Senators demand review of intelligence operations on Benghazi

The review would be similar to the recently completed analysis by the independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) on the intelligence and security mishaps within the State Department that preceded the September attack, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said Friday. 

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"The American people were deceived ... for an incredibly long amount of time," on the Libya attack, McCain told reporters during the press conference on Capitol Hill. 

Top officials in the U.S. intelligence community, as well as those at the Pentagon and State Department, must be held "accountable and responsible to the American people," McCain added. 

The board, led by former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, found “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the State Department, but it also placed blame on Congress for cutting funds.

One senior State Department official has resigned in the wake of the ARB findings, and three others were put on administrative leave as a result of the scathing review. 

The White House is already moving forward with instituting the recommendations put forth by the ARB, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday. 

"We have an obligation to them, to their families, and all other Americans serving abroad to figure out exactly what happened and learn from those mistakes so that we can prevent this from happening again," Carney told reporters on Thursday. "That was the purpose of the establishment of the Accountability Review Board."

However, lawmakers say U.S. intelligence agencies should shoulder some of the blame in the run-up to Benghazi and that those agencies should be subjected to the same critical oversight as the State Department, Ayotte said. 

"This was inevitable," Graham said, regarding the failures by the American intelligence and diplomatic corps in anticipating and possibly preparing for the Benghazi attack. 

Obama administration officials have repeatedly cited intelligence provided to the White House as the reason for its initial claims the consulate attack was the result of a anti-American protest gone violently wrong. Later, the White House acknowledged the strike was the work of Islamic militants based in northern Libya.

Top White House officials, including Clinton and Vice President Biden, claimed a lack of timely intelligence led to the administration's flawed initial assessment of the situation in Benghazi. 

Last month, Shawn Turner, spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told The Hill that only changes made to the administration's talking points on Benghazi were made by the intelligence community and not other “interagency partners” in the White House. 

But given the ARB "thoroughly discredits the administration's [initial] narrative," a similar review is necessary for the U.S. intelligence agencies to find out what kind of analysis led the White House to its flawed conclusion, Ayotte said Friday. 

The New Hampshire Republican also said that she, McCain and Graham had requested Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) call hearings to examine the Defense Department's role in responding to the attack. 

For their part, defense lawmakers agreed to  add 1,000 Marines to the Pentagon’s embassy security force, assigned to protect American diplomatic outposts across the globe, as part of the compromise version of DOD's fiscal 2013 budget policy bill. 

The DOD hearing called for on Friday will focus on what other measures the Pentagon needs to take, in order to ensure the security of U.S. diplomats stationed worldwide. 

The final version of the legislation was approved by both chambers and was sent to the White House for the president's signature on Friday. 

However, the ARB-like review for the intelligence community and the possible Senate hearing on DOD's role in Benghazi are, in the end, not about assigning blame, Graham said. 

The lawmakers, according to Graham, are simply "trying to correct" the mistakes made in the run-up to the Benghazi strike and to ensure a similar attack does not happen again.