(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, says if he knew that Benghazi was a terror attack shortly after it happened, the Obama administration also had to know. But it "didn't seem like the White House really wanted to get to the bottom of it," he told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday night.
"I can tell you that within hours, Saxby Chambliss, as the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, knew that it was a terrorist attack. And within 24 hours knew that there was a suspected al Qaeda leader involved and maybe even more than one individual involved with an al Qaeda affiliate involved. So as to what the White House knew, surely they knew more than I did, quicker than I did."
Chambliss spoke to Van Susteren after the Senate intelligence committee released a declassified report on the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Three other Americans died that night, two of them when the fighting spilled over to the CIA annex in Benghazi.
The report says the U.S. government did not do enough to prevent the attacks; it faults the U.S. military for not being ready to respond to the attacks; and it faults the U.S. government for failing to bring the perpetrators to justice, more than a year later.
Notably, the Senate report also states that intelligence analysts "inaccurately referred to the presence of a protest at the U.S. mission facility before the attack, based on open source information and limited intelligence, but without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to corroborate that assertion." It says the intelligence community "took too long to correct these erroneous reports, which caused confusion and influenced the public statements of policymakers."
A week after the attacks, then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice went on all five Sunday talk shows, where she continued to blame the attacks on an obscure video that had inflamed Muslims in Egypt.
Chambliss told Van Susteren it would have been better if President Obama had simply admitted, "'Look, I talked to my intelligence community folks and they say this is a terrorist attack, and we are going to respond to it in a very strong way.' He didn't do that. In fact, we haven't responded yet. We still haven't held anybody accountable, but the video in and of itself really played no role in this, according to everything from our intelligence community."
Chambliss said President Obama "knew for weeks and months in advance of September 11th, 2012, that Benghazi was a dangerous place, it was a violent place, that there were about 20 attacks that had been well-documented against western interests, including this particular mission complex. They had a bomb thrown over the wall. They had had an IED blow a big 30-foot hole in the wall. So, this was nothing new."
Chambliss said he does not know what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knew about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, which Ambassador Chris Stevens described in an August 16 cable that is still classified.
"She did not testify before our committee," Chambliss said. "We don't have jurisdiction over the State Department. We pounded on the State Department for documents as well as interviews with individuals and we kind of hit a stonewall with them on that."
Van Susteren asked the senator about the cooperation he received from President Obama: "Did you get a sense that...they were not cooperating?"
"I don't know how you can characterize them any other way," Chambliss said.
"Obstruction?" Van Susteren asked.
"I don't want to accuse them of something that I don't know for sure is the case. But, if they really wanted to get to all the answers and, remember, Greta, this was an American ambassador that was killed. That just does not happen every day in the world. It happens about every 50 to 60 years, and it was that serious and yet this didn't seem that the White House really wanted to get to the bottom of it to explain to these families what happened."