U.S. senators from both political parties indicated Nov. 13 they want former CIA Director David Petraeus to testify about a deadly Libyan consulate attack, and Republicans said a classified briefing failed to answer some questions.
As demanded by lawmakers, senior CIA and other Obama administration officials briefed members of Congress about the Sept. 11 Embassy attack that left the U.S. ambassador and three others dead. But as Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee emerged from the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, they told reporters the officials had not filled in all the remaining blanks.
“There’s a lot more work to be done,” said Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho. “There’s still questions.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters “there are continued questions about a couple items.”
Among those issues are why the White House dispatched U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to publicly state after the attack that it was spawned by “a spontaneous protest stemming from a YouTube video, as opposed to an organized and orchestrated terrorist attack,” Rubio said.
Another is how has the administration applied lessons from the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, to ensure other American diplomatic facilities are secure.
“Those are questions that need to be answered,” Rubio said.
The Florida senator called on outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on Capitol Hill about the Obama administration’s handling of the incident.
Republican senators called for Petraeus, now a private citizen, to be called to Capitol Hill to brief members.
“I think we need to hear from David Petraeus, as well,” Rubio told reporters.
“I think there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be asked to fill in some of the holes,” Risch said following the late-afternoon briefing.
“We’re hearing explanations, but there’s a lot of us that want clearer explanations.”
Asked about the kinds of answers Republicans want, Risch said, “The great majority of it is classified.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee briefing came one day before three GOP Senate Armed Services Committee members who have been harshly critical of the administration’s handling of the attack are slated to meet with reporters.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are expected to keep up their critical tone. The trio has sent President Obama and several Cabinet members a long list of questions about how the administration responded to the attack, and McCain has called Obama “incompetent.”
A senior Senate Democrat also indicated the briefing left unresolved questions.
“I hope we can get to the bottom of it, find all the facts, the timeline, and hold those [responsible] accountable,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
The majority whip said he would leave it to Senate Intelligence Committee leaders to decide whether to summon Petraeus to Capitol Hill to testify.
“If he has some personal knowledge of this, I just don’t know,” Durbin said.
Durbin said he is unsure what remains to be known about the attack on the Benghazi facility, saying the officials described “a chaotic situation.”
“There were some genuine acts of heroism by Americans trying to save those who were lost,” he said. “I’m afraid much of this has been lost in the political rhetoric.”
Meantime, Republican senators indicated Rice’s role in offering an incorrect explanation in the immediate wake of the attack could keep her from becoming secretary of state.
“I’m concerned about the fact that she went on the Sunday [morning political talk] shows and said this was the result of a spontaneous uprising,” Rubio said. “Obviously, she based those comments on directives or information she received from someone, and it’s important to know who that directive came from and what that information was.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who could become the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee after the new Congress is seated in January, said, “I’ve had conversations with the CIA, and my sense is they were also baffled by her comments.”