'Within 24 Hours': When U.S. Intel in Libya Told Washington 9/11/12 Was Terror Attack
(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the U.S. intelligence community in Libya informed the administration in Washington, D.C., within 24 hours of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that the attack had been a terrorist strike whose perpetrators included militia associated with al Qaeda.
Graham said the fact that the administration was still publicly declaring more than five days later that the attack may have arisen as a spontaneous protest indicated that either "they are misleading or incredibly incompetent."
"Well, the facts are there was never a riot," Graham told Bob Schieffer of CBS News. "The night in question, September 11, Ambassador [Chris] Stevens was being visited by the Turkish ambassador. There wasn't a soul around the compound. And the coordinated attack lasted for hours with al Qaeda-associated militia.
"My belief is that that was known by the administration within 24 hours," said Graham. "And, quite frankly, [U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations] Susan Rice, on your show on September 16, the president on the 18th, and the 25th, kept talking about an attack inspired by a video. They`re trying to sell a narrative, quite frankly, that the Mid-East, the wars are receding and al Qaeda's been dismantled, and to admit that our embassy was attacked by al Qaeda operatives and Libya leading from behind didn't work. I think undercuts that narrative. They never believed the media would investigate. Congress was out of session, and this caught up with them.
"I think they have been misleading us," said Graham, "but it finally caught up with them."
Schieffer then told Graham: "Well, that is a very serious charge you just leveled, Senator Graham. "Are you saying the administration deliberately misled the American people to make it look as if terrorism is not as much of a threat as apparently it is?"
"Either they are misleading the American people or incredibly incompetent," Graham said. "There was no way with anybody looking at all that you could believe five days after the attack it was based on a riot that never occurred. There was no riot at all. So to say that, you`re either very incompetent or misleading."
Schieffer challenged Graham to explain where he go the information to challenge the credibility of the administration's statements about what happened in Libya.
"Where did you get this information that led you to this conclusion?" asked Schieffer. "Did you talk to officials there? Did you talk to people in the CIA? Did you talk to people in the administration? How are you so convinced of what you have just stated?"
Graham said that the U.S. intelligence commmunity in Libya had told both him and Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.) that they had informed Washington within 24 hours that the attack in was a terrorist attack.
"The intelligence community on the ground in Libya has told Senators Corker and myself that within 24 hours, they communicated up to Washington that this was a terrorist attack," said Graham. "The president of Libya on the same date said it was a terrorist attack. The video of the compound shows that there was nobody at the Benghazi consulate. There was never a group to riot. And the evidence is overwhelming, and the idea that it was spawned by a video and a riot would hold the administration blameless. They said it was a copycat of Cairo. It wasn`t a copycat, it was a sustained attack that lasted for six or eight hours using heavy weapons, which undercut the idea that al Qaeda has been dismantled and on the run. And it certainly undercuts the idea that our policy choices in Libya have not going after the militia, not helping the Libyans train a national army were good choices.
On Sept. 16, five days after the attack in Benghazi and four days after Graham says the intelligence community informed Washington that the attack had been a terrorist attack, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice appeared on "Face the Nation" and assured the country that the administration had no information to suggest the attack had been preplanned.
"We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned," Amb. Rice said.
Sen. Graham said that it was not just Amb. Rice, who--even after the intelligence community had informed the administration Benghazi was a terrorist attack--continued to suggest to the nation it had been a spontaneous protest to a video tape posted on YouTube.
"Well, it`s not just Susan Rice, the president of the United States said it was the result of a video on David Letterman two days later," said Graham. "And the facts are very clear. There was never a riot. There was never a group of people around the embassy. It was a coordinate terrorist attack that took hours. Patrick Kennedy from the State Department briefed congressional staffers the day after the attack saying it was a terrorist attack. The next day, after she [Amb. Susan Rice] was on your show, the counter-terrorism deputy said it was a terrorist attack. And the president after that went on national TV, "The View," and David Letterman talking about we're not sure if this was inspired by a video, a hateful video."