01.01.14

Rep. Schiff Comments on the New York Times Report on Benghazi

Washington, DC -- On Sunday morning, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee, appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace to discuss the recent NYT report on the Benghazi attack.  Since the tragic attack on U.S. facilities Benghazi, Schiff has rejected claims that the Obama Administration designed talking points with an intention to mislead the public about the nature of the attacks. The original talking points incorrectly asserted that the attacks began as a spontaneous protest of an anti-Islamic video -- but this was the best assessment of the intelligence community in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Schiff stated today: "We now know that the attacks had some level of pre-planning, and that the video, along with the anniversary of 9/11, a general call to action by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, anti-U.S. animus, a desire to loot and steal, and other factors motivated those involved in the attacks.

"Some have sought to portray the attacks on the compound as a pre-planned operation by 'core' al Qaeda,while others maintain that it was an almost purely spontaneous act of violence spurred on by the anti-Islamic video alone. Neither paradigm accurately characterizes the events of that day, or the broad range of criminals, terrorists and militias that participated in the heinous acts which cost four Americans their lives.

"While some may have had ties to al Qaeda or were inspired by its virulent hatred of the West, this must not obscure the fact that there were many other murderous actors without such connections who were involved and who continue to pose a real threat.  

"The reality is that many local militant organizations in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere may loosely affiliate with al Qaeda or have members who do, for money, logistics, recruiting or prestige -- or choose to unaffiliate as opportunity dictates -- and neither status is completely determinative of their threat to the United States.

"The continuing politicization of these events is a disservice to the brave men who died that day, and the many others in the service of this country overseas who are deserving of a more thoughtful response to the security needs of our personnel. We must not lose focus on the two most important issues related to Benghazi: how do we prevent this from happening again, and how do we bring those responsible to justice?"

Below is the full transcript of Schiff's comments on Sunday:

SCHIFF: Well, I don't think "The New York Times" report is designed to exonerate the security lapses within the State Department that left our people vulnerable. I do think it adds some valuable insights. I agree with Mike that, however, the intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved, but there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al Qaeda that were involved.

I think the intelligence paints a portrait that some came to murder, some people came to destroy property, some merely came to loot, and some came in part motivated by those videos. So it is a complex picture. There was some planning, as Mike points out, but it was not extensive. I don't think it's either accurate to characterize this as a long-term preplanned core al Qaeda operation or something completely unaffiliated.

And I think, Chris, where the New York Times report both adds value and also is deficient is they didn't have the same access to people who were not aware that they were being listened to. They were heavily reliant, obviously, on people that they interviewed who had a reason to provide the story that they did.

Sometimes, though, the intelligence which has the advantage of hearing what people say when they don't know they are being listened to, that could be misleading as well when people make claims, they boast of things that they were not involved in for various purposes.

So I think it adds some insights, but I don't think it's complete. And I don't think either paradigm is really accurate here.