WASHINGTON— A high-ranking Republican Senator has labeled the Obama administration’s initial characterizations of last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya as a “cover up.” Senator John McCain is calling for a special investigative committee to further probe the administration’s actions after the September assault that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
Fallout continued in Washington days after ABC News said it obtained emails showing State Department editing of administration talking points to downplay terrorist involvement in the Benghazi attack.
“I would call it a cover up," said Senator McCain during an appearance on ABC’s This Week program. “I would call it a cover up to the extent that there was willful removal of information.”
McCain noted that the attack came during President Barack Obama’s re-election effort, when the administration was touting success in the war on terror, including the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“And here comes this attack on Benghazi, and there are so many questions that are unanswered," he said.
The senator said then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton had to have been “in the loop” about the administration’s handling of information concerning the Benghazi attack. He called for a special investigative panel known as a select committee to probe the matter.
Also appearing on This Week was Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who was asked if he agreed with McCain’s “cover up” assertion.
“Absolutely not. Congress has already had 11 hearings on the topic. Over 25,000 pieces of documentation have been provided to Congress," he said.
Reed said alterations made to administration talking points about Benghazi reflect a normal desire for caution rather than wrongdoing.
“What they did was try in a very chaotic situation to come up with [talking] points that they felt confident of. They did not want to go too far in two concepts. One, there are intelligence assets you might not want to disclose. Second, there was an ongoing investigation that was just beginning," he said.
Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney blasted what he termed efforts “to accuse the administration of hiding something that we did not hide.”