John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, is getting renewed scrutiny for a highly questionable claim he made during his confirmation hearings last week. On Tuesday, two Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Marco Rubio and James Risch, wrote to Brennan to request additional information concerning Ali Harzi, a suspect in the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi.
Brenan, in an exchange with Rubio, had said of Harzi that the U.S. government “didn’t have anything on him.” The claim is almost certainly false. The U.S. government provided evidence of Harzi’s involvement in those attacks to the governments of Turkey and Tunisia, which had both held Harzi as the U.S. tried to gain access to him for questioning.
In fact, the U.S. government not only has evidence of Harzi’s involvement, we shared that intelligence with the governments of Turkey and Tunisia, both of which held Harzi after he was detained en route to Syria. FBI Director Robert Mueller was involved in those high-level negotiations – something he would not have been likely to do if we didn’t have “anything” on Ali Harzi as Brennan claimed. Two members of Congress also told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that FBI officials who briefed them on Harzi made clear that he was a person “of significant interest,” as one put it, or perhaps even a “prime target,” according to the other.
For additional background see this.
The senators write:
Our concern stems from an apparent disparity between your sworn testimony regarding Ali Ani al-Harzi and that given by former Secretary of State Clinton before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) on January 23, 2013.
In response to a question asked by Senator Risch during the January 23, SFRC Hearing Secretary Clinton stated that, “We have been assured that he (al-Harzi) is under the monitoring of the court. He was released because at that time—and Director Mueller and I spoke about this at some length—there was not an ability for evidence to be presented yet that was capable of being presented in an open court.” However, in response to a line of questioning by Senator Rubio during your SSCI hearing you stated that, “The Tunisians did not have a basis in their law to hold him…We didn’t have anything on him, either, because if we did, we would have made a point to the Tunisians to turn him over to us, but we didn’t have that.” As you can see, there is a discrepancy in the testimony regarding what information the U.S. government has in its possession and what we have or have not shared with our foreign partners.
We ask that you provide to the SSCI any information presented to the Government of Turkey regarding Mr. al-Harzi so that they could initially detain him. Additionally, please provide any information passed to the Tunisians so that he could be rendered there and detained for as long as he was. This is to include information passed through diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement channels, whether done formally or informally. Finally, we would like you to provide all additional information the U.S. government has regarding Mr. al-Harzi and his involvement in the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The White House has stonewalled many of the requests for documents related to Benghazi and Republicans on Capitol Hill are not optimistic about this one. Without cooperation, though, the potential fight over Brennan's nomination could get uglier in a hurry.