Washington, D.C. -- Earlier today Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06) questioned former acting CIA Director Mike Morell during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
Click here to view a video of the exchange, and see below for a transcript.
BACHMANN: Mr. Chair, thank you. Mr. Morell. On September 11, we know that there's a fair amount of activity that was going on at the compound that day in Benghazi. Chris Stevens was active that day; the Turkish ambassador had come to visit Ambassador Stevens at the compound that day. We know from eyewitness testimony on the ground, contemporaneous in time, from the RSO who was there, that the Turkish ambassador, when he was there and all through the day, there were no sightings, no indication in any way of any gathering of any protesters around the compound, around Benghazi.
There was close circuit television; there was the February 17th brigade. There were people there offering security. No one at any time, prior to the attack, gave any indication that there was a protest going on at the compound. The RSO himself said there was nothing going on at the compound. The Chief of Station in Tripoli had no indication of any protest going on. The political officers had no indication of anything going on. The GRS officers coming from the annex over, no one, anyone involved in this situation, no one had any indication of a protest going on and yet, the Obama administration allowed its spokesman for the first time and the first public disclosure, five times on the Sunday morning shows, made a false narrative that a YouTube video was the reason that explained that there were protesters that we now know were apparitions that never existed were there.
This is a false narrative. That is why this is not a small issue this is a big issue, Mr. Morell. Because we have emails in front of us, cables in front of us that don't lie. That's not a conspiracy. And the emails and the cables are very clear about what we knew and when we knew it.
We know that while the attack was going on, that there was already from the State Department at 4:05 p.m., an alert that was put out from the State Department that the compound was under attack.
The second was at 6:08 p.m., that Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda linked terrorist group operating in Libya claimed credit for the attack. we also know that a cable that was sent on September 12th, by CIA station chief in Libya reported, eyewitnesses confirmed the participation of Islamic militants and made clear that U.S. facilities in Benghazi had come under attack, even your first draft from the CIA prepared, distributed internally showed, this was 11:15 a.m., we have date stamps on it, that the CIA and the U.S. government knew that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda participated in the attack. All of that we knew. What changed is when the talking points, prepared again by your office, when those talking points intersected with the White House and those organizations within the White House, included senior State Department officials, senior national security officials--all of those that you talked to us about, Robert Cardillo, Lisa, Matt, Ben--the only change that happened were senior White House officials.
And we know from the emails, particularly from Victoria Newland, that has been referenced by my colleagues from the date stamped time against at 9:24 p.m., she wrote that the problem remains. Her superiors were unhappy. The changes that were made did not resolve my issues or those of my building leadership. We also know Ben Rhodes from the national security foreign policy further advised the group, issues will be resolved in a meeting with meeting administration officials the following morning at the White House. At the White House. Saturday. Before Ms. Rice went on the Sunday morning shows.
They were resolved all right. They were resolved in the favor of the White House. What's odd here is that the false narrative that was given on Sunday morning, on the Sunday morning shows, somehow it strangely added up with the view of the White House six weeks before the presidential election that al-Qaeda was nearly defeated and the global war on terror was over. Everyone knows that wasn't true. That al-Qaeda wasn't defeated. Everybody on this committee, both sides of the aisle knows that the global war on terror was not over. That was the narrative of the White House and the run-up to the presidential election. How weird that that ultimately was reflected in the talking points against all knowledge from people on the ground and knowledge that this committee had. That's why we're upset. Because the American people from my perspective, were intentionally misled by this administration as to what happened in Benghazi.
MORELL: Chairman, can I respond? I'd make two points, ma'am. Number one, the narrative that the attack evolved spontaneously from a protest was a narrative that intelligence community analysts believed, not just CIA but intelligence community analysts. That turned out to be incorrect but that is what they believed at the time. So there is no politics there whatsoever. That's point number one. Point number two is let met actually give you the facts of what the State Department changed in those talking points and what the White House changed.
The White House changed three things. The first thing the White House changed was to add Cairo in front of the word embassy for the sake of clarity. The second thing the White House changed was to rearrange a couple of sentences-purely stylistic. And the third thing the White House changed was to change the word "consulate" to "diplomatic post" for accuracy. Those are the only changes the White House made.
The changes the State Department made, just two, they wanted to change the word "consulate" to diplomatic post for exactly the same reason. The second change the State Department made was to remove the entire bullet on Ansar al-Sharia because State Department said it was premature to single out a specific group and the CIA agreed because the only unclassified evidence we had at the time was Ansar al-Sharia's public statement which they then retracted. So the State Department and the White House made five changes only, all of them in my view, fairly and significant.
BACHMANN: Mr. Morell, they didn't have to change because you made the changes for them. That's the point. That's why you're in front of this committee today. You made significant, substantive changes for the White House, whether it was on behalf we don't know, but we know you are the one who made the changes.
MORELL: Ma'am, if you look at the record, what you will see is that my changes were fully consistent with what our analysts believed at the time. Period.
BACHMANN: The analysts that were part of the bureaucracy, not the individuals who are on the ground who had eyewitness testimony and who as early as September 12 that sent you a cable that it was not a protest, that it was in fact an attack. Those were intentionally ignored.
MORELL: So, ma'am, do you believe that we should have accepted the Chief of Station's view without question that there was a protest.
BACHMANN: I believe the totality of the information was obfuscated and there was an intentional misleading of the public.
MORELL: Because if you believe we should have accepted his explanation of what happened, then you also need to accept his view it to could have been a video that motivated the individuals that attacked the diplomatic facility that night.
BACHMANN: We spoke with him yesterday behind closed doors. He was adamant from the very beginning that this was not a spontaneous protest. We heard from him directly yesterday, that at no time did he believe it was based upon the video. It isn't just him. It's the RSO. It's the Chief of Base. It's those who came from annex. It is the political officers. All of them agreed. You take that versus some press reports and one signal versus -- the weight and balance aren't even equal. It isn't even equal. The evidence overwhelming pointed to an attack that was al-Qaeda or jihadist related.
MORELL: It wasn't just one piece of SIGINT, ma'am. There was also reporting from the station.
BACHMANN: More than one SIGINT? That wasn't our understanding.
MORELL: There was reporting from the CIA station that there was a protest as well as from the Department of Defense.
MORELL: There was a HUMNIT piece, there was SIGINT, and HUMINT from the Department of Defense. There was [sic] multiple intelligence pieces.