Republican House members pushed back against a New York Times article that reported local militias, not al Qaeda forces, were behind the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said on Fox News Sunday that Times reporter David Kirkpatrick’s story, a months-long investigation that relied on interviews with witnesses on the ground at the time of the attack, was inaccurate.
When asked about the report, Rogers told host Chris Wallace, “It tells me they didn’t talk to people on the ground who were doing the fighting and shooting and the intelligence gathering. When you put that volume of information, I think that proves that that story’s just not accurate.”
Appearing on Meet the Press, Kirkpatrick suggested that congressional leaders who insist al Qaeda is to blame for the events in Libya are the ones obscuring facts. “There’s just no chance that this was an al Qaeda attack if, by al Qaeda, you mean the organization founded by Osama bin Laden,” he said. “If you’re using the term al Qaeda to describe even a local group of Islamist militants who may dislike democracy or have a grudge against the United States, if you’re going to call anybody like that al Qaeda, then okay.”
Kirkpatrick continued, “Certainly there were some anti-Western, Islamist militants involved in this attack. But to me, that’s a semantic difference and not a useful way of answering the original question.”
Also on Meet the Press, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa supported Rogers’ argument and insisted that government officials lied about what happened, despite all the contradictory evidence that exists. “Kirkpatrick doesn’t have the classified information that Mike Rogers and others have, and neither do I,” Issa said.
An ardent critic of the Obama administration’s handling of the 2012 attack, Issa became a leading voice in conservative rallying cries on the issue and used his role as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to repeatedly investigate the assault. In his interview with NBC Sunday, Issa maintained his critical posture against the administration and defended his past assertions that al Qaeda played a role in the attacks.
“It was accurate,” he said. “There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al Qaeda.”
California Democrat Adam Schiff, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee with Rogers, agreed with his colleague on Fox News. “The intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved,” he said.
The New York Times report said that its reporting found “no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”