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GOP senators hit Benghazi report on Cabinet officials’ actions

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2012

Republican senators said Friday that the State Department's investigative report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, does not address questions about the role of Cabinet officials in responding to the assault that night and mischaracterizing it afterwards.

"There are many more relevant questions surrounding this tragedy that still need to be answered," Sen. John McCain of Arizona said at a Capitol Hill press conference.

The report "does not provide answers to these questions because it never asked them," Mr. McCain said, calling for a separate investigation by the Pentagon.

"We know nothing, really, quite frankly, about [the role of] President Obama – before, during and after the attack," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The report, which was released late Tuesday, says that "senior-level inter-agency discussions continued through the night" of Sept. 11 as the attack unfolded in two short waves, several hours apart and at separate, nearby locations. But it gives no details about who took part.

"What did he do for the seven hours in question?" Mr. Graham said, referring to the president.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire questioned whether investigators had looked high enough into hierarchy at the State Department.

Mrs. Ayotte said the report noted serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and eastern Libya, which was a hotbed of al Qaeda sympathizers. The board also said that Sate Department personnel in Libya had asked for more security several times but Washington officials rejected those requests.

"If that did go up to the chain of command, why weren't actions taken?" said Mrs. Ayotte.

In testimony before House lawmakers Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said that, while Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and other senior officials had been briefed about the security situation in Libya, decisions about security were made at the assistant secretary level.

Four State Department officials were relieved of their duties this week over the report, and the three who were identified held posts at the assistant secretary or deputy assistant secretary level.

Mr. McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked why military units were not ready to respond.

"After repeated attacks on U.S. and Western interests in Benghazi," the assault by heavily armed extremists "should have been a foreseeable contingency," he said, adding that the Pentagon should "conduct a similar independent and comprehensive accountability" investigation.

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