No, Obama Didn’t ‘Lie For A Month’ About Benghazi

Darrell Issa (Credit: Bloomberg)

A GOP Congressman yet again made the false claim that President Obama “lied for a month” about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has, from his perch atop the House Oversight Committee for months, been the House of Representatives’ lead investigator on Benghazi, which roared back into the headlines this week. Speaking to host David Gregory on NBC’s Meet the Press, Issa once again made the claim that the Obama administration lied for a month about whether the assault was a terrorist attack or not, engaging in a massive cover-up.

Issa claimed that the administration leaned heavily on the CIA to change its draft of the now infamous set of unclassified talking points on what happened in Benghazi to better fit a political narrative and hiding the true nature of the attack from the American people:

ISSA: The fact is, we want the facts, we’re entitled to the facts. The American people were effectively lied to for a period of about a month. That’s important to get right. And —

GREGORY: I just want to be clear here what you believe the lie was.

ISSA: This was a terrorist attack from the get-go. The attack succeeded extremely quickly, because in no small part because the consulate or the diplomatic facility in Benghazi was not given the support it needed or quite frankly the decision to leave which might have been just as good. Either way, they were in fact covering up an easy attack that succeeded that was from the get-go about a terrorist attack. It was never about a video.

Counter to Issa’s claim, however, the evidence shows that while the administration acted cautiously in what it put forward, it ultimately told the public just what it knew to be fact about the attack. President Obama himself referred to the assault in Libya as an “act of terror” at least twice within 48 hours.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice delivered the final draft of the talking points on Sept. 16, 2012, appearing on all five Sunday news shows. Rice gave what was at the time the administrations’ best knowledge about what caused the attacks, saying that it was the result of a demonstration that mutated into a coordinated attack. Those appearances lead to her being the target of a Republican smear campaign in the weeks and months ahead.

From the CIA’s original draft of the talking points, however, the intelligence community believed that what occurred in Benghazi was “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” The Cairo protests were, in fact, spurred on by an anti-Islamic video as Rice ultimately wound up referencing in her appearances. In another draft, before the document was provided to the rest of the government for input, the word “attack” became “demonstrations,” showing that the very claim that Republicans have accused the White House of lying about came from the CIA itself. The view that the video had at least some part to play in the attack’s genesis has been borne out in later reporting.

What’s more, the administration acknowledged from the beginning that the official story on Benghazi would change as more information became known. “We’ll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that’s the best information we have at present,” Rice said at the time. And rather than “scrubbing” the points of references to Al Qaeda to benefit Obama, then-CIA Director David Petraeus reportedly himself asked for the mentions to be removed to avoid “tipping off the groups” involved.

None of this has stopped Republicans from taking what was inherently a turf war between the CIA and State Department and attempting to turn it into a scandal that will bring down the Obama administration.