The White House on Wednesday stood by its story that the Obama administration remained unsure exactly who was responsible for the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi nearly five days after it occurred even though new revelations show Ansar al-Sharia’s direct involvement.
Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya and a self-described whistleblower, testified before a Congressional committee Wednesday that the body of Ambassador J. Christpher Stevens was missing for hours during the attack after being dragged out of the diplomatic post in Benghazi.
He said a Libyan official eventually called him that night to inform him Mr. Stevens had died and that his body was at a hospital run by Ansar al-Sharia. Mr. Hicks said it was the saddest phone call of his life.
Terrorists set fire to the diplomatic post to try to force Mr. Stevens and his staff out of a “safe house” part of the post. It was a petroleum fire, which produces deadly cyanide gas.
White House spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that he could not immediately respond to live testimony from the committee but went on to say that the administration remained unsure of the identity and affiliations of the attackers, noting that Ansar al-Sharia had taken credit for it on Twitter but then later recanted.
“What I can tell you is that it was the assessment of our intelligence community that the attacks were participated in by extremists,” he told reporters at a regular daily briefing. “That’s what I’ve said. That’s what Ambassador Rice said. She said on that Sunday that extremists were involved. What we didn’t know is what their exact affiliation was.”
“As you know, with regard to this group, there was a claim of responsibility, then there was a disowning of responsibility. So anybody who pretends to have known all the facts instantly is just mistaken,” he continued. “And it is always the case that things like this require careful investigation.”