General: Leaders Knew Benghazi Attack Wasn't over Video
Military leaders knew almost immediately the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 was a terrorist attack, not a demonstration over an anti-Islamic video as the Obama administration claimed for weeks on the public airwaves.
That's the testimony from a retired Air Force brigadier general who was in the U.S. military operation center in Europe during the 2012 attack.
Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell (ret.) also told the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Thursday that the United States should have responded more forcefully during the battle.
Is the idea of a White House cover-up a bogus conspiracy theory? Jordan Sekulow, with the American Center for Law and Justice, has more on CBN Newswatch, May 1.
Eighteen months after the attack, the House continues its probe of the events. The administration has released thousands of documents relating to Benghazi that Republican leaders say should have been delivered to Congress a long time ago.
Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he has requested that as much information as possible be put on the record by the Pentagon and other government departments.
"We do so because the American people, more than anyone else in this body, have an absolute right to know why four men are dead in an attack that could have been prevented," he said.
Lovell testified that while there were many things unknown to military leaders in the European command center, "What we did know quite early on was that this was a hostile action. This was no demonstration gone terribly awry."
The Obama administration has insisted from the beginning that intelligence sources were responsible for former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's post-attack talking points, in which she repeatedly blamed the anti-Islamic video for the killings on news programs for days.
Other administration officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama himself, followed the same talking points.
In a White House email written in 2012 by political advisor Ben Rhodes, Rice was urged to "underscore these protests are rooted in an Internet video and not a broader failure of policy."
"The White House produced the talking points Ambassador Rice used--not the intelligence community," Issa said during Thursday's hearing.
The administration only recently released the Rhodes email because of a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act. That has turned up the heat from journalists, including ABC's Jonathan Karl.
The following was part of an exchange Wednesday between Karl and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:
Karl: Why were you holding back this information? Why was this email not turned over to the Congress? This is directly relevant. Why did you hold back?
Carney: Jon, again...
Karl: Why did it take a court case for you to release this?
Carney: Jon, I can say it again and again, and I know you can keep asking again and again. This document was not about Benghazi.
Carney maintains that the email wasn't released because it referred to the situation in the Muslim world in general, not specifically to the Benghazi attack.
Democrats on the House committee tried to focus the questioning more on the instability in Libya and stressed that the focus should be on preventing future attacks on embassies and consulates.
"People can play politics with a tragedy all they want," Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., said. "The fact of the matter is, at the time of the tragedy, and even to this day, Libya is a very unstable situation, post-revolution."
But a central point emerging from the hearings is that the White House perpetrated the Benghazi talking points in the heat of a re-election bid, points that many officials knew weren't true.
It's likely that lawmakers will keep looking for answer to the question Clinton posed in an earlier hearing: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
A big enough difference that Republicans, and even some Democrats are now calling for a select committee to investigate a possible cover-up.