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Republicans blast security, response to Libya attack
Question of the Day
Republican lawmakers on Wednesday confronted State Department officials about the handling of security before last month’s fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and fired a barrage of pointed questions about why the Obama administration failed for more than a week to characterize the incident as a terrorist attack.
During a politically charged hearing in which the former head of a U.S. security team in Libya acknowledged that “security remained weak” before the “surprise attack” on Sept. 11, lawmakers pushed for answers to why the administration initially thought that the attack resulted from a protest against a video clip of U.S.-made film that denigrates Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
“Why in the heck did it take so long for all these highly briefed and intelligent people to try and figure out that it actually wasn’t a 15-minute YouTube video, it actually was a 9/11 event, a terrorist attack?” said Rep. Mike Kelly, Pennsylvania Republican.
Mr. Kelly and others conducting the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing rejected Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy’s claim that administration officials had been relying on the best intelligence available for their explanation of the attack.
Heated exchanges in the hearing came as Charlene R. Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, acknowledged that she had rejected requests for more security in Libya as violence in Benghazi spiked in the months leading up to the attack.
Protesters or terrorists?
Several Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, homed in on remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice five days after the attack in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Appearing on news talk shows on Sept. 16, Mrs. Rice asserted that the attack had not been premeditated, but resulted from a protest against the anti-Islam video.
Protests against the video, which began on Sept. 11 in Cairo, eventually spread to more than 50 countries, and turned violent in many Muslim nations.
Rep. Dennis A. Ross, Florida Republican, demanded to know why Mrs. Rice would have made such claims even after Libyan authorities had asserted days earlier that the incident was actually a premeditated terrorist attack.
“If they were more superior in their intelligence, and you testified just earlier that you were still gathering information, that’s why you didn’t say it was officially a terrorist attack, then why in the world did you say it was anything at all when you put [White House spokesman] Jay Carney out there and Ambassador Rice to say that this is a result of an inflammatory reaction to a controversial film?”
“Sir, it begs the question,” Mr. Ross said. “What happened? Was it as a result of political pressure trumping professional protocol?”
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About the Author
Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
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