Former AG Mukasey: Time for Select Committee to Probe Benghazi

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 10:24 AM

By Courtney Coren

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The recent testimony of former acting CIA Director Michael Morell revealed that the House needs to create a select committee to investigate what happened in Benghazi, said  former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

"The Kabuki of a House intelligence hearing — with the witness delivering prepared remarks and committee members keeping one eye on the television cameras and relying on small staffs with many other responsibilities, questioning in five-minute bursts — is not suited to the sustained and focused effort necessary to test a witness' story and to pursue leads, even for members who wish to conduct a serious inquiry," Mukasey wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal.

"The rules of Congress permit the appointment of a select committee to investigate a particular topic when circumstances warrant — a committee staffed for the job and with no other mandate. Notwithstanding Secretary Clinton's immortal 'what difference at this point does it make?,' the creation of such a committee is overdue," he added.

Morell was the CIA official responsible for forming and editing the talking points that were used by the Obama administration to explain the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, in which four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The talking points attributed the attacks to a demonstration outside the consulate by extremists who were responding to a YouTube video that mocked Muslims, instead of a terrorist attack led by al-Qaida.

In his testimony April 2, Morell denied charges that he edited the talking points "for the political benefit of President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton."

"The acting CIA director's changes to the talking points did indeed enable the blame-it-on-the-video fiction, which served the interest of a president seeking re-election based in part on having put al-Qaida on the run, although in fairness, it is not clear that was Mr. Morell's motive," the former attorney general wrote.

Part of what he edited out included "warnings that the CIA had provided to the State Department of earlier terrorist attacks on the British Embassy and on the Red Cross that caused them to withdraw their personnel."

"Mr. Morell said he did the revising because it would have looked unseemly for the CIA to appear to be pounding its chest and blaming the State Department," he added.

"Mr. Morell seemed surprised ... that the analysts' views were taken public. Yet the CIA was asked soon after the attack by the White House to help draft 'talking points,' which should have tipped him off that some extramural talking was planned."

Mukasey explained that part of the problem is a "bifurcated culture within the CIA" between the directorate of operations, who make up the part of the intelligence agency that is on the ground "carrying out covert activities," and the directorate of intelligence, which is made up of analysts "who are supposed to evaluate the information" by those on the ground.

He explained that Morell's decision to include what he did in the talking points was because of his decision to go with the version of events based on what the analysts were saying because that information came "in the prescribed way."

"The CIA station chief's communication to headquarters came in an email and did not get circulated within the intelligence community as it would have if it had been contained in a cable."

Mukasey concluded that these discrepancies warrant a select committee with a "sustained and focused effort" to look into the matter, since the public hearings seem to only scratch the surface.

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