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Interview with Benjamin Netanyahu; Interview with Susan Rice; Interview with Nancy Pelosi; Interview with Rudy Giuliani
Aired September 16, 2012 - 09:00   ET

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Is it really about an obscure promotion on YouTube, or is there a bigger picture?

Today as anti-American protests hit the Arab world a challenge of a different sort in the prickly relationship between president Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What's guiding me contrary to what I've read in the United States, it's not the American political calendar, it's the Iranian nuclear calendar.


CROWLEY: And the future of the president's outreach to the Muslim world with U.S. ambassador of the United Nations Susan Rice.

Then democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, bullish on winning back the house.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: That was the pivotal day.


CROWLEY: Plus, foreign policy and poll numbers with Romney supporter and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.

Another Middle East problem area flamed anew this week: certain that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, but pressured not to take military action right now, the prime minister of Israel is pushing back. Benjamin Netanyahu argues the U.S. must set specific limits for Iran. He suggested otherwise Israel will move forward on its own.


NETANYAHU: Those in the international community will refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.


CROWLEY: Netanyahu's call for red lines to restrain Iran was presumably the main topic in a private one-hour phone conversation with President Obama this week. But Secretary of State Clinton said publicly the U.S. will not set any deadlines after which Netanyahu told an Israeli paper, "I hear all those people who say we should wait until the very last minute, but what if the U.S. doesn't intervene? That is the question we have to ask."

Joining me now Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Prime Minister. There has been all this talk about red lines put before Iran which you have talked about. Can you tell me what you would like that red line to be in the best of all possible worlds for you and for Israel, what would you like the U.S. to commit to in terms of a red line?

NETANYAHU: I think the issue is how to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program. They're moving very rapidly, completing the enrichment of the uranium they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so they'll be 90 percent of the way there. I think it's important to place a red line before Iran. And I think that actually reduces the chance of military conflict because if they know there's a point, a stage in the enrichment or other nuclear activities that they cannot cross because they'll face consequences, I think they'll actually not cross it. And that's been proved time and again.

President Kennedy put a red line before the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was criticized for it, but it actually pushed back the world from conflict and maybe purchase decades of peace. There wasn't such a red line before Saddam Hussein, before -- on the eve of the Gulf War when he invaded Kuwait. Maybe that war could have been avoided. And I think Iran, too, has received some clear red lines on a number of issues, and they backed off from them.

So I think as Iran gets closer and closer to the completion of its nuclear program, I think it's important to place a red line before them. And that's something I think we should discuss with the United States.

CROWLEY: And let me read you something I know you're probably quite familiar with. But for our viewers, something the president has said repeatedly. This he said at the beginning of the year. "As president of the United States I don't bluff. I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

Do you disagree with that?

NETANYAHU: I think that when he says that implicit in that is that he will stop them before they get to a nuclear weapon, which means they'll draw red line somewhere. I think it's important to communicate it to them.

I wouldn't bet -- I wouldn't bet the security of the world and my own country's future from a country that threatens our annihilation, murders civilians en masse in Syria and brutalizes its own people. I wouldn't bet the future on intelligence for simple reasons.

American intelligence and Israeli intelligence that cooperate together had had wonderful successes in saving lives and alerting our people, but we've also had our failures, both of us. You know, you've just marked 9/11. That wasn't seen. None of us, neither Israel or the United States, saw Iran building this massive nuclear bunker under a mountain. For two years they proceed without or knowledge. So I think the one thing we do know is what they're doing right now. We know that they're enriching this material. We know that in the six, seven months they'll have got to covered 90 percent of the way for an atomic bomb material. And I think that we should count on the things that we do know in setting the red line.

CROWLEY: And what we know is, of course, that Iran is allowed under agreements, international agreements to go ahead and do what it's doing because there are legitimate peaceful purposes for enriching this uranium.

NETANYAHU: Do you think so? You think so, Candy? That's like -- well, let me interrupt -- it's not legitimate. This is a country that talks about -- denies the holocaust, promises to wipe out Israel, is engaged in terror throughout the world. It's like Timothy McVeigh walking into a shop in Oklahoma City and saying I like to tend my garden. I would like to buy some fertilizer.

How much do you want?

Oh, I don't know, 20,000 pounds.

Come on. We know that they're working towards a weapon. They're not -- we know that. It's not something that we surmise. We have absolutely certainty about that. And they're advancing towards that nuclear program.

CROWLEY: Do you mean you and the U.S. know that, because I don't from what I read, from what I hear, I don't get the sense that the U.S. has the certainty that you do or the urgency that you seem to have. Is there a disconnect there?

NETANYAHU: First of all, I talked about the certainty of their enrichment program, and I didn't talk about the other elements. And I spoke about the difficulty of knowing other things, but we have no difficulty as the IAEA report just tells us what they're doing in their enrichment program. That we know for sure. That's the only thing we know for sure that is verifiable and accessible. We know that.

As far as the U.S. and Israel, obviously we have different capability. You're a big country. You're several thousand miles away. You have stronger military capabilities. We're a smaller country. We are more vulnerable. They threaten our very annihilation, so obviously we have different capabilities and different clocks. But in terms of what is happening as Iran is getting closer and closer to completing its work for the first atomic bomb, the differences between us in our capabilities are becoming less and less important because Iran is fast approaching a point where it could disappear from our capability of stopping and our capability means not only Israel.

CROWLEY: I get the sense that your hour-long phone conversation with President Obama did not get you where you wanted to go insofar as U.S. willingness to set this red line. Is that correct?

NETANYAHU: Look, we had a good conversation. I'm not going to get into the details. I respect the president. I respect also the confidence of our conversation. But I think that -- I think this is a matter of urgency and people should understand it, that's what's guiding it.

What's guiding me, contrary to what I have read in the United States, is not the American political calendar, it's the Iranian nuclear calendar. And the Iranian centrifuges that are charging ahead simply do not take time out for the American elections. I wish the Iranians would shut down the centrifuges and then we won't have to talk about it, but they don't. And in fact, they do the very opposite. That's what's driving the urgency of this. And again, we have close consultations with the United States on this issue.

CROWLEY: Is the answer then, that no, you don't have the red line that you would like to have from the U.S.? Can you tell me at least that?

NETANYAHU: I think you should have a red line communicated to Iran, that's what I would say. And I think it's vital. I know that people value flexibility. I think that's important. But I think at this late stage of the game, I think Iran needs to see clarity. I'm not sure I would have said this three years ago, two years ago, one year ago, but as we get closer and closer and closer to the end game, I think we have to establish that.

That's becoming important, because you have to just think about it. You know, you see the Middle East. You see these fanatics storming your embassies, and I want to send my condolences to the American people for the loss of that extraordinary ambassador and his extraordinary colleagues. We sympathize as no other people does with the United States.

And yet, you know that as we face the possibility of a regime that is guided by the same fanaticism would have nuclear weapons, it's become something urgent for all of us to make sure they don't get there, and if you want to make sure that they don't get there. And if you want to make sure that they don't get there, make sure that they know that there is a line they shouldn't cross. Because otherwise, they'll cross it, and they'll get there.

CROWLEY: There's also people in your own country who have said that this is more aimed at President Obama and your friend Mitt Romney than it is about any new urgency. And I know you have heard this.

