A top Republican alleged Sunday that the Obama administration made diplomatic security decisions based on optics rather than the need to protect U.S. personnel in the Middle East.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) made the charge when discussing his panel’s probe of the Sept. 11 attack this year on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
“We believe they didn’t want the appearance of needing the security. We want to put real security ahead of the appearance of not needing security,” Issa said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“We are going through a ‘mission accomplished’ moment. Eleven years after September 11 , Americans were attacked on September 11  by terrorists who pre-planned to kill Americans. That happened and we can’t be in denial, particularly when there are compounds all over the Middle East that need to be legitimately protected at a level that security professionals ask for,” Issa said of the attack in Libya.
The “mission accomplished” comment is a reference to former President George W. Bush.
In 2003, Bush announced the end to major combat operations in Iraq and “one victory” against terror while standing beneath a banner reading “mission accomplished” aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
The now-infamous banner became a political embarrassment as the security situation in Iraq deteriorated in subsequent years.
Issa last week convened a House hearing where State Department officials said requests for additional security by U.S. personnel in Libya were denied. The White House, though, says those denials came from the State Department and that the president and Vice President Biden were not told of the calls for heightened security.
Democrats have touted Obama’s record on foreign policy, including the winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Benghazi attack, however, has created a political firestorm for Obama, with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and fellow Republicans accusing the administration of downplaying terrorism risks abroad.
On Sunday Issa said that after the election he plans to lead a congressional delegation to meet with security officials in a number of countries “to hear what they feel they need and, and if there needs to be supplemental money, of course Congress would respond.”
“If security professionals are giving the warning that they need more security, that they need to change how we do business diplomatically in the region, and that is not being heard, than it isn’t just Ambassador Stevens who is now dead, it is everybody who works throughout the Middle East is at risk if we cannot get the security level right,” Issa said on CBS.
Issa’s on Sunday also indicated that he wants U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to testify. Last week, Issa said he wanted a new briefing on Libya from senior administration officials. The California lawmaker has said the White House needs to better explain why they initially blamed the Benghazi attack on anti-U.S. anger sparked by a film criticizing Islam.
Senior officials later said they believed the attack was instead a preplanned assault.