Issa On "Real Time" Panel: Benghazi Probe About Making Sure It Doesn't Happen Again


On the online-only Overtime segment of HBO's Real Time, host Bill Maher discussed the Benghazi scandal with his panel, which consisted of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), MSNBC host Ronan Farrow and Canadian MP Chrystia Freeland.

REP. DARRELL ISSA: Senator Feinstein releases a report only a few days ago that casts blame on many parts of the government. Some of which there's still a question of if there is another threat like that, will the military, will the State Department be able to react? So the story of Benghazi is: four people died, let's make sure it doesn't happen again. And quite frankly --

BILL MAHER: If that's what you had been saying all along, we wouldn't even be having a conversation. That's not what I heard you say that day --

RONAN FARROW: The story of Benghazi is also Congress cut spending to our embassies.

ISSA: That's actually not what you heard me say. I have been talking about that -- I'll give you every quote I've made. The fact is Benghazi is a story of making sure it doesn't happen again. It's a story of will the system work when an ambassador says, 'I need more security;' instead, he gets less security. At the time the British pulled out of Benghazi because there were two attempts to kill the ambassador, one of which, quite frankly, blew up the car and killed his driver.

We had a situation in which we should have pulled out of Benghazi, or put a lot of security in there. We did neither.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND: So it's not connected with Hillary Clinton being Secretary of State?

ISSA: Here's the interesting thing -- the person that is responsible from our investigation is the undersecretary, Patrick [F.] Kennedy. He's a career non-political appointee. But the point, though, is

FARROW: But responsibility also has to go to a Congress that time and time again, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to them and asked for more security money for embassies, cut spending.

ISSA: No, that's not true. They got less than what they asked for, but they got basically what the Senate agreed to give them.

FARROW: Spending was slashed, by the way, by Democrats too before there was --

ISSA: The interesting thing is before our committee, we asked that question of Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering, and they said that, no, that was not the problem. The fact is that the Security that was pulled was Department of Defense security.

Again, the facts in this case is it wasn't the money, as far as we know it wasn't personally Hillary Clinton --

FARROW: It was a $700,000 contract. You be the judge in the context of what these security contracts should be and are at sensitive security locations around the world and whether that was adequate. And I can tell you, having been in on those conversations, having worked with Chris Stevens in the months leading up to this, I know that there were calls for more resources and that part of the conversation was the State Department's inability to rein in money out of Congress.

ISSA: The amazing thing is that they got no new money, they got no new money after Benghazi, but all the embassies got what they needed. Again, the people who were pulled were Department of Defense. The $700,000 you talk about is kind of interesting because this British guy who got in a little trouble… but the fact is, what we had is we had a whole bunch of unarmed people who were supposed to be guards.

Well, you know if you put a whistle in a guy's mouth and someone's coming over the wall with guns, that whistle may go off but that's all that's going to go off. The fact is that we did not have armed people in a consulate facility that had its wall blown off.

So, yes, those people all ran, the $700,000 worth of people, took off and the ambassador died of asphyxiation, more or less. But hours later, a highly secure -- now reported by Secretary Clinton and others -- CIA facility got mortared, and took down two of our people in that building. Now, there wasn't a lack of money there. What there was was we didn't belong in Benghazi with the forces available.

Admiral Mullen actually said, had they had a FAST team, had they had the security, they could have been there. They probably wouldn't have been attacked because they would have been too strong of a force. Regardless of that, the question is in all these embassies -- particularly in Africa, a vast area, larger than the United States -- do we have a plan in place to make sure that there is either sufficient security or these facilities aren't there.

Men and women will die in support of our nation's diplomacy. The question is, are the systems in place to minimize that death? Ambassador Chris Stevens was a career professional, he knew the risk, that's all true. But at the same time, in retrospect, we could have done a better job. We need to do a better job in the future. (HBO's Real Time, January 31, 2014)

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