CROWLEY: And I wanted to ask you as a wrap-up question, do you see any major differences between the U.S. position vis-a-vis the relationship with Israel when you look at President Obama's position and when you look at former Governor Romney's position? Is there any difference in their policies towards Israel that you can detect?

NETANYAHU: Look, I know that people, Candy, are trying to draw me into the American election, and I'm not going to do that. But I will say that we value, we cherish the bipartisan support for Israel in the United States, and we're supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

You know, this is not an electoral issue. It is not based on any electoral consideration. I think that there's a common interest of all Americans over all political persuasions to stop Iran.

This is a regime that is giving vent to the worst impulses that you see right now in the Middle East. They deny the rights of women, deny democracy, brutalize their own people, don't give freedom of religion.

All the things that you see now in these mobs storming the American embassies is what you will see with a regime that would have atomic bombs. You can't have such people have atomic bombs. And I believe that's as important for Republicans as it is for Democrats, important for Democrats as it is for Republicans. It's as important for President Obama as it is for Mitt Romney. It's important for the future of our world.

CROWLEY: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that's a good place for us to end it. I appreciate your time this morning.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

CROWLEY: The Arab Spring's unintended consequences, that's next.


CROWLEY: In his second inaugural address, President Bush said the U.S. would seek out and promote democracy around the globe.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. (APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.


CROWLEY: In Cairo, four years later, President Obama reached out the Muslim world with a new version of the same idea.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years. And much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear, no system of government can or should be imposed by one nation, by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.


CROWLEY: And then early last year uprisings on the Arab streets toppled longstanding autocratic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with the explicit yet sometimes delayed support of the West.

This week in at least 23 countries around the world the people returned to the streets to protest, sometimes violently, sometimes not, outside U.S. embassies. How, why, and what turned the Arab Spring into this autumn rage against the West. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice is next.


CROWLEY: Joining me is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

Madam Ambassador, thank you for joining us.

RICE: Good to be with you, Candy.

CROWLEY: One of the things when I spoke with the Israeli prime minister that struck me was the conviction that he has that for certain Iran is building -- on its way to building a nuclear weapon, and his sense of urgency that at this moment the U.S. needs to set what he calls a "red line" for the U.S.

Does the U.S. share the conviction that Iran is, indeed, building a nuclear weapon? And, B, what about the concept of a red line?

RICE: Well, Candy, the United States is in constant communication with Israel and Israeli intelligence, Israeli policy makers, the military. We're sharing our assessments every day. And our assessments, our intelligence assessments are very similar. Obviously, we share a grave concern about Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon. We are determined to prevent that from happening. President Obama has been absolutely clear, and on this there's absolutely no daylight between the United States and Israel that we will do what it takes to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

We are not at that stage yet. They do not have a nuclear weapon. Our shared intelligence assessments is that there is still a considerable time and space before they will have a nuclear weapon should they make the decision to go for that. But we've been very clear. The United States is not interested and is not pursuing a policy of containment. President Obama has been very plain. We will keep all option on the table, including the military option, as necessary, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

But, Candy, the fact is we have just seen the imposition of another layer of the toughest sanctions that have ever been impose odd a country. In this case, Iran. Their economy is beginning to buckle. Their oil production is down 40 percent. Their currency has plummeted 40 percent in the last year. Their economy is now shrinking. And this is only going to intensify.

So we think that there's still considerable time for this pressure to work. But this is not an infinite window. And we've made very clear that the president's bottom line is Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to what's gone on in the Middle East in Arab countries and elsewhere. There is a "New York Times" story this morning that suggests that the administration thinks this is a foreshadowing of a fall that will see sustained instability. Does the administration expect to see these sorts of protests outside U.S. embassies and elsewhere throughout the fall?

RICE: Well, Candy, first of all, let's recall what has happened in the last several days. There was a hateful video that was disseminated on the internet. It had nothing to do with the United States government and it's one that we find disgusting and reprehensible. It's been offensive to many, many people around the world.

That sparked violence in various parts of the world, including violence directed against western facilities including our embassies and consulates. That violence is absolutely unacceptable, it's not a response that one can ever condone when it comes to such a video. And we have been working very closely and, indeed, effectively with the governments in the region and around the world to secure our personnel, secure our embassy, condemn the violent response to this video.

And, frankly, we've seen these sorts of incidents in the past. We've seen violent responses to "Satanic Verses." We've seen violent responses to the cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in an evil way. So this is something we've seen in the past, and we expect that it's possible that these kinds of things could percolate into the future. What we're focused on is securing our personnel, securing our facilities.

CROWLEY: Do you at this moment feel that U.S. embassies abroad are secure?

RICE: We are doing our utmost to secure our facilities and our personnel and in various vulnerable places. We have demanded and we are receiving the cooperation of host governments. Host governments have also put out very strong messages in Libya, in Egypt, in Yemen and Tunisia condemning violence, saying that it's a completely unacceptable response to such a video. And we feel that we are now in a position doing the maximum that we can to protect our people.

CROWLEY: Why would one not look at what is going on in the Middle East now and say that the president's outreach to Muslims, which began at the beginning of his administration in Cairo and elsewhere has not worked because, yes, this video sparked it, but there is an underlying anti-Americanism that is very evident on the streets. So Why not look at it and think that this is this outreach has failed?

RICE: For the same reason, Candy, when you look back at history and we had the horrible experience of our facilities and our personnel being attacked Beirut in 1981, we had the attack on Khobar Towers in the 1990s. We had an attack on our embassy in Yemen in 2008. There have been such attacks. There have been expressions of hostility towards the west.

CROWLEY: But this was sort of a reset, was it not? It was supposed to be a reset of U.S.-Muslim relations?

RICE: And indeed, in fact, there had been substantial improvements. I have been to Libya and walked the streets of Benghazi myself. And despite what we saw in that horrific incident where some mob was hijacked ultimately by a handful of extremists, the United States is extremely popular in Libya and the outpouring of sympathy and support for Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues from the government, from people is evidence of that.

The fact is, Candy, that this is a turbulent time. It's a time of dramatic change. It's a change that the United States has backed because we understand that when democracy takes root, when human rights and people's freedom of expression can be manifested, it may lead to turbulence in the short-term, but over the long-term, that is in the interest of the United States.

The mobs we've seen on the outside of these embassies are small minority. They're the ones who have largely lost in these emerging democratic processes, and just as the people of these countries are not going to allow their lives to be hijacked by a dictator, they're not going to allow an extremist mob to hijack their future and their freedom,. And we're going to continue to stand with the vast majority of the populations in these countries.

They want freedom. They want a better future. And understand that we're with them in that long-term endeavor.

CROWLEY: All right. U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice. I got to let you go here.

RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: We'll switch gears next and talk to Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about her road map to retake control of the House.

And later, a batch of fresh polls show Mitt Romney may be losing steam in his bid for the White House. Supporter and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is here to discuss.


CROWLEY: No matter what they promise as a candidate, presidents can't do much of what they want without a cooperative congress, which brings us to the U.S. House currently run by Republicans who hold 240 seats compared to 190 held by Democrats. To take control next January, Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats in November.

