WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said on Monday that he plans to ask the CIA to declassify all e-mails surrounding the Benghazi, Libya, attacks in an attempt to make the investigation into last year's assault a national security issue and not a "political exercise."
Chambliss' announcement comes a week after leaked e-mails showed that State Department leaders suggested changes to the official talking points crafted for the Sept. 11 incident, including the deletion of mentions of specific terrorist groups.
"I think the American people deserve to have all the information laid out there for them to make their own judgment," Chambliss, R-Ga., said in an interview with The Augusta Chronicle.
The attack on the diplomatic compound in Libya left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
President Obama defended his administration Monday against allegations that it tried to disguise the Benghazi attack as a spontaneous riot instead of an act of terrorism -- charges that Obama dismisses as little more than a "political circus."
"The whole thing defies logic," Obama said at a White House event. "And the fact that this whole thing keeps getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations."
The vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Chambliss had a different take, saying that the e-mails "begged the question" of a cover-up and that he plans to talk "off the record" with the three whistleblowers who testified before Congress on the details of the attacks.
"You are going to see others in the State Department and the intelligence community come forward with direct, first-hand knowledge of what happened," said Chambliss, who has sat on three of the four investigative hearings concerning Benghazi.
Chambliss said Monday that the Benghazi attacks "rank up there with every terrorist attack the U.S. has ever had" and that the president should strive to get to the bottom of the matter, instead of "sloughing it off" as off the topic.
"I don't know whether to say he is lying or attempting to politicize the issue ... but he knew it was a terrorist attack," Chambliss said. "I know what the CIA told me, and it was pretty clear it was a terrorist attack."