Republican lawmakers said U.S. officials in Libya made requests for added security in Benghazi that were turned down in Washington before the Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California and Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a panel member, sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today saying their information about requests for more security came from “multiple U.S. federal government officials” they didn’t name.
Republicans are elevating their criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration for providing an initial assessment that the attack began as a spontaneous reaction during protests against an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. Administration officials have since called the episode a terrorist attack.
The Republicans, who said their committee plans an Oct. 10 hearing on security failures in Benghazi, cited in their letter what they said were 13 security incidents spanning six months before the attack.
“Based on information provided to the committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012,” the two lawmakers wrote. “It was clearly never, as administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest.”
In a letter to Issa that was released by the State Department late today, Clinton pledged to produce witnesses for the panel and otherwise work with committee lawmakers probing security at the embassy.
“I appreciate that you and your committee are deeply interested in finding out what happened leading up to and during the attacks in Benghazi, and are looking for ways to prevent it from happening again,” Clinton wrote. “I share that commitment.”
Clinton also said that she has completed appointments to an Accountability Review Board that will examine the record on security arrangements at the embassy. The board is led by Thomas Pickering, who served in six ambassadorial posts including Russia and Israel as well as in top State Department posts during more than 40 years in the foreign service.
Other panelists include: retired Admiral Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Catherine Ann Bertini, a former executive director of the UN’s food program and a professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.; Richard Shinnick, a retired Foreign Service officer who oversaw the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations during a 2008-2009 period; and Hugh Turner, a retired CIA operations officer who represents the intelligence community on the board.
Asked today about the Republican letter to Clinton, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “Embassy security is a matter that is in the purview of the State Department.” A security review by Clinton is “under way as we speak” as well as an FBI investigation, he said.
Clinton told reporters last month that “an evaluation on threat streams” had been made for all U.S. missions before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.
“The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent,” Clinton said on Sept. 18.
Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement Sept. 28 that the intelligence community’s assessment of the attack had evolved and that some of the people involved “were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to, al-Qaeda.”
In the letter to Clinton outlining security incidents in Libya, a number of them previously reported, the committee Republicans said that in June a posting on a Facebook page sympathetic to former Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi “trumpeted” awareness that Stevens was taking regular morning jogs around Tripoli with members of his security detail.
They said that the posting threatened Stevens and included a picture of him. Stevens stopped his morning runs for a week after that, and then resumed them, according to the letter, which was reported by the Associated Press earlier today.