At the Democratic Convention earlier this month, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters she's looking for a 27 seat pick- up, that would put her in line to regain the speakership.

She is expecting victories in Texas, California, Illinois, New York, Washington State, and Arizona. Democrats are also eying power changing winds in the presidential battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada. And there is even talk about Montana where the House seat has been Republican for 15 years.

We should stress that most polls point to, and most political forecasters predict that Democrats will gain seats, but not enough to win the majority.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and the reason for her optimism is next.


CROWLEY: Earlier I visited with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. We began with the Democrats' chances for winning back the majority in November.


CROWLEY: I read something in "Roll Call" that described the prospects for Democrats retaking the House as theoretically possible but unlikely. Would you agree with that?

PELOSI: No. I think that, first of all, I don't know what that is, but I do know that the source of our confidence is, and that's the quality of our candidates. They're just great. The fact that they are strong in terms of their grass roots mobilization and their resource raising and the rest. And that the issues are with us.

For one year and a half since the Republicans passed their budget, which the Romney-Ryan now, Republican budget, which severs the Medicare guarantee, we have been saying three important issues of the campaign, and in alphabetical order they are Medicare, Medicare, Medicare.

On August 11th when Governor Romney chose Ryan, that was the pivotal day.

ROMNEY: Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party.

PELOSI: That is a day things really changed.

We were on a path. I would have said to you then we were dead even. Well, momentum is very much with us. The Medicare issue in this campaign.

So we have a message. We have the messengers. We have the money. We have the mobilization. We have an excellent chance to take back the House.

CROWLEY: Just quickly, the Romney campaign says that Medicare will always be a choice, but that they want to open it up so that they're not cutting off the Medicare option.

PELOSI: Well, you know, that is completely upside down. It's a contradiction of Medicare. Medicare is a guarantee. To make it a voucher is to put the decision in the hands of the insurance companies. Seniors know that. I'm a senior. I know that.

The whole pillar that Medicare is about economic and health security for our seniors and those who depend on Medicare. There are families who need their parents and grandparents to be provided for under Medicare. Everybody understands that.

If you don't believe in Medicare, you will say what the Republicans are saying.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, if it should turn out that you gain seats in the House, but you don't take over the majority spot, would you still run for leader of Democrats?

PELOSI: Well, I don't ever predicate anything when losing. I feel very confident about our ability to win. Who will lead the party after that is up to my members. I feel that I...

CROWLEY: Oh, sure, but would you still run, whether it was for speaker or Democratic leader?

PELOSI: Well, I actually, didn't choose to run last time. My members chose that I would run last time.

But this isn't about me, this is about Medicare. It's about Social Security. It's about women's rights. It's about the American dream. It's about our democracy. All of that is on the ballot.

CROWLEY: If we look at the polls rather than the possibilities, it looks as though there is an even chance that the senate Republicans could take over and that the probability is that Democrats will not take over in the House.

So let's say everything stays as is and the president is re- elected. What's different about the dynamic that has been so toxic between Capitol Hill and the White House if we have what currently the polls show is -- you know, if the election were held today?

PELOSI: Well, with that theoretical, the -- you'll see more of the same because it's really important for the public to know that the Republican obstruction of President Obama's jobs bills and whatever he was advancing, their obstruction is their agenda. They really don't believe in...

CROWLEY: Does that change? If nothing changes in the dynamic...

PELOSI: It's what they believe in. Now I have always said in my Republicans take back your party, because this wing of the party or this over the edge crowd that is in charge -- taking charge of wagging the dog in congress is never going to cooperate, because they do not believe in a public roll. Clean air, clean water, public safety, public education, public transportation, public health, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, they don't believe in it, and that's what their budget is about. And that's what wee we vote on the floor almost every day.

CROWLEY: Do you see that changing.

PELOSI: No, I don't see it, that's why it's important for us to win the election so that we can go forward because bipartisan collaboration is on the ballot too.

When President Bush, George W. Bush, was president and we were in the majority and I was the speaker, we had our differences, we fought, but we also found common ground.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43rd PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thank the leadership of the congress for joining us here.

PELOSI: There are so many places where we came together.

CROWLEY: So you could work with Mitt Romney basically, if it came to that?

PELOSI: Oh, Mitt Romney is not going to be president of the United States.


CROWLEY: Let me ask you...

PELOSI: I think everybody knows that.

CROWLEY: The president has put out his -- by law he had to put out a response to detail what its cut and what doesn't get cut under what we call sequestration, which are just mandated across the board cuts in both sides of the ledger. It says it will be horrible if it happens, et cetera, et cetera. The Republicans have complained repeatedly that there is no presidential leadership on this.

What is the president's involvement been so far in trying to get Republicans and Democrats together to avoid this fiscal cliff?

PELOSI: Well, the president as recently as yesterday I received a call from him saying we really do have to have an agreement, which I fully agree with, and the must have as much -- do everything we can to find common ground. That's what we did one year ago, more than a year ago in July/August of last year and the president worked very hard with the speaker to come out with a bipartisan agreement that was a big design which had $4 trillion over 10 years in deficit reduction and the House and Senate Democrats said Mr. President, we're with you on this. He agreed to it. The Republicans walked away. CROWLEY: Is he a work-the-phoner, though? I mean, compare him, say, to Bill Clinton who you also worked with. I mean, the image that we have is a president that does not do that as much as a Bill Clinton did in terms of offering guidance, trying to get people together in the same room, reaching out to Republicans, reaching out to you. The level of leadership from the president when it comes to legislative things compared to former President Clinton.

PELOSI: Well, I would say that they both score very high in terms of leadership. If you measure leadership in the number of phone calls, well, that might be a little bit of a different story because they're different personalities.

CROWLEY: Yes, more contact with Bill Clinton over the years.

PELOSI: Well, I wasn't leader or speaker when Bill Clinton was -- President Clinton was president, but we all -- but I saw how he worked with Congress and our leadership at the time.

Make no mistake, President Obama is, of course, a great leader. He has great vision for our country. He knows the issues. He has a plan. He is eloquent and can draw people to what he has to say, and that's all great.

He also is such a respectful person. And I have never seen -- I worked with presidents to a great or lesser degree, certainly to a greater degree to President Bush and President Obama, and this president has listened, spent time, respects the opinions of the Republicans to an extent that I think -- I wish one of them would come up with a new idea because he has more patience listening to them than I do.

But so, really, leadership should not be measured in the number of calls. But they were both great. They are both great leaders.

CROWLEY: So I'll just extrapolate from that that perhaps Bill Clinton was more hands-on than President Obama, but they both -- you think they both showed leadership?

PELOSI: Well, I think they're both hands-on. It's just a question of how they spent their time. And the challenges are very great today that the president -- as they were under President Clinton, but I think he uses his time well. I have no complaint with that.

CROWLEY: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, thank you for joining us today.

PELOSI: Thank you, Candy. My pleasure.

CROWLEY: I appreciate it.

PELOSI: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Battleground polls show trouble for Governor Mitt Romney. Supporter and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is here next.


CROWLEY: I'm joined by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for being here. It occurs...


CROWLEY: ... to me that you, as well as anybody, understands that when there is a crisis, Americans tend to rally around their leaders. So with that in mind, tell me who had the better week this week, President Obama or Mitt Romney?

