WASHINGTON – Four weeks before the election, Republicans used a politically charged House hearing to confront State Department officials about security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya and assail the Obama administration’s early response to the killing of the ambassador and three other Americans there.
GOP lawmakers refused to accept the department’s explanation Wednesday that protection judged adequate for the threat was overwhelmed by an unprecedented assault in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
They also rejected Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy’s explanation that officials were relying on the best intelligence available in characterizing the attack afterward as stemming from a protest over an anti-Islam Internet video rather than a planned act of terrorism.
Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told the committee, We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11.
Indiana Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th, asked Lamb if she turned down requests for more security in Benghazi.
Yes sir, I said personally I would not support it, she replied. We were training local Libyans and army men to provide security, a policy in force at U.S. diplomatic facilities worldwide.
I made the best decisions I could with the information I had.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans – including two former Navy SEALs – were killed in what administration officials now describe as a terrorist act.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that in hindsight there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from happening. There were four Americans killed.
Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee tried to blame Republicans for cutting more than $300 million in diplomatic security funds.
Eric Nordstrom, who previously was the top security official in Libya, testified he was criticized for seeking more security. There was no plan and it was hoped it would get better, he said.
Nordstrom testified that people in Washington led him to believe that it was abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident.