Floor Statements

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya:

“Mr. President, some of us have been coming to the Senate floor and speaking out for more than a year about the tragic terrorist attack of September 11, 2012, which took the lives of four American public servants in Benghazi, Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. We have spoken out because of the many questions that still remain unanswered and linger to this day. We have spoken out, and we will continue to speak out, despite efforts of partisans and proxies of the Administration to sweep all of this under the rug. We believe Americans deserve the truth and eventually the truth will come out.

“The latest snow-job came in December from The New York Times, that ever-reliable surrogate for the Obama Administration, which published a long report, ‘challenging’ some key facts about the Benghazi attack. But as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. And facts, as the saying goes, are stubborn things. In reality, what the Times report does is propagate myths. Let’s review some of the facts.

“The Times claims the following, and I quote: ‘Months of investigation … centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.’ The Times goes on to claim: ‘Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al Qaeda …’

“Here are the facts: Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups were present in Benghazi, and they were involved in the attack of September 11, 2012. The New York Times itself reported on October 29, 2012, and I quote: ‘American officials said [the attack] included participants from Ansar al-Shariah, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Muhammad Jamal network, a militant group in Egypt.’ All of these groups, according to our intelligence community, are affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

The New York Times claims, quote, ‘Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda’s international terrorist network.’ Again, here are the facts:

“In an interview with CNN yesterday, the distinguished Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senator from California, acknowledged correctly that Ansar al-Shariah, which played a major role in the attack, is linked to Al-Qaeda. The Chairman was drawing on the work of our Senate Intelligence Committee, which just yesterday released its report on all aspects of the Benghazi attack and its aftermath. And, in that report, you will find numerous references by the intelligence community before the attack that make clear the nature of the Al-Qaeda threat in Benghazi.

“For example, on page 10 of the Intelligence Committee’s report, we read this:

"‘On July 6, 2012, CIA produced a report entitled, “Libya: Al-QaidaEstablishing Sanctuary.” In the report, CIA stated: “Al-Qaida-affiliatedgroups and associates are exploiting the permissive security environment in Libya to enhance their capabilities and expand their operational reach. This year, Muhammad Jamal’s Egypt-based network, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have conducted training, built communication networks, and facilitated extremist travel across North Africa from their safe haven in parts of eastern Libya.’

“What’s more, the Washington Post reported on January 7, 2014 that Abu Sufian bin Qumu, leader of Ansar al-Shariah in the city of Darnah, and his organization participated in the Benghazi attack. Qumu has extensive ties to Al Qaeda, having trained in a bin Laden camp and fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“The claims that Al-Qaeda had not infiltrated Benghazi rest on the same rhetorical sleight of hand that holds that, while groups may align themselves with Al-Qaeda; may seek and receive direction from Al-Qaeda; share similar terrorist goals as Al-Qaeda, and even call themselves part of Al-Qaeda, if they are not sitting along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border or are not part of so-called ‘Core Al-Qaeda’ or ‘Al-Qaeda Senior Leadership,’ then they are not Al-Qaeda. This is the same bizarre logic may have led then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to claim just days after the attack that, quote, ‘We’ve decimated Al-Qaeda.’ This – despite the fact that Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups are proliferating and gaining traction all across the Middle East and North Africa, including in Benghazi.

“The fact is, the attack against our diplomatic facility in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 was carried out, in part, by Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who had established a safe haven in parts of eastern Libya. As the Senate Intelligence Committee report finds, the intelligence community provided ample strategic warning about the negative security trends in Benghazi and the likelihood that they would further deteriorate. This was the opposite of an intelligence failure. This was clear as day.

“And yet, despite these clear warning signs, the State Department was unprepared. Our diplomatic facility in Benghazi was insecure and had already been attacked multiple times. Our military was not postured and ready to respond to contingencies in a part of Libya where attacks against Westerners and Western interests had already occurred, and where the threat of more attacks was growing.

“The false narrative that The New York Times has been trying to further is intended to undermine the conclusion that the Senate Intelligence Committee has effectively arrived at, that is, that the Administration knew or should have known of the terrorist threat present in Benghazi during the relevant period and should have prepositioned assets, or made other preparations, that would have prevented Americans there from being harmed or otherwise ensured their security.

“The Administration and its allies will continue trying to sweep Benghazi under the rug, but they cannot obscure the deeper strategic problem that the attack represents, which is this: Contrary to the President’s repeated claim that ‘the tide of war is receding,’ and contrary to his Administration’s talking point that Al-Qaeda has been decimated, the reality is that Al-Qaeda affiliated groups are emboldened now from Central Asia, to the Middle East and North Africa, all the way to West African countries like Nigeria and Mali. Indeed, nothing brings this home more tragically than watching the black flags of Al-Qaeda hoisted over the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

“The problem is getting worse, and that is in large part due to this Administration’s disengagement from these regions. Look at Libya today. A country that we and our NATO allies intervened to save from the wrath of an anti-American tyrant is now characterized by chaos, and lawlessness, and ungoverned spaces that are exploited by those who seek to do harm to our nation and our interests. Indeed, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, 15 Libyans who cooperated with our investigation into the Benghazi attack have been murdered. The Administration can blame the Libyans for these problems, just as they blame the Iraqis for Iraq’s problems, but they cannot escape their share of the blame for failing to support these people who want and need our help to secure their countries.

“That is why Chris Stevens was in Benghazi. That is why he risked and ultimately gave his life – because he believed that it was in our interest to lead events in the world, to support our friends and those who wish to be our friends, in their effort to build stable, successful societies with effective democratic governments. The greatest way we can honor his sacrifice, and those of his colleagues, is by recommitting ourselves to their mission – for unless America is actively engaged in trying to support those in the broader Middle East who wish to replace despair and extremism with hope and freedom, I fear the tide of war will eventually hit us again.”