Mitchell Reports | November 29, 2012
>>> the senate homeland security committee investigating the security and intelligence failures of the u.s. consulate in benghazi that have been of course part of the continuing controversy over susan rice 's possible nomination to be secretary of state. joining me now the chairman of the homeland security committee , joe lieberman . thanks so much, senatoring for joining us. you had four hour session with all of the major players from all of the agencies. so i know you've heard all of the intelligence. what are your biggest concerns about the failures leading up to benghazi ?
>> yeah, this is one of a continuing sirirys of briefings the homeland committee had. the more you do this, the more you understand. we're focused on -- i'm focused on two parts of what happened. did the state department do enough to protect american personnel in benghazi , based on the intelligence of a growing terrorist threat there before the attack or should it have closed our mission there because they were unable to protect them? secondly, why wasn't the defense department able to get assistance to our american personnel on the ground once the attack started? probably would have been impossible to save the life of ambassador stevens and the other man with him who died as a result of the fire that the terrorists set, but seven hours later, two s.e.a.l.s were killed and a timely arrival of american military personnel i think could have saved their lives. and to me, this is really another example of the way in which our military's being stretched. basically we didn't have enough asset either in the waters off of libya or near enough by that help could have gotten there to save the lives of a couple of brave americans. so to me those are the big questions . on yubsobviously a lot of interest in what happened after the attack and what ambassador rice said. that's nott inconsequential but not one of the great lessons to be learned from the tragic event.
>> what you know so far, the investigation is proceeding but do you think the state department ignored the only warnings but incidents and that mission should have been closed?
>> i haven't reached a conclusion yet. i can tell you, having, one, looked at a lot -- all of the classified intelligence , there was a growing crescendo of evidence that eastern libya, benghazi was becoming a kind of outlawed territory, al qaeda -related groups, radical militias there, and well-known that the place was just teaming with weapons that had been seized from the gadhafi government. it was a very dangerous brew. and there was also incidentally unclassified, open source of information. there had been a previous attack, a bomb exploded outside our benghazi mission, the british mission had been attacked, red cross mission. the british government closed its mission in benghazi . i haven't reached a conclusion but i worry that there was a lot of evidence that was not adequately responded to.
>> do you think what susan rice said after the fact should be enough to prevent her from being nominated and successfully confirm ford secretary of state?
>> i don't. i mean, i'm -- the question of who president obama nominates for secretary of state is obviously up to the president. that's a right he's earned by his re-election. but i have been over the intelligence, the talking points that were given to ambassador rice. i have read over her statements on television that sunday morning over and over again, i met with her, and the acting director of the c. ia, it seems to me that everything she said on those many appearances that sunday morning were within the talking points that she had been given by the intelligence community . look, did one point or another she leave an adjective out or should have put in or been certain about something, she wishes now she had been, of course. but i think if anybody in washington, particularly congress, ought to have a sense of mercy about those kinds of errors because they were not in my opinion, intentional attempts to deceive the american people . she said, basically, what the intelligence community told her was the truth as they tentatively understood it on the day that she went on national television.
>> senator, i know you're leaving the senate. are you open to being in a foreign policy team or in the obama cabinet? are you being vetted?
>> no, i'm completely unvetted at this time. so, no, that's not my plan. look, i always say that -- i really feel this -- anytime a president calls anybody, and i'm saying it for myself to serve our country, any president, that you've got to give it serious consideration, particularly i've spent my life in public service . but that's not my plan. and i'm not waiting by the telephone.
>> i wanted to ask you about the palestinian vote because the u.n. vote today is overwhelmingly in favor of nonmember status at general assembly for the palestinians. they've been told by the u.s. repeatedly this is a step backwards but their argument they've been waiting for 20 years or long somewhere that the negotiations are going nowhere . what is your take on this, because chuck schumer is talking about a defense appropriations amendment which would take money away from the west bank if they proceed.
>> yeah, i mean the vote in the united nations , i would say, is not surprising but still disappointing because, really, nothing is achieved by it. the only way to create progress toward the two-state solution, which i support and most people certainly here in congress support, jewish state of israel living in peace next to a palestinian state , both independent, that's only going to be accomplished as a result of the direct negotiations, direct negotiations between israel and the palestinians and therefore, i know there was a certain amount of pressure on the leadership of the palestinian authority to take this resolution to the united nations , particularly after what happened in gaza and hamas, which is really the opposition on some sense the enemy, and inside palestinian politics of the fatah palestinian authority leadership, pressure on president abbas of the palestinian authority to do something significant or that at least was pro active but really in, the end the best thing president abbas could do is agree to come back to the negotiating table without any preconditions, with the israelis, and i appreciate the position that the obama administration has taken in this in trying to to convince the palestinian authority not to ask for this vote at u.n. it undercuts trust and it doesn't help the palestinian cause on the ground, i don't believe, because ultimately, the palestinian people are not going to attain statehood through the united nations . they're going to attain state statehood as a result of negotiations with the israeli government .