GIULIANI: Well, I think clearly Mitt Romney. Largely because what we see is the president's policies in the Middle East falling apart. I mean, the reality is the president got elected to reset our relationship in the Middle East. We might as well not have had the reset.

I mean, look at the American flag being burned, unrest in 20 countries, a front page article in The New York Times today saying they anticipate numerous additional demonstrations over the next four or five months.

America is no more popular in the Middle East than it was four years ago. And now in addition to that, we've shown this kind of provocative weakness to the Middle East. And we were for Mubarak before we were against Mubarak. We were more or less neutral on Gadhafi until we wanted to overthrow him.

Hillary Clinton announced that Assad was a reformer. Now we want to overthrow him. And we don't seem to be willing to set a red line for Iran when that's exactly what Jack Kennedy did in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And you do that any time you are dealing with a provocative enemy that needs to know, well, how far can you go so we have no confusion? The president refuses to do it. Prime Minister Netanyahu is absolutely correct in pushing him to do it.

CROWLEY: There are plenty of people who would argue that the president as commander-in-chief had a better week, but I want to move you on to some things that I think are possibly troubling inside the Romney campaign.

This is the latest look at some battleground states from the NBC News/Marist poll with The Wall Street Journal. Ohio, it has President Obama up 7 points. And in Florida and Virginia, the same poll has President Obama up 5 points. What is wrong there?

GIULIANI: Nothing is wrong. It's a close election. Those are polls...

CROWLEY: Well, that's -- some of these -- I mean, those are pretty good leads compared to what we have seen before.

GIULIANI: I don't know. Those are the kinds of leads John Kerry had on Election Day, and George Bush became the president. You know? So those are -- those are margins that are well within striking distance for either candidate. To be overconfident about who is going to win this election, in fact, whoever is overconfident about whoever is going to win this election is probably going to lose it.

This is a darn close election. Whoever expected what happened in the last week, week-and-a-half with -- in this election. This was going to be an election about the economy. It's now becoming an election that's looking an awful lot like 1980 with Jimmy Carter-style president in the White House.

CROWLEY: But sure -- even you would agree, surely, that having American hostages held for 444 days is a little different from having a protest outside American embassies, yes, there -- and we had the deaths of these -- the tragic deaths of these four Americans in Libya, which a lot of folks are arguing is a different thing from saying everything here has failed.

So the question is, do you actually believe that this no longer is about the economy?

GIULIANI: No, no, I do. I believe it's about the economy, but I think the situation in the Middle East is becoming more and more important. And, Candy, I would argue that the situation in Iran is equally as dangerous as it was with the hostages there except this time they want to become nuclear.

And the president is fiddling while Iran is just moving ahead. I mean, he had to be forced -- he had to be forced to use these crippling sanctions, which he has used late, and I don't know how crippling they are since he has exempted 20 countries from them.

CROWLEY: And yet at...

GIULIANI: I mean, these sanctions...

CROWLEY: ... this point, Mr. Mayor...

GIULIANI: Even the U.N. is saying his sanctions aren't working. They are not working. The president doesn't want to deal with it.

CROWLEY: And yet at this point can you tell me something different in Mitt Romney's proposed policies toward Iran than President Obama's policies? They both said Iran should not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, period. What's different?

GIULIANI: Well, I believe that Mitt Romney would set a red line. He'd make it clear exactly the point beyond which...

CROWLEY: Why doesn't he do that now?

GIULIANI: Well, he might over the course of these debates. He might very well do it. Although then you'd all criticize him for engaging and interfering in foreign policy. I mean, Mitt Romney can't win no matter what he does.

He spoke out as a leader about a really, really ridiculous statement by the State Department, for 16 hours they had a statement out there apologizing. All of a sudden he gets criticized.

I mean, the administration was clearly wrong about the level of security needed for that ambassador in that consulate. And you had Nancy Pelosi just on saying there was enough security.

If they are as wrong in their security estimate of Iran as they were about the consulate in Benghazi, we are in serious trouble.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you back to the economy, since it remains issue number one. When you look at our -- I'm sorry, at a New York Times/CBS poll, this was about the probable electorate, and the question was, which candidate would do a better job of handling the economy and unemployment? President Obama, 47, Mitt Romney, 46 percent.

Your candidate has lost the edge when it comes to the economy. If the economy is as bad as Republicans have told us it is, what is holding Mitt Romney back here because from your description of the economy, others' description of the economy, this really should be a president that doesn't have a chance and yet he's beating Mitt Romney.

GIULIANI: There's no such thing as an incumbent president doesn't have a chance. Having the presidency is an enormous advantage. The president has used it well. They have done a good job, I think an unfair one, they've done a good job of raising all kinds of irrelevant questions about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the Romney/Ryan campaign has to overcome that.

But if you just look at the fundamentals, you know, 43 months of 8.1 or plus percent unemployment, no American president has ever been elected with these kinds of job loss numbers and permanent unemployment.

We haven't had something like this since the Great Depression.

CROWLEY: Which I think...

GIULIANI: I think that's going to...

CROWLEY: ... argues for why he isn't doing better. But let me, in our final moments, ask you whether you believe that the Romney campaign, that Mitt Romney needs to come out and say specifically, here is what I would do to reform the tax code, here are the loopholes I would close.

Does he need to be more specific? Does he need to give a foreign policy speech? Because the rap now from a lot of Republicans is, we don't -- there is no real alternative out there. Does he need to do that?

GIULIANI: Well, these are a bunch of Republicans who are, you know, running scared, because the polls aren't -- I mean, Romney is not ahead by 10 points or 15 points which, of course, would be totally unrealistic. I think he's running a perfectly fine campaign. This is the level of specificity that American candidates usually give in a campaign.

My goodness, President Obama wasn't terribly specific four years ago when he told us he was -- he ran on hope and change. Hope and change. Look what a strategy that has been for the Middle East. Hope and change and now we have demonstrations in 20 countries.

CROWLEY: OK. All right. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us...

GIULIANI: Thank you.

CROWLEY: ... this morning. Come see us in the new studio.

GIULIANI: Always a pleasure, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

A tribute to five American heroes, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: And finally we leave you with images from this week's tributes to five American heroes. Friday the bodies of the four Americans murdered in Libya, Christopher Stevens, Glenn Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods (ph), returned home to the U.S.

And just the day before, a memorial service was held here honoring Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. He died at the age of 82. Armstrong never saw himself as a hero, but his extraordinary accomplishments didn't just leave his mark on the moon but here on Earth too.

Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neil will always be remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one, no one, but no one could have accepted the responsibility of his remarkable accomplishment with more dignity and more grace than Neil Armstrong. He embodied all that is good and all that is great about America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gracious God, on behalf of a grateful nation, and in the presence of grieving family members, friends, and colleagues, we welcome home for the final time Ambassador Chris Stevens, Mr. Sean Smith, Mr. Glen Doherty, and Mr. Tyrone Woods.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: If the last few days teach us anything, let it be this, that this work and the men and women who risked their lives to do it, are at the heart of what makes America great and good. OBAMA: Four Americans, four patriots, they loved this country. And they chose to serve it and served it well. They had a mission, and they believed in it. They knew the danger, and they accepted it. They didn't simply embrace the American ideal. They lived it. They embodied it.


