Pete Hoekstra, former congressman and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, criticized former CIA Director Michael Morell's testimony before the panel Wednesday, when he denied there was any cover-up or political influence in the agency's talking points on the 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
"Morell came out and said the CIA analysts, the best analysts in the world, said that there was a protest ... you could've been a deputy sleuth with a CIA little badge that you buy in the dime store [and you] would've known that there was no protest because your own CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi were telling you that there was no protest, so Morell's got a lot of explaining to do, and he didn't start it off very well," he told Newsmax TV's John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum."
Morell was head of the CIA at the time of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
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The agency and the Obama administration came under fire in the aftermath of the attack for calling it a demonstration in protest of an anti-Muslim video rather than a terrorist attack carried out by al-Qaida.
"The Obama administration misled Congress, misled the American people, two months before the presidential election in 2012 by providing disinformation. They started the whole Benghazi thing off in a very, very partisan, unprofessional way, and they made the intelligence community part of their efforts to hide the truth on what happened in Benghazi," Hoekstra said.
Hoekstra represented Michigan's Second congressional district from 1993 to 2011, serving as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007.
As for his personal assessment of Morell, Hoekstra said, "When I knew Mike Morell and he came and testified, and in my work with him, he was always a straight shooter. That's why I find what happened here kind of out of character. But much of what happened and is happening in the intelligence community under President Obama is uncharacteristic of where that community used to be.
"This president has politicized the intelligence community, politicized the very nature of intelligence, and it's gone away from providing information to policyholders or policymakers so that they could make better informed decisions to writing talking points for the White House, which is a very dangerous place for the … CIA to go. That's not what they should be doing."
Hoekstra also questioned Morell's assertion that he was not influenced or pressured by the White House to change the talking points.
"All the testimony from a number of different sources indicated that Mike Morell was very influential in shaping the final talking points. I've seen reports that have said that he deleted up to 50 percent of the talking points that were provided through the different iterative processes, that he was very influential in what the final outcome was, and that he was the person that shaped them," he said.
"We many never know the conversations that he would have had with the White House, with the State Department, or whatever. He can always characterize them as saying, 'Well, hey, they were discussions about substance. They were substantive discussions, they were never about politics.' It would be very, very difficult to prove that they were political points that were being made. He would just argue that they were … that the input that he received from the White House or from State were nothing more than substantive discussions."
Had it come out at the time, just two months before the presidential election, that al-Qaida was able to orchestrate the deadly attack, it would have challenged Obama's argument that the terrorist organization was on the run, Hoekstra said.
"You're talking to somebody who was running for the U.S. Senate at that time and was running on a platform that this president was dangerous for American national security. When our nominee didn't challenge the Benghazi explanation and those types of things, and when the president and the White House came out with this explanation, it just papered over what I thought would have been potentially a game changer in 2012 in presidential elections and Senate elections. It was all about politics."
And it's still all about Chicago-style politics, Hoekstra argued.
"This president has used executive orders. Think about what he's doing to the coal industry and those types of things. Think about his use of the IRS. You know, this guy has used every branch of government to further his policy objectives and to further his political objectives," he said.
"The bottom line, most of the mainstream media has given this guy a pass. If George W. Bush had tried to do even half of what this administration did, there would have been calls for impeachment. This president, like I said, he's getting a free pass."
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