Nearly four months after the September 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., continues to rail against the Obama administration for what he says are unanswered questions about "what transpired before, during and after the attack on our consulate." As a result, he's demanding that the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director be delayed until he is satisfied that his inquiries have been suitably answered.
"I have not forgotten about the Benghazi debacle and still have many questions about what transpired before, during and after the attack on our consulate," Graham said today in a statement. "I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered."
Brennan is the second high-profile presidential nomination that Graham has protested on these grounds: He, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., were critical in derailing U.N. ambassador Susan Rice's prospects at being named secretary of state. Rice withdrew her name from consideration for the post last month after protracted attacks from Graham, McCain, Ayotte and other Republicans, who targeted initial comments she made about the September attacks in a series of talk show appearances a few days later.
In his statement, Graham points to a lack of clarity over talking points the CIA gave to Rice ahead of those appearances, which were edited to exclude reference of the likely involvement by terrorists and an al-Qaeda affiliate in the attack.
"We were first told the Director of National Intelligence deleted the Al-Qaeda reference in the talking points because they did not want to let al Qaeda know we were monitoring them. We were then told the FBI changed the talking points so as not to compromise an ongoing criminal investigation. Finally, during a meeting with Ambassador Rice and acting-CIA Director Morrell, I was told it was the FBI who changed the talking points," Graham said in the statement. "However, later in the day the clarified it was the CIA who had changed the talking points."
In late November, acting CIA Director Mike Morrell and Rice mete privately with Graham, McCain, and Ayotte specifically to address their questions about the Benghazi attacks. In that meeting, Morrell said he believed it was the FBI that removed the references, despite previous accounts stating the edits had been the work of the CIA. Morrell later retracted that statement, saying he "misspoke" and that the CIA was, in fact, responsible.
After that meeting, Graham said he was "more disturbed now than I was before" about the explanations he had received on the subject.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has repeatedly dismissed what he called the "obsessive focus" on Rice's initial comments as "misplaced and misguided," and says President Obama is more concerned with figuring out what happened in Benghazi and how to prevent future occurrences than playing politics on the issue. The administration has also accepted the conclusions of a critical independent report detailing the the incident, and two top State Department officials recently testified about the report in front of separate House and Senate committees. Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also expected to testify on the incident in the future.
Graham, who is up for reelection in 2014 and has also criticized Chuck Hagel, Mr. Obama's pick for defense secretary, says he is not ready to let the issue rest.
"Who changed Ambassador Susan Rice's talking points and deleted the references to Al-Qaeda?" Graham asked again today in his statement. "This ever-changing story should be resolved."