New Benghazi photos surface as questions raised whether State withheld evidence

New Benghazi photos surface as questions raised whether State withheld evidence

The State Department has belatedly released dozens of photos of the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi after The Washington Times inquired about the authenticity of photographs it received from a Welsh security contractor assigned to the doomed American outpost in eastern Libya.
Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, had requested all photos and videos of the besieged diplomatic mission under the Freedom of Information Act in December and February, and the State Department released only seven photographs in June.

But this week, after weeks of inquiries by The Times about photos it received, the State Department released a trove of photographs showing buildings and vehicles ablaze during the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Other photos show ransacked offices, burned-out cars and Arabic graffiti scrawled on walls.
The State Department said it had forwarded the photographs to the FBI for its investigation into the attack and submitted them to the accountability review board, the independent panel that conducted the State Department’s mandatory probe of the Benghazi incident and events leading up to it. The department also shared the photographs with members of Congress looking into the Obama administration’s response to the attack.
Judicial Watch was incredulous over the sudden release of never-before-published photographs and criticized the State Department for withholding requested videos of the attack and its aftermath.
“The new photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama’s original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Wednesday on the group’s website. “The fact that we’ve had to wait nearly a year and file a federal lawsuit for basic documentary material of the attack shows that this administration is still in cover-up mode. And now the Obama administration brings the Benghazi stonewall to a whole new level by withholding video of the attack using frivolous arguments such as ‘privacy.’”
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, expressed outrage over the State Department’s delay in providing materials requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
“It’s inexcusable that members of Congress and the press who want to learn the truth about what happened in Benghazi have had to use FOIA requests to obtain answers. Absent the creation of a House select committee that will hold public hearings and have cross-jurisdictional subpoena authority, I don’t think the American people will ever learn the truth,” said Mr. Wolf, who has been calling for a Watergate-style committee to investigate Benghazi.
“To date, there have been too few answers and absolutely no accountability,” he said. “Just what exactly were the State Department and CIA doing in Benghazi that has led the government to go to such great lengths to obstruct requests for information?”
Days after the terrorist attack on the diplomatic compound and a nearby CIA annex, Obama administration officials publicly blamed the assault on spontaneous protests over an anti-Muslim video produced in the U.S. But intelligence personnel determined soon after the attack that it was carried out by heavily armed, trained militants conducting a well-planned assault.
Republicans have accused the administration of covering up the militants’ involvement because it would have contradicted a theme in President Obama’s re-election campaign — that al Qaeda had been decimated.
The photos obtained by The Times were verified as authentic by the State Department this week, and they offer mute testimony to the events of that night and lend urgency to questions still swirling about the U.S. mission and the Obama administration’s response to the attack and its aftermath. The Times previously reported that U.S. special operations forces were in Libya at the time of the attack and tried to rescue Americans at the CIA annex, contrary to administration statements. Two of those troops have received awards for heroism for their actions.
The Times received the photos from Dylan Davies, a specialist with the British security firm Blue Mountain Group, which was contracted by the State Department to train Libyans how to protect the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Using the pseudonym “Morgan Jones,” Mr. Davies was interviewed last month on CBS’ “60 Minutes” about the attack. His account of scaling a wall at the diplomatic compound and confronting a terrorist during the assault has been widely discredited.
But the photographs he took the day after the attack — and those taken during the onslaught by a local guard — have been submitted by the State Department to investigators looking into the debacle. Many of those photos are the same as those recently released by the State Department.
“The Blue Mountain Group had been under contract to provide local guard services at our compound in Benghazi,” said Alec Gerlach, a spokesman for the State Department. “As a contractor of the State Department, the Blue Mountain Group provided information, including photographs and an incident report, to department officials with whom they had been in regular contact throughout their contract agreement. These and other appropriate materials were provided to the FBI to assist in their criminal investigation.”
Story Continues →

State Department reveals ‘secret’ Benghazi documents

State Department reveals ‘secret’ Benghazi documents

The U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi in flames on Sept. 11, 2012. (Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters)
The U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi in flames on Sept. 11, 2012. (Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters)
The State Department responded recently — and, for a government agency, with some dispatch — to a Freedom of Information Act request, which was followed by a lawsuit in February, from Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group, asking for “any and all videos and photographs” of the U.S. diplomatic outpost and a nearby CIA facility in Benghazi that had been given to the Accountability Review Board for its report on the September 2012 attack by Ansar al-Sharia and others.
After a search of the ARB’s files, “we have identified 32 additional records that are responsive to your request,” Sheryl L. Walter, director of Office of Information Programs and Services wrote in a cover letter to Judicial Watch. State concluded that 16 “may be released in full” and one released with some redactions. The rest were exempt under the FOIA, Walter wrote. It appears that a chunk of the exempt materials were the videos requested that had already been shared with Congress.
Well, half a loaf ain’t bad. So let’s see what State released.
Turns out it’s mostly a bunch of news clips — the first from CBS News – then 13 photos of the destruction: burned out buildings, a car on fire and ransacked rooms.
But then we got to a “secret” document that State unclassified. Wait, that’s the British newspaper The Guardian’s story and photos just two days after the attack. Then we got to a very cogent and thorough report on the events shortly after the attack that said “security was lax before attack that killed U.S. ambassador.” An excellent read, but it seemed familiar.
Ah, yes. It’s an article written by our colleagues Ernesto Londono and Abigail Hauslohner.
You know, you can get carpal tunnel syndrome if you overuse that “secret” stamp.

Briefing on the Accountability Review Board Report

Review Board Report

Briefing on the Accountability Review Board Report

Special Briefing
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Accountability Review Board Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering and Vice Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen
Washington, DC
December 19, 2012


