(TheBlaze/AP) -- A senior Republican senator Sunday accused President Barack Obama's aides of deliberately covering up the details of the Sept. 11 attack in Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador so voters wouldn't question Obama's handling of the war on terror.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a long-time point man for the GOP on national security issues, said he believes the administration knew within 24 hours of the assault that it was a coordinated militia attack and was not tied to other anti-U.S. protests across the Middle East. According to Graham-- who is investigating the attack-- the administration suggested otherwise so voters wouldn't think Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East has failed.
"They're trying to sell a narrative, quite frankly, that the Mid-East-- the wars are receding and that al-Qaeda has been dismantled. And to admit that our embassy was attacked by al-Qaida operatives, and [in] Libya leading from behind didn't work, I think undercuts that narrative. They never believed the media would investigate, Congress was out of session, and this caught up with them. I think they've been misleading us, but it finally caught up with them."
After Bob Schieffer said it was a "very serious charge" for the senator to level, Graham continued:
"Either they're misleading the American people, or incredibly incompetent. There was no way with anybody looking at all that you could believe five days after the attack that it was based on a riot that never occurred... This is the same administration that leaks every detail of classified operations that are successful... When something goes bad, they deny, they deceive, and they delay. And the truth is, we're not safer. Al-Qaeda is alive-- Bin Laden may be dead--Al-Qaeda is alive, and they're counter-attacking throughout the entire region.
Here is video of the interview:
Though many have been voicing similar opinions for weeks, Graham's allegations are drawing particular attention to what has become a major national security issue for both candidates. The attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi-- which killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens-- has raised questions about whether the State Department denied its embassy staff adequate security, and why the White House was so slow to label the assault a "terrorist attack."
But Democrats have shrugged off the allegations.
"This conspiracy stuff is kind of ridiculous to be honest with you, and I've been kind of surprised that they've gone to these lengths. But you know that's what they do," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating the incident.
The White House declined Sunday to comment on Graham's comments. However, it has previously been said that officials have simply dispersed information about the attack as it became available.
Five days after the attack, US. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice described the violence as "spontaneous," and said the administration believed extremists had "hijacked" an anti-U.S. protest over an American-made video ridiculing Islam. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also blamed the YouTube video for days, the president even taking the message to the United Nations.
A CIA memo obtained by The Associated Press cited initial intelligence that supported the assertion, but during last week's congressional hearing the State Department said it never concluded that the consulate attack stemmed from protests. Moreover, Graham said Sunday that he was told by intelligence officials in Libya that "within 24 hours they communicated up to Washington that this was a terrorist attack."
Obama's senior campaign adviser, David Axelrod, tried to refute allegations on Sunday that Rice or any other administration deliberately tried to mislead the American public.
"Anyone would have said what she said, because that's the intelligence we were receiving," Axelrod insisted.