US officials sought security before Libya attack- lawmakers

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 2, 2012 11:57am EDT

WASHINGTON Oct 2 (Reuters) - U.S. officials in Libya asked repeatedly for more security at their mission in Benghazi before the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans there, but Washington denied the requests, leaders of a congressional committee said on Tuesday.

U.S. Representatives Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding details of the requests for more security.

They said the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold an Oct. 10 hearing on the Benghazi attack.

"Multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi," Issa and Chaffetz wrote.

"The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington," the Republican lawmakers said.

Issa is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Chaffetz oversees its subcommittee on national security, homeland defense, and foreign operations.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the assault on the mission the evening of Sept. 11. Last Friday, the top U.S. intelligence authority declared it believed this was a "deliberate and organized terrorist attack."

Debate over whether the Democratic Obama administration was caught unprepared by an assault by militant groups has become U.S. election-year fodder.

Republicans have criticized initial statements by administration officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who suggested the attacks were protests against an anti-Muslim film.

The White House referred questions on the lawmakers' letter to the State Department. The department has declined to comment on most aspects of the security situation in Benghazi, pending an FBI probe and a special department review panel.

Stevens died of smoke inhalation when he was trapped alone inside the burning consulate in Benghazi. Another diplomat, Sean Smith, and two U.S. security personnel were also killed.

Issa and Chaffetz said the attack was the "latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to" the assault.

Their letter said unarmed Libyan guards employed at the Benghazi mission were warned by their family members to quit their jobs in the weeks before the assault, "because there were rumors in the community of an impending attack."

"Please detail any requests made by embassy Tripoli to the State Department headquarters for additional security, whether in general or in light of specific attacks," as well as the department's response, the lawmakers wrote to Clinton, asking for a response by next Monday.

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