 The video below is available with
closed captioning on YouTube.
MS. NULAND: Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us. As you know, the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi that the Secretary established has now completed its work, and the classified and unclassified versions have been released to the Hill, and you’ve had a chance to see the unclassified version, as well as the Secretary’s letter to members.
Today, we have invited the Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Ambassador Tom Pickering, and the Vice Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Admiral Mike Mullen, to join us here to address your questions. And introducing them will be Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.
Deputy Secretary.
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much, and good afternoon. As all of you know, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen appeared today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi. Deputy Secretary Nides and I will testify tomorrow, so I’ll make just two quick points and then give the floor to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen to discuss the report and take your questions.
First, as Secretary Clinton said in her letter to Congress, we accept each and every one of the board’s recommendations and have already begun to implement them. In accordance with the law, Secretary Clinton ordered this review to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi, because that’s how we can learn and improve. And I want to convey our appreciation to Ambassador Pickering, Admiral Mullen, and their team for doing such a thorough job. The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix.
In the hours and days after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, at the Secretary’s direction, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We launched a worldwide review of the Department’s overall security posture. Interagency teams of diplomatic and military security experts gave particular scrutiny to high-threat posts. The Pentagon agreed to dispatch hundreds of additional Marines to posts around the world. We asked Congress for funds to hire new diplomatic security personnel and reinforce vulnerable facilities. We also named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and we’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experienced and well-trained staff serving at those posts.
Tom and I will be discussing all of this work and more with Congress tomorrow, so for now, let me just make one other point. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service for more than 30 years, and I’ve had the honor of serving as a chief of mission overseas. I know that diplomacy, by its very nature, must sometimes be practiced in dangerous places. Chris Stevens, my friend and colleague, understood that our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs.
And we have a profound responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our diplomats and development experts in the field. It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day for years on end in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.
But we have learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better. We have to do more to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need. We owe that to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi. We owe it to the security professionals who acted with such extraordinary heroism that awful night to protect them. And we owe it to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world.
And so with that, let me turn to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen.
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Good afternoon, all of you. Thank you very much, Bill, for those wise and cogent words, which I believe very much reflect the spirit in which we worked and, indeed, the focus on which we put our efforts.
I would also like to thank Secretary Clinton for her steadfast support for our efforts and her ambitious approach to implementing our recommendations. And of course, we wish her speedy recovery.
In late September, Secretary Clinton asked me to serve as Chairman of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi and asked Admiral Mullen to be the Vice Chairman. And let me say what a pleasure it was to work with Admiral Mullen and, indeed, all the other members of the board. But he in particular brought a special perspective, wisdom, and good sense to a very difficult and trying process.
There are three other members of the board who are not with us today but without whom this report would not have been possible: Catherine Bertini, a Professor of Public Administration at Syracuse University, and former Chief Executive of the United Nations World Food Program, and Under Secretary General for Management of the United Nations; Richard Shinnick, an experienced retired senior Foreign Service Officer who served most recently as Interim Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations; and Hugh Turner, an experienced and retired senior intelligence officer who spent 22 years in the business and served last as Associate Deputy Director for Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency; and to an excellent State Department staff led by FSO Uzra Zeya, who made a major contribution to our work and without whom we wouldn’t be here with you today.
Secretary Clinton convened the Accountability Review Board, or ARB, to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. As you all know, these attacks resulted in the tragic deaths of four brave Americans: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods.
Against the backdrop of so many unanswered questions about what happened at Benghazi, I want first to make clear our board’s specific mandate. We were not asked to conduct an investigation into the attacks to find out who the perpetrators were or their motives. That is the statutory role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community. We enjoyed excellent cooperation with both of them throughout the report.
Under relevant statute, Secretary Clinton asked us to examine whether the attacks were security related and whether security systems and procedures were adequate and implemented properly, the impact of the availability of information and intelligence, and whether anything else about the attacks might be relevant to appropriate security management of U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. We were also asked to look at whether any U.S. Government employee or contractor breached his or her duty. Basically, we wanted to find the lessons to be learned, better to protect Americans from future attacks.
To do all that, we interviewed more than a hundred people, reviewed thousands of documents, and watched hours of video. We spoke with people who were on the scene in Benghazi that night, who were in Tripoli, who were in Washington. We talked to military and intelligence officials, including to many State Department personnel, and to experts who do not work for the United States Government. Throughout this process, we enjoyed superb cooperation from the Department of State and its interagency partners, and the decision to brief you on the report’s findings reflects a commitment to transparency at the Department’s highest levels.
Let me just give you a very brief introduction to events that night and then ask Admiral Mullen if he will share with you the findings of the report, and then I will return briefly to talk about some of the overarching recommendations.
What happened on September 11th and 12th in Benghazi was a series of attacks in multiple locations by unknown assailants that ebbed and flowed over a period of almost eight hours. The U.S. security personnel in Benghazi were heroic in their efforts to protect their colleagues, including Ambassador Stevens. They did their best that they possibly could with what they had, but what they had was not enough, either for the general threat environment in Benghazi and most certainly against the overwhelming numbers of attackers and the weapons which they faced. Frankly, the State Department had not given Benghazi the security, both physical and personnel resources, it needed. And on that note, let me ask Ambassador – let me ask Admiral Mullen if he will please relay to you our specific findings. I keep promoting him to ambassador, and I apologize.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thanks, Mr. Ambassador. I appreciate that. (Laughter.) And I do appreciate your leadership throughout this process as well.
Good afternoon. The board found that the attacks in Benghazi were security related, and responsibility for the loss of life, the injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities rests completely and solely with the terrorists who conducted the attacks. That does not mean there are not lessons to be learned. The board found that the security posture at the Special Mission compound was inadequate for the threat environment in Benghazi, and in fact, grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place that night.
State Department bureaus that were supporting Benghazi had not taken on security as a shared responsibility, so the support the post needed was often lacking and left to the working level to resolve. The buildings at Special Mission Benghazi did not meet Department standards for office buildings in high-threat areas, and in a sense, fell through the cracks bureaucratically by being categorized as temporary residential facilities. While a number of physical security upgrades were done in 2012, at the time of the attacks the compound did not have all the security features and equipment it needed.
The board also found that the rotational staffing system and the inadequacy of the Diplomatic Security staffing numbers in Benghazi to be a major factor behind the weakness of the security platform. The continual rotation of DS agents inhibited the development of institutional and on-the-ground knowledge, and continuity and security decisions and implementation.
The question is not simply whether an additional number of agents would have made a difference on the night of September 11th, which is very difficult to answer, but whether a sustained and stronger staffing platform in Benghazi over the course of 2012 could have established some deterrence by giving it the continuity and experience on the ground to make it a harder target for terrorists.
Another deficit in the Benghazi security platform was the inherent weakness of the Libyan support element. Absence of a strong central government presence in Benghazi meant the Special Mission had to rely on a militia with uncertain reliability, an unarmed local contract guard force with skill deficits, to secure the compound. Neither Libyan group performed well on the night of the attacks.
Overall, the board found that security systems and procedures were implemented properly by American personnel, but those systems themselves and the Libyan response fell short on the night of the attacks. Personnel performed to the best of their ability and made every effort to protect, rescue, and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. Their decision to depart the Special Mission without Ambassador Stevens came after repeated efforts of many U.S. security agents to find him and Sean Smith in a smoke-filled building still on fire and was precipitated by a second armed attack on the compound from the south.
On the night of the attacks, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Washington communicated and coordinated effectively with each other. They looped in the military right away, and the interagency response was timely and appropriate. But there simply was not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference. Having said that, it is not reasonable, nor feasible, to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world.
We found that there was no immediate tactical warning of the September 11th attacks, but there was a knowledge gap in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known. In this context, increased violence and targeting of foreign diplomats and international organizations in Benghazi failed to come into clear relief against a backdrop of ineffective local governance, widespread political violence, and inter-militia fighting, as well as the growth of extremist camps and militias in eastern Libya.
While we did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities, we did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by the Special Mission.
Now I’ll ask Ambassador Pickering to conclude by giving an overview of some of the board’s more overarching recommendations.
AMBASADOR PICKERING: Thank you, Admiral Mullen. With the lessons of the past and the challenges of the future in mind, we put forth recommendations in several key areas. We are recommending that the State Department undertake an urgent review to determine the proper balance between acceptable risk and mission tasks and needs in high-risk and in high-threat areas. The answer can’t be not to go into dangerous places, but there must be: one, a clear mission; two, a clear understanding of the risks; three, a commitment of enough resources to mitigate those risks; and four, an explicit acceptance of whatever costs and risks cannot be mitigated. This balance needs to be reviewed regularly and continuously because situations change.
Next, we recommend the Department develop a minimum security standard for the occupation of temporary facilities in high-risk, high-threat environments, and that posts receive the equipment and the supplies they need to counter various types of threats. We also believe the State Department must work with the Congress to expand funding to respond to emerging security threats and vulnerabilities and operational requirements in high-risk, high-threat posts. We found that a number of recommendations from past ARBs had not been implemented fully, and they relate very much to some of the recommendations we will be making or we have made to the Secretary that the Congress will have to play its role in fulfilling.
Because Benghazi did not fit the mold of the usual diplomatic post as a result of its temporary status, this meant it was unable to get some of the security upgrades and some of the security oversight which it needed. We recommended various improvements in how temporary and high-risk, high-threat posts are managed and backstopped both on the ground and from Washington so that they have the support they need. There should be changes in the way the State Department staffs posts like Benghazi to provide more continuity and stability, and so that posts have sufficient DS agents, Diplomatic Security agents, with other security personnel as needed.
We also are recommending the Department re-examine the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s organization and management to ensure that all posts get the attention they need from upper management. A special review should urgently look at the use of fire as a weapon and how to counter it. The State Department should establish an outside panel of experts with experience in high-risk, high-threat areas, a kind of red team, to watch changing events and make recommendations to the Department’s security officials.
We are delighted to see that the Secretary is committed to the expeditious and, indeed, urgent implementation of all of our recommendations. And now we would be happy to take your questions and appreciate your giving us this opportunity to brief you on our report.
MS. NULAND: (Inaudible) wait for me to call the questions. (Inaudible.) Let’s start with Matt Lee from AP, please.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this briefing. The report, to a layman, seems to indicate either rank incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Benghazi. And my question is: Why is such poor performance like that from senior leaders in these two bureaus that you mention, why is not a breach of or a dereliction of duty? Why is it not grounds for disciplinary action?
And then secondly, after the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the ARB report – the ARB that was formed then came out with a series of recommendations, and many of your recommendations today, the broader ones, are very similar. Those bombings in East Africa were supposed to have been a never-again moment. What happened between then and now that this could possibly have happened?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Without accepting your characterization of the problem, it is very clear that under the law and in connection with the State Department regulatory practice, one has to find willful misconduct or similar kinds of action in order to find breach of duty. And indeed, one of our recommendations is – there is such a large gap between willful misconduct, which leads, obviously, to conclusions about discipline, letters of reprimand, separation, the removal of an individual temporarily from duty, that we believe that gap ought to be filled. But we found, perhaps, close to – as we say in the report – breach, but there were performance inadequacies. And those are the ones that we believe ought to be taken up, and we made recommendations to the Secretary in that regard.
MS. NULAND: Michael Gordon – I’m sorry –
QUESTION: I’m sorry, just the second one – what happened between – how did the lessons of Kenya and Tanzania get forgotten?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Well, I think that – let me just mention that, and then Admiral Mullen may have some things to say. We, of course, have made a recommendation that the unimplemented or only partially implemented recommendations of all previous boards be reviewed rapidly by the State Department Inspector General with the idea in mind of assuring that they are carried out. And if you will read our report, you will see in part recollections from the past leading each chapter, as well as a citation to the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam recommendations that need to be carried out. So we very much agree with the impetus of your question.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: I think it begs the question of why did that happen. I mean, obviously, a lot of time. That’s always a factor. Clearly, no specific follow-up over time. One of the major recommendations was the building plan, which fell off from 10 buildings – 10 new embassies a year to three, tied to budget constraints, et cetera. So I think it was a combination of factors, and while 1999 is certainly close to this decade, I mean, the world has changed dramatically in this decade, and the risks that are associated with that world are – I think we are in a much more difficult and challenging position with respect to meeting the needs to be out there and engage, and doing so in a way that our people are very specifically secure.
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Just picking up on that, there’s a specific recommendation for a 10 year program at a very significant level of funding specifically to meet the point that Admiral Mullen made that our building program has fallen off from 10 to three, and it needs to go back to that original target.
MS. NULAND: Let’s go to New York Times. Michael Gordon, please.
QUESTION: Ambassador Pickering, your report was extremely critical of the performance of some individuals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the NEA, the Middle East Bureau. And – but these bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of an hierarchical organization known as the Department of State, and each has a chain of command. The NEA reports up the policy chain, and Diplomatic Security, I presume, reports up the management chain, their Under Secretaries, and indeed deputy secretaries, and the Secretary herself, who oversees these bureaus. What is the highest level at the Department of State where you fix responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road. And one of the interesting things about the statutory basis for the Review Board was that it clearly was biased against the idea that one could automatically hold, as one often does, the leader of a particular department or agency responsible without pinpointing the place where the failures took place and where the lessons that we derived from that ought to be important to fixing the problem. And so fixing the problem and finding the locus of the difficulties was the major task we had to undertake.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: And I would add to that, Michael, that, I mean, certainly that was a concern that we had as we initiated the review and we just found. And as someone who’s run large organizations, and the Secretary of State has been very clear about taking responsibility here, it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff, and over time, certainly didn’t bring that to her attention.
MS. NULAND: CNN, Elise Labott, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. I was going to ask about these personnel issues, but a couple of others. You offer – the Secretary said in her letter that there were 29 recommendations. And in the unclassified, there were only 24. I’m wondering, without getting into any classified material, if you could at least characterize what these recommendations – do they have to do with intelligence matters that you can’t discuss or at least the area of those recommendations.
And then also you said that there was – in the report that there was no protest, that there was no mob. How did you come to that conclusion?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Two very brief answers. Your suspicion the missing recommendations involved classification is correct. It would not be untoward to assume that some of those involve intelligence. We arrived in October 4th, 2012 for our first meeting. At that point, we found the intelligence community had clearly concluded and provided us that conclusion, that there was no protest.
QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up on the intelligence? Will you be doing – because it’s – this is – you’re reporting to the Secretary, and you said that perhaps she’s involved intelligence, will you also be reaching out to members of the intelligence community and briefing them and helping them implement some recommendations?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: This report is now the Secretary’s. I think, without stretching a point, we of course remain at the Secretary’s disposal for whatever use she would like to make of us.
MS. NULAND: And she has made it available to all pertinent agencies.
Let’s go to Washington Post, Anne Gearan, please.
QUESTION: Two things: Can you confirm the resignations of Department personnel today in association with this report and give us any detail on that? And secondly, Admiral Mullen, you talked about poorly understood – understanding of – or poor understanding, rather, of the nature of the militia threat. Whose responsibility should that have been to have a better matrix for that?
And if that information had been provided as it should have been provided, do you think it would have been still advisable for Ambassador Stevens to make that trip?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: On the first question, that’s obviously a Department issue and you should address that to the Department of State.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Secondly, the – I mean, it was very clear this is a country in transition. And one of the umbrella organizations that come out with respect to lack of support that night for a security response, which was the expected response, was Feb. 17. But as we dig into – or dug into Feb. 17, it is a very loose group of local militias that float in and out of that umbrella over time. And I think that’s representative of the gaps – the intelligence gaps that existed at that time in eastern Libya broadly – not just for us but for many countries that were out there.
So I think you have to take that into consideration in terms of understanding the environment in terms of what was out there and what the potential was.
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: I think you should also take into account the fact that the Libyan Government was almost absent from the scene, in terms of its responsibilities under the Geneva or Vienna Convention, to provide support. And that in many ways, February 17th, as difficult as it was, while it had responded positively to less threatening questions in the past, was the best that anybody could find.
MS. NULAND: Let’s go to CBS, Margaret Brennan, please.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this briefing. In the report, you specifically refer to the idea that the Ambassador did not keep Washington fully informed about his movements. Why is that relevant here? I mean, what role did the Ambassador have being a lead person in Libya in terms of determining security? It’s my understanding that ambassadors don’t normally notify each and every movement. Why was that specifically referred to?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Because, in fact, it is a question that occurred to many people that we felt we should answer it, but particularly because the Ambassador is the person who has the responsibility for security at his post.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: And does not have the requirement and normally does not notify anybody outside the country of his or her movements.
QUESTION: So when you were talking about the understanding of the militias, February 17th, et cetera, is it correct to understand that Ambassador Stevens had a role in deciding their security position?
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Sure. As the chief of mission, he certainly had a responsibility in that regard, and actually he was very security conscious and increasingly concerned about security. But part of his responsibility is certainly to make that case back here, and he had not gotten to that point where you would – you might get to a point where you would be considering it’s so dangerous, we might close the mission – I’m sorry, the compound, or something like that.
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: And as you know, on the anniversary day, 9/11, he, on the advice of his security officials, spent his entire day inside the mission with appointments coming to him.
MS. NULAND: Our two principals are little bit time-constrained today, so we’ll just take one more from Fox News, Justin Fishel.
QUESTION: Thanks, Toria. Thank you both for doing this. Just a follow-up on that last question: Would you say then that Ambassador Stevens does share some of the blame here for the lack of security? Is that what you’re saying here?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We very clearly in the report, if you read it, made our indications open and transparent about where we felt the problems were in terms of decision-making. Ambassador Stevens on several occasions was supportive of additional security in addition to watching it very carefully and to knowing what was going on. Ambassador Stevens had perhaps the best knowledge of Benghazi of any American official. And that was taken in Washington, certainly, as a very serious set of conclusions on his part about going.
QUESTION: Okay. And just two follow-ups for Admiral Mullen: Why such a passing reference to military involvement? Can you explain why they couldn’t have done more? And also --
ADMIRAL MULLEN: We looked at the force posture very specifically, and while we had a lot of forces in Europe both at sea and on land, it was not – it is not reasonable that they could have responded; they were – in any kind of timely way. This was over in a matter of about 20 or 30 minutes with respect to the Special Mission specifically. And we had no forces ready or tethered, if you will, focused on that mission so that they could respond, nor would I expect we would have.
QUESTION: And I noticed also that there was no mention of the CIA in the report despite the fact that their post was attacked and they had more personnel there than there were diplomats. Did they share some blame for the lack of security here?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We don’t discuss intelligence questions, unfortunately, in this briefing.
QUESTION: It’s not a classified organization.
MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much and thank you to our two, Chairman and Vice Chairman. I’ll see them out.

