McClatchy, a spokesperson for Issa "indicated that some lawmakers may have been aware of Stevens’ exchange with Ham."
Issa has maintained there is no political motivation in his investigation and that he is just looking for transparency in seeking the truth. The emails have exonerated Rice. Issa has asked for closed hearings with Pickering and Mullen. Issa failed to disclose that his committee may have been aware that Stevens turned down military assistance. That's the transparent truth.