The Latest on Libya
It's not just the wheels that are coming off of the Administration's story about the Benghazi attacks. The whole bus is disintegrating.
In an unusual display of disunity, State Department officials have disowned remarks by one of their top officials, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, regarding her explanation of the deadly terrorist assault on U.S. diplomats in Libya in September. Not only did they say Rice's characterization of those attacks as "spontaneous" was wrong, but also, they said that assessment was never the conclusion of the State Department at any point in time.
In a conference call to reporters on Tuesday, senior State Department officials said they couldn't explain why Rice went on a Sunday talk show blitz last month describing the Benhazi attacks as a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam film in the U.S. "That was not our conclusion," the officials said. "That is the question you'd have to ask others."
In the Rice version of events, the attacks that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans began as an anti-film demonstration and devolved into a deadly assault. But State Department officials say there was no anti-film demonstration. "Everything is calm at 8:30 p.m., there is nothing unusual. There had been nothing unusual during the day outside," officials told reporters Tuesday. "Then at 9:40 they saw on the security cameras that there were armed men invading the compound."
A U.S. security officer twice asked his State Department superiors for more security agents for the American mission in Benghazi months before an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, but he got no response.
The officer, Eric Nordstrom, who was based in Tripoli until about two months before the September attack, said a State Department official, Charlene Lamb, wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi "artificially low," according to a memo summarizing his comments to a congressional committee that was obtained by Reuters.
Nordstrom also argued for more U.S. security in Libya by citing a chronology of over 200 security incidents there from militia gunfights to bomb attacks between June 2011 and July 2012. Forty-eight of the incidents were in Benghazi.
Lt Col Wood told Wednesday's hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that when he arrived in Libya in February there had been three US diplomatic special security teams in the country, but by August they had been withdrawn.
He also said that the security situation in Libya had worsened before the 11 September attack, in which four Americans died, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
He said he had visited Benghazi twice and was there in June when the British ambassador's convoy was attacked, one of a dozen incidents before the assault on the consulate.
Mr Nordstrom testified that he had been criticised for seeking more security.
"There was no plan and it was hoped it would get better," he said.
`He told the committee that conversations he had with people in Washington had led him to believe that it was "abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident".