US President Barack Obama’s choice of John Brennan to be the next CIA director hit a snag on Tuesday as a Republican senator threatened to delay the nomination until the Obama administration provides answers on the deadly assault on the US embassy in Libya that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said his request was not a reflection on White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who was nominated on Monday.
Graham, whose opposition helped scuttle US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice’s hopes of becoming US secretary of state, said the Senate should not confirm any Obama nominee for the nation’s top intelligence post until the administration elaborates on the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary, action to get information from this administration,” the senator said in a statement.
He added that the administration’s “stonewalling on Benghazi” must end.
In the weeks after the attack on Sept. 11 last year that killed then-US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, Republicans criticized the Obama administration for blaming spontaneous protests over a US-made, anti-Muslim video. They suggested the administration was trying to play down an act of terrorism leading up to the election in November last year, even though Obama used that description in the days after the raid.
The White House dismissed the politicization of the issue and pressed for the US Senate to act quickly and deliberately on Brennan’s nomination.
An independent review board released an exhaustive report last month that found “systematic failures, and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the US Department of State that led to inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is likely to deliver her long-awaited testimony on Libya before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 22, although the State Department says the date has not been finalized.
Illness and a concussion delayed her congressional appearance last month, one of her last acts as secretary of state.
Obama has nominated John Kerry, a Democrat and former presidential candidate, to replace Clinton after Rice withdrew her name from consideration.
Graham and John McCain, also a Republican, directed much of their ire over the administration’s handling of the attack at Rice, who said in a series of Sunday talk show interviews on Sept. 16 that the assault may have been a protest that got out of hand.
Rice’s widely debunked explanation was based on talking points from the intelligence community.
Graham said he wants answers on who changed Rice’s talking points and deleted references to al-Qaeda. He said lawmakers were told that the director of national intelligence deleted the references, then were told it was the FBI. Hours after a meeting with Rice in late November, Congress was informed that the CIA had changed the talking points.
Graham, who is up for re-election next year, has been an outspoken critic of the administration on Libya.
Brennan was expected to have an easier time on the path to Senate confirmation than Chuck Hagel, Obama’s choice to run the Pentagon.
A handful of Republicans have announced opposition to their former Republican colleague, and several skeptical Democrats reserved judgment until Hagel explains his views on Israel and Iran.