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Meet the Press   |  May 12, 2013

Issa urges White House to release Benghazi emails

Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is leading the House investigation into the Benghazi attacks and gives an update on the status of the probe.

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>> the investigation into these matters, the chairman of the house oversight committee , derril issa.

>> obviously this is an important issue to the american people .

>> let's get into it then because i want to know where you're going. congressional leaders including yourself are calling on the white house to release more e-mails related to all of the communication and reaction to the benghazi attacks the very next day. what are these e-mails? what's in them, and do you think the white house is holding something back?

>> david, there are three zing areas that haven't been answered. first of all, a full understanding of why urgent requests repeatedly for more security before the attackses were denied. we've had statements that it wasn't about money, but at the same time, people are asking for more security. they got less. the british ambassador has two assassination attempts, and yet we keep a facility that was not able to withstand even a few minutes of attack. then those seven hours while the attack was going on, was the response correct, could it have been better? why weren't things at least tried or revved up to be tried? those are important questions. then afterwards, how could you change talking points 12 times from what seems to be relatively right to the what seems to be completely wrong?

>> why don't i start there because in the immediate aftermath, there's both intelligence and there's internal administration communication, basically saying that a terrorist group appears to be involved, right? ansar al sharia. there's communication about this in the state department but those are removed ultimately for the talking points in preparation for members of congress and for susan rice to appeared here and on other sunday morning talk shows. and steve hayes reported about this in the weekly standard and writes about some of the changes. the official who changed it at the state department , the weekly standard confirmed was victoria nuland . worried that members of congress would use the points to criticize the state department for not paying attention to agency warnings about security in bengsz. in an attempt to address, cia officials cut all references to ansar al sharia. but in a follow-up e-mail, new land wrote that the problem remain that her superiors, he she didn't say which ones were unhappy. the changes she wrote did not resolve all my issues. you suggest she's playing politics with the aftermath of all of this. but chairman, didn't the cia and the intelligence community have the final word on what the accurate talking points would be?

>> not at all. if you keep pushing back, you get a first report from the cia , that's their report. then you push back. you get a little different. you puck back, you get a little different. that's manipulating the cia to get the truth.

>> these are the facts?

>> the fact is, there was a fact witness, his name was ambassador stevens. he said greg, we're under attack to his number two. that was the definitive statement from the ambassador on the ground before he was murdered. you have a fact witness. and you follow that up with fact witness after fact witness. so to blame the cia is a convenient truth. the real truth is, the people who were there in tripoli and in benghazi knew this was a terrorist attack from the get-go. that's been said under oath. and that's the reason that we need to know more about how these got changed.

>> chairman, my reporting of the immediate aftermath of this talking to administration officials is that ci a director david petraeus made it clear when he briefed top officials that there was a spontaneous element to this, that it was not completely known that this was a terrorist attack right away. you don't give any credence to the notion that there was some fog of war , that there were conflicting circumstances what about what went on here?

>> david petraeus said what the administration wanted him to say is the indication, ambassador pickering heard what the administration wanted to hear. the only under oath people i know about who have said what happened on the ground that day was, in fact, before our committee just on wednesday, and more importantly, you know, when "face the nation" had susan rice saying one thing and the president of libya saying just the opposite, that should have been a wake-up call, a real wake-up call that there was something wrong because we were effectively calling the president of libya either incompetent or a liar. either way , diplomatically, we went down the wrong road. you reconcile with the government that is hosting you before you go on national television and make that kind of claim.

>> what is the big picture here? you're saying that administration officials are these political advisors to the president, are these nonpolitical appointees bullied the cia into saying what the political advisors in the white house wanted him to say? is that your charge.

>> david, we're not making charges.

>> you justified said.

>> they had to back down from what they wanted to say and david petraeus said what the white house wanted to say.

>> those talking points are not the starting talking points , they're the ending talking points . we are not accusing who changed that. the fact is, we want the facts. we're entitled to the facts. the american people were effectively lied to for a period of about a month. that's important to get right.

>> just want to be clear what you believe the lie was.

>> this was a terrorist attack from the get-go. the attack succeeded very quickly. in no small part because the consulate or the diplomatic facility in benghazi was denied the kind of support it needed or, quite frankly, the decision 0 leave which might have been just as good. either way , they were, in fact, covering up an easy attack that succeeded that was about -- was from the get-go really about a terrorist attack . it was never about a video. so when we look at what we know, the question is, how do we prevent a facility from being underprotected? how do we respond better if we have seven hours or more of an attack, and how do we get the truth out. there's three ekz sections all of which the american people are entitled to, and so far, jay carney has said a lot of things that aren't believable even to you and the rest of the press. we've had testimony by people under oath that i think are pretty believable, and i know they're accountable for what they say.

>> who else do you want to hear from in the days and the weeks ahead?

>> well, on monday i'll be sending ambassador pickering a request for deposition. we're going to want to go through at length how the arb reached its conclusions, who it interviewed and why we believe there are --

>> the accountability review board.

>> right. i mean, ultimately if that got it right, then we can put this to a rest. we believe it was insufficient. we believe that it's likely that they did not interview all the people. we have one witness who said i wanted to be interviewed and i wasn't. one of the questions that came out of our hearing, gregory hicks, the act being ambassador has not been allowed to look at the classified arb report even though he is the foremost authority on what was happening in tripoli and what the communication was.