Benghazi Fallout: Lawmakers Prepare for Memo Probe

As Congress prepares to investigate Susan Rice's memo that she used to inform the public about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, questions about a large-scale cover up loom.

Posted: 11/19/2012 02:57 PM EST
Susan Rice

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on several television shows and informed the nation that the violent assault that left two U.S. diplomats dead was incited by an offensive anti-Islam video that leaked via YouTube.

However, the administration later took that explanation back and instead admitted that the attack was most likely a pre-planned act of terrorism by groups with links to Al-Qaeda.

Now a group of lawmakers are clamoring for clear answers about when the Obama administration knew about the terrorist nature of the attack and why the public was misled if officials did know the attack was pre-planned.

At the center of the fallout is U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s now controversial “talking points” memo that seemed to be the source of misinformation in the days following the attack. Administration officials say the CIA and other intelligence officials signed off on the final version of the memo before its information was shared with the public.

"I know the narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right.... We're going to get to the bottom of how that happened," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press.

However, the Obama administration maintains that their message was based on the best information available at the time that didn't compromise classified intelligence. Last week, Rice defended the administration on the issue, maintaining that the attack started as a protest, but was “hijacked” by more militant forces.

“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in — in the wake of the revolution in Libya are — are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there,” she told ABC’s This Week.

Several Republican lawmakers say critical changes in language were made to the memo after former CIA Director David Petreaus testified before the House and Senate intelligence committees Friday and said although early classified reports appeared to support Rice's statement that the attack grew out of a protest, he believed “almost immediately” that the Sept. 11 assault was an organized terrorist attack.

Whether or not Rice spoke truthfully about the information she had at the time may also weigh heavily on whether she becomes President Obama’s pick for secretary of state in his second term. For now, Democrats are asking for judgments on Rice’s actions to be reserved until the memo probe is complete.

"She could speak publicly only on unclassified speaking points," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on NBC's Meet the Press. "I have some concern with those speaking points.... We are going to find out who made changes in the original statement. Until we do, I really think it's unwarranted to make accusations."

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 (Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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