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State Department Followed Benghazi Attack as It Happened

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Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. State Department monitored the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, “in almost real-time,” according to an official who oversees diplomatic security.

Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, said a security agent activated a danger-notification system as the attack began shortly before 10 p.m. local time on Sept. 11.

“From that point on, I could follow what was happening in almost real time,” Lamb said in written testimony prepared for a hearing today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been investigating the attack and whether security was adequate.

State Department officials said yesterday they had never concluded the attack grew out of a protest over a video depicting the Prophet Muhammad, as some Obama administration officials had said last month. The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said there had been no protest at the U.S. consulate that day and the attack came suddenly.

Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, today defended the initial accounts from the administration that the attack resulted from a protest that spiraled out of control.

“No one in the administration has claimed to know all the answers,” Kennedy said in his written testimony for the hearing. “We have always made clear that we are giving the best information we have at the time. And that information has evolved.”

Kennedy in particular defended U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who said on Sept. 16 that the attack started as a “spontaneous, not premeditated response” to demonstrations in Egypt over a “very offensive video.”

Referring to Rice’s comments at the time, Kennedy said, “The information she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point. As time went on, additional information became available.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net