The State Department has no intention of providing Congress more witnesses to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, despite Sen. Lindsey Graham’s threat to hold up all nominations until he gets satisfaction on the issue.
Graham’s Monday morning demand came after a new CBS 60 Minutes expose that featured an interview with a British security contractor who was on the ground and fought on the State Department compound and at the CIA annex during the attacks that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The contractor, calling himself Morgan Jones, claimed that he had repeatedly warned officials about the vulnerability of the facility.
The expose also featured Stevens’ deputy Greg Hicks, who said he was preparing a third request for more security in Benghazi at the time of the attack, and Lt. Col. Andy Wood, one of the top security officials in Libya at the time, who said he had repeatedly warned the State Department that the Benghazi mission was going to be attacked by Al Qaeda.
“We had one option: ‘Leave Benghazi or you will be killed,’” Wood said.
While Hicks and Wood have testified before Congress, Republican members in both chambers have asked to talk to the actual diplomatic security officers who fended off the initial attacks on the event of Sept. 11, 2012.
Speaking Monday on Fox News, Graham said Congress needs to know why the requests for security were denied, why the warnings were ignored, and he called for a joint Congressional committee to be established to investigate. He also called for the survivors to be made available to Congress.
“Months later… the survivors, the people who survived the attack in Benghazi, have not been made available to the U.S. Congress for oversight purposes. I'm going to block every appointment in the united states senate until the survivors are being made available to the congress,” said Graham. "I'm tired of hearing from people on TV and reading about stuff in books.”
At Monday’s State Department press briefing, Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the State Department made one diplomatic security official who was present in Benghazi that night available to the House Oversight Committee led by Rep. Darrell Issa, after Issa issued a subpoena. Psaki was confirming Monday’s report in the LA Times.
Psaki also confirmed that Issa’s committee was able to depose another diplomatic security official who was in Tripoli on the night of the attack. The depositions followed a long battle with the Justice Department, which claimed that providing the officials to the committee could jeopardize the ongoing investigation into the attacks being led by the FBI.
But the State Department won’t make more Benghazi witnesses available in response to Graham’s tactic, she said.
“Our response is that we need to have these officials in place,” said Psaki. “That’s the only way to strengthen our interests overseas and to be able to represent our diplomatic agenda. It’s also is important for our security interests, which is something that many of these members of congress seem very concerned about, for good reason.”
The State Department had no comment on Wood’s claim that he warned them the mission in Benghazi was going to be attacked by al Qaeda. Psaki would only said that there were no prior warnings containing “specific intelligence” of an “imminent” attack and the State Department’s internal review found “no immediate specific tactical warning” of the attacks.
Psaki declined to say whether the State Department believed that al Qaeda affiliated groups were involved in the attack or whether senior al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi, who was scooped up by U.S. forces in Tripoli earlier this month, played any role in the Benghazi attacks.
“The question has always been who the attackers were, what their motivations were, and how the attack evolved. We’ve always said that there were extremists that we felt were involved,” she said. “It’s an ongoing FBI investigation; I’m not going to ascribe more specifics.”
The State Department believes that the Benghazi attacks have been thoroughly investigated, Psaki said.
“These questions have been looked into ad nauseam for months and months and months by a range of independent officials and boards,” she said. “I’m not going to speak to every interview that’s done.”
A State Department official speaking on background also downplayed the CBS Benghazi report.
“We don’t have any validation of his story, he wasn’t identified as the person he was,” the official said, referring to Jones. “There honestly wasn’t a great deal new in there. “