California Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, confirmed Sunday that she is initiating a review of “talking points” related to the attack in Benghazi on September 11 after what she says is heavy “politicization” of remarks made by US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in the wake of the attacks.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke about Susan Rice having come under attack after the situation in Benghazi on Meet The Press, noting that the Ambassador had come under heavy criticism from the right — ostensibly due to dueling narratives about the Benghazi attack and ongoing allegations that the Obama administration engaged in a cover-up after the fracas left four Americans dead, including Libyan ambassador Chris Stevens.
Much of the brouhaha to which Feinstein refers was sparked after Rice said on Face The Nation:
“… based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy – sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.”
Dianne Feinstein says Rice was speaking based on approved, unclassified “talking points” for which she was debriefed and that the Ambassador was unable to disclose further information publicly on the open investigation.
As Rice comes under fire in the attack’s ensuing narrative war, Feinstein explained Sunday:
“She could speak publicly only on unclassified speaking points. I have some concern with those speaking points … We gave the direction yesterday that this whole process is going to be checked out. 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.”
House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) has stated that the “narrative was wrong, and the intelligence was right,” expressing the goal of discovering why the two were seemingly dissonant in the days and weeks after the attack:
“The narrative, as it went from at least the CIA and other intelligence agencies, was accurate … There were some policy decisions made based on the narrative that was not consistent with the intelligence that we had. That’s my concern, and we need to say hey, we need to figure out how that happened.”
The debate over the administration’s framing of the attack in its aftermath has been a highly polarized and partisan fight, most heavily during the lead up to the election earlier this month. During an October debate, GOP candidate Mitt Romney challenged incumbent Barack Obama during the second debate, prompting the President to ask moderator Candy Crowley to pull a transcript from the day after the attack during remarks Obama made in the White House Rose Garden.
Romney alleged that President Obama had failed, as had his administration, to refer to the incident as a terrorist attack, and, during the speech, the President had indeed called the Benghazi incident an “act of terror.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has compared the pillorying of Rice to previous situations during which a political figure was attacked due to the talking points she was given, countering that Sens. Lindsay Graham and John McCain, who are heavily attacking Susan Rice, had come to the defense of Condoleezza Rice:
“Eight years ago when President Bush suggested Condoleezza Rice for secretary of State, some people said, ‘Well wait a minute, wasn’t she part of misleading the American people about intelligence information that led to our invasion of Iraq?’ And it was Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham who stood up and said, ‘Don’t hold her accountable for the intelligence that was given to her.'”
McCain himself has been criticized for strongly attacking President Obama (to whom he lost the presidential election in 2008) over the Benghazi attacks when he himself “forgot” an important briefing on the Benghazi situation in order to attend a press conference about Benghazi.
Feinstein also confirmed Sunday that much of the information Susan Rice has been criticized for keeping under wraps had, at the time she spoke, not been “cleared for public review.”