PRN: 2012/2003

Benghazi aftermath photos

Benghazi aftermath photos

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Number of Pages:32
Date Created:November 12, 2013
Date Uploaded to the Library:November 18, 2013

File Scanned for Malware

More on what happened in Benghazi..., Judicial Watch Obtains New Photos of Benghazi Attack Aftermath

ake another look at the Obama crisis management plan in the story above. And take note of strategy number 3: stonewall the release of information. As the nation's leading expert in using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to force the release of government information, this is a strategy with which our investigators are intimately familiar.

And it is a strategy that has been central to the Obama administration's Benghazi-gate cover-up.

As the attack was occurring on the Benghazi consulate, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, the evidence shows the Obama administration knew the attack was organized.  And there was little doubt that it was organized by al Qaeda terrorists.

But these facts proved inconvenient to the president, who was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and so President Obama and his underlings peddled the false story that an obscure Internet video inspired an impromptu attack on the consulate. And when that failed to pass the laugh test, the administration went into stonewall mode.

Fortunately, Judicial Watch knows how to bust through stonewalls, and we recently got hold of some additional Benghazi records previously withheld by the Obama administration. We had to sue to get them, but we got them.

Specifically, we obtained 30 pages of records from the Department of State, including 13 previously withheld photos depicting the devastating aftermath of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

(We previously released the first seven photos of the devastation obtained in response to our FOIA lawsuit filed in February.)

And what do they show?

The new photos seem to depict portions of the so-called "Special Mission Compound" in Benghazi, including: a car on fire; what appears to be the exterior of a burned out building; ransacked rooms within the building with files and office supplies strewn across the floor; and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans.

We first learned about these documents from the Accountability Review Board (ARB) after the board released its final report on December 31, 2012.

According to ARB Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering the Board "reviewed thousands of documents and watched hours of video" during the course of its investigation.  The Obama administration also reportedly shared Benghazi video with certain members of Congress. Until the State Department released the first seven Benghazi photos to Judicial Watch, however, the State Department had withheld all videos and photos from the American people.

And what of the videos?  A Justice Department attorney told us last week that the State Department is withholding all videos in full, citing privacy and law enforcement exemptions.

Folks, we know from experience that the more fiercely the government withholds records, the more serious the scandal. And the administration is doing everything within its power to conceal the truth from JW and from the American people, which tells me there is much to hide. Even the liberal Washington Post made fun of the fact that the Obama gang had withheld news articles from Judicial Watch. That's right, the "most transparent administration in history" forced us to sue for public news articles that it had marked "SECRET"!

But the administration's zealous secrecy notwithstanding, I want to congratulate our investigations and legal teams for obtaining these records, which provide another piece to the puzzle of what happened in Benghazi.

These new photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama's original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video.

The fact that we've had to wait nearly a year and file a federal lawsuit for basic documentary material of the attack shows that this administration is still in cover-up mode. And now the Obama administration brings the Benghazi stonewall to a whole new level by withholding video of the attack using frivolous arguments such as "privacy."

Once again, our intrepid work generated worldwide headlines and put in focus the Obama administration's scandal Benghazi stonewall. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the leading House member for Benghazi accountability, reacted strongly to the JW revelations in the Washington Times:

"It's inexcusable that members of Congress and the press who want to learn the truth about what happened in Benghazi have had to use FOIA requests to obtain answers. Absent the creation of a House select committee that will hold public hearings and have cross-jurisdictional subpoena authority, I don't think the American people will ever learn the truth," said Mr. Wolf, who has been calling for a Watergate-style committee to investigate Benghazi.

"To date, there have been too few answers and absolutely no accountability," he said. "Just what exactly were the State Department and CIA doing in Benghazi that has led the government to go to such great lengths to obstruct requests for information?"

But we're not giving up. We will fight to get the video, of course.

Judicial Watch has four pending FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the Benghazi attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request.  Judicial Watch's special report about the deadly assault is available online: "The Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Analysis and Further Questions from a Diplomatic Security Service Regional Security Officer and Special Agent."

Stay tuned.