A classified email suggesting the White House contacted YouTube as the U.S. Embassy compound in Benghazi, Libya, burned could prove "incredibly damaging" if it bolsters claims of a false Benghazi narrative from the Obama administration, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told Newsmax TV on Friday.
"I can't underestimate the impact that's going to have," the Michigan Republican said on "America's Forum" with hosts J.D. Hayworth, John Bachman, and Morgan Thompson.
ABC News reported that Rogers' colleague, Rep. Darrell Issa, has uncovered
a classified State Department email indicating one of the administration's first responses to the attack was to ask someone at YouTube about an anti-Islam video posted on the website.
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An unnamed senior White House official told ABC News the email proves the administration's argument: There was genuine belief that the video had sparked the Sept. 11, 2012, assault that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three more Americans.
Issa told ABC News the opposite: The White House "had hurried to settle on a false narrative" that would divert attention from its failure to recognize a growing terror threat in Libya and safeguard the compound despite pleas from Stevens for more security.
Issa posted a single sentence from the State Department email to the Congressional Record, and has asked that the rest be declassified.
Rogers said Issa's interpretation, if true, is also "damning," especially coupled with the earlier discovery of the so-called Rhodes memo
— a White House briefing that urged U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to go on television and "underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
Rogers said the latest revelations demonstrate the need for the newly formed House Select Committee on Benghazi that is scheduled to look into unanswered questions.
"That's why this investigation needs to flush the White House portion of this out, so we have a full and better picture, and then again we can get to the point about justice and accountability," Rogers said. "Neither of those things have happened."
Rogers also defended the House-approved USA Freedom Act,
which reins in National Security Agency surveillance practices. Critics said the bill, which passed Thursday, was "gutted" or "watered down" after the White House pressed for changes to preserve more NSA spying powers.
"It was a solid compromise," Rogers said Friday.
He said some congressional critics of the Freedom Act are grandstanding as courageous defenders of liberty, in the process "misstating the facts on this" and using "inflammatory" language.
"It's more about the branding of a politician and a celebrity style than it is about the substance of the issue that will mean saving the lives of real Americans right here at home," said Rogers.
"Listen, if I thought our civil liberties were being abused, I'd be the first one to try to fix it. And that's my job, my responsibility," he said, adding that all factions, "extremely liberal, extremely conservative, and everybody in between came to the agreement that this was the right way to protect privacy and make sure that we had operational ability to catch a terrorist overseas calling into the United States."
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