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Susan Rice on Benghazi: There was no intention to mislead anybody

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By Doug Powers  •  November 27, 2012 04:32 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

Today’s update to the ongoing attempt to unravel the Benghazi story:

Under fire from congressional critics, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice stressed in a Tuesday statement that she did not intend to mislead the public about the September 11th attacks on the Benghazi consulate.

“Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved,” Rice said.

Rice has emerged as a high-profile administration target for congressional critics who claim that the Obama administration tried to cover up a terrorist link to the attacks.

Rice and acting CIA director Michael Morell met Tuesday with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to discuss her public statements in the aftermath of the assault that killed four U.S. State Department personnel in September.

Rice did a round of Sunday shows the weekend after the attack, and claimed that it had been sparked by an anti-Muslim video. The intelligence community later revised their assessment of the attack.

“In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi,” Rice said.

“While, we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved,” she said.

That’s a long way of trying to explain what Debbie Wasserman Schultz said last month: Just because the administration put out stories about Benghazi that proved to be wrong doesn’t mean they were false at the time they were told. Got that?

Today, Rice — after possibly fielding an email or phone call from Joe Klein trying to convince her that the Benghazi attack was all about the video — met with Sens. McCain, Graham and Ayotte. It didn’t go well. McCain said he was still “significantly troubled” by Rice’s statements, and Graham and Ayotte agreed:

Lindsey Graham, another Republican Senator who has been openly critical of Rice and the Obama administration, said to reporters outside Capitol Hill, ”Bottom line: I’m more disturbed now than I was before.” Graham went on to note that he believes it’s better to remain silent than to spread false information:

Before you give bad information, it’s better to give no information at all [...] If you don’t know what happened, just say you don’t know what happened. Here’s what I can tell you: the American people got bad information on 16 September. They got bad information from President Obama days after and the question is, should they have been giving the information at all?

Kelly Ayotte, a Republican Senator from New Hampshire, agreed with McCain and Graham, saying, “It was certainly clear from the beginning that we knew that those with ties to al-Qaeda were involved in the attack on the embassy and clearly the impression that was given, or the information given to the American people, was wrong.”

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline adds:

According to Dana Bush of CNN, sources say that Rice told the Senators that, before going on the Sunday talk shows, she saw classfied documents indicating that al Qaeda may have been involved in the Benghazi attack. The same sources say that Rice told the Senators she regrets her public comments.

It has been clear to us that Rice almost certainly did, in fact, see the classified documents that mentioned al Qaeda. Now that she’s admitted this, the question becomes whether her statements on the five Sunday talk shows were consistent with the information contained in the documents. After all, though Rice can argue that it would have been improper to disclose classified information, she cannot argue that it was improper to make statements that didn’t entirely square with that information.

My guess is that Rice is in an intellectually untenable position.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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