Correcting The Record On The Federalist’s House Intelligence Committee Article
Recently, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway took on a New York Times piece about Devin Nunes being a “hatchet job…riddled with errors.” The problem is, Hemingway’s piece, too, contains repeated misstatements about former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) that bear correcting.
First, the Federalist piece suggests — incorrectly — that Chairman Rogers agreed with the view of the Obama administration that al Qaeda was dramatically weakened at the time of the bin Laden raid and has remained so since. This is claim is simply wrong.
On the contrary, Chairman Rogers repeatedly contradicted the Obama Administration’s al Qaeda narrative in public and on the record. In an op-ed published in December 2014, Chairman Rogers specifically wrote:
For months after the [Benghazi] attacks, senior White House officials, including President Obama, grossly misled the American people about what happened and why. I believe that they did this to further their own inaccurate view that they had al Qa’ida ‘on the run’; and with an election looming they did not want to be responsible for a terrorist attack on their watch.
Likewise, in his additional views to the House Intelligence Committee’s Benghazi report — joined by three other conservative Republicans — Chairman Rogers wrote that Obama administration’s narrative about the attacks “perpetuated an inaccurate story that matched the administration’s misguided view that the United States was nearing a victory over al-Qa’ida.”
Having worked directly on counterterrorism matters on the Intelligence Committee under Chairman Rogers in the immediate aftermath of the bin Laden raid and through the Benghazi attacks, we can assure fellow conservatives that the last thing Chairman Rogers thought was that al Qaeda was on the ropes at any point during his tenure.
Between 2011 and when he left Congress at the end of 2014, however, Chairman Rogers repeatedly sought to put more authorities and resources behind the fight against al Qaeda and consistently pressured the Obama administration to be more aggressive in the fight against terrorism worldwide. To be sure, many others were likewise strong supporters of counterterrorism programs, but to somehow suggest that Chairman Rogers was in line with the Obama narrative is demonstrably false.
Second, the Federalist article’s claim, parroting another pundit, that HPSCI has rarely done real oversight in the past is likewise patently false. We can definitively say that under Chairman Rogers, the Committee conducted aggressive and sustained oversight over CIA, NSA, DIA, and FBI matters, just to a list a few. We can recall multiple meetings where we sat with line operators, lawyers, and policy staff from intelligence agencies going through their reports to Congress line-by-line, item-by-item to figure out exactly what was going right and what was going wrong.
Likewise, the program monitors on the Committee staff went through each line item in the budget with a fine-tooth comb, asking hard questions and chasing down answers. Contrary to the article’s insinuation, this oversight — which involved countless hours of work and hundreds of meetings — was the bread and butter work of the Committee under Chairman Rogers. And it was based on Chairman Rogers’ specific direction that thorough oversight was one the Committee’s most important roles: making our intelligence agencies better at protecting the American people while acting consistently with our laws and Constitution.
While it may be difficult to understand the detailed nature of the Intelligence Committee’s work from the outside given that the vast majority of committee oversight is done behind closed doors, it is similarly difficult to understand how The Federalist might so assuredly make such without any real factual basis. Facts may be hard to gather in this area, but getting them right is key.
Finally, the Federalist article’s claims about Chairman Rogers’s views on the Benghazi attack are likewise flat-out wrong. The Committee’s report — which focused only on the intelligence agencies because of the committee’s limited jurisdiction (an important point for conservatives) — was approved unanimously.
In his additional views, Chairman Rogers, again joined by other conservatives, made clear that senior State Department officials, like Secretary Hillary Clinton, “dismissed repeated threat warnings and denied requests for additional security in eastern Libya, thereby placing U.S. personnel at unnecessary risk.” It was also Chairman Rogers who pointed out that it was “[t]he [Obama] Administration’s failed policies [that] continue to undermine the national security interests of the United States.”
Indeed, in his op-ed published shortly after the report, Chairman Rogers also wrote that “the Obama administration’s White House and State Department actions before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attack on September 11, 2012, ranged from incompetence to deplorable political manipulation in the midst of an election season.”
The op-ed also noted that “[the Obama] State Department ignored numerous, consistent intelligence warnings about the threat environment in Benghazi and was woefully unprepared to operate in a high threat environment like Benghazi.”
Contrary to the article’s insinuations, Chairman Rogers himself voted — along with many others — to create the Benghazi Select Committee to look into the Obama administration failures in areas the Intelligence Committee could not examine.
This, of course, is the very committee that created the report Hemingway’s article lauds as making “reasonable and relevant findings,” including many of the findings already made by Chairman Rogers in his report and op-ed discussed above. Namely, that the Obama administration “had misled the public about the attack, that weak Benghazi security was a result of political considerations…and that the administration obstructed the investigation.”
So, whatever the Federalist might think about the New York Times piece, it might have been good to double-check its own facts on Chairman Rogers, who served our nation with great honor and distinction in the U.S. Army, the FBI, and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Darren M. Dick is the former Staff Director of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and currently serves as Director of Programs for the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
Jamil N. Jaffer is a former Senior Counsel to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and currently serves as the Founder of the National Security Institute at GMU’s Scalia Law School.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.