FBI director: OK for Congress to interview Benghazi survivors

FBI Director James Comey looks to the dais as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine threats to the homeland. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday that he has no problem with Congress interviewing survivors to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The revelation came during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., questioned Comey about the administration's position that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,, who's been investigating the attacks and response, should not be allowed to talk to the survivors.

"It's my understanding [Graham] has been told he cannot interview those survivors. Is that correct?" asked Coburn.

"Certainly not by me," Comey answered.

"The FBI has no problem with Congress interviewing those survivors?"

"No," said Comey.

Graham, who was not at the hearing, told CBS News, "I'm really pleased to hear the FBI director say that. I'm not trying to impeach the criminal investigation, I'm just trying to get to the truth. How can you close the file on Benghazi when the only people who have talked to the survivors is the administration?"

The State Department has repeatedly told Graham that interviews with the survivors - who are believed to be State Department employees-- were off limits because, among other reasons, it "could jeopardize the criminal case."

Republican members of Congress have long requested to see FBI transcripts of interviews conducted with the survivors shortly after the attacks, but the transcripts have not been provided. CBS News has filed multiple Freedom of Information requests covering the transcripts. Some have gone unanswered, while others have been denied on the basis of exemptions to the disclosure law, such as ongoing investigation and national security.

Later in Thursday's hearing, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked Comey whether he might change his mind if he spoke with his prosecutors and they felt differently about Congress interviewing the survivors. Comey answered that it's always possible.

Graham recently announced his intention to block administration nominees until he's provided access to the survivors.



  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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