Senate intelligence panel to hold Libya attack hearings

WASHINGTON Thu Oct 25, 2012 4:57pm EDT

An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen in Benghazi, September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen in Benghazi, September 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Esam Al-Fetori

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate intelligence committee on Thursday said it will hold hearings in November on security and intelligence issues raised by the September 11 attacks on American facilities in Libya.

In a statement, the committee said it first will hold a closed oversight hearing on November 15 on the Benghazi attacks, when lawmakers return after the November 6 presidential and congressional elections. The Democratic-controlled panel said additional hearings would follow.

Some Senate Republicans have said the committee should hold public hearings on the response to the attacks, in which U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other American officials were killed.

The committee, chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein, said it had received briefings and documents related to the attacks

It said aspects under investigation include how U.S. intelligence and threat information relating to Libya and other Middle East countries was handled before September 11, when and how such information was disseminated, and how government agencies responded to the information.

The committee will also examine what the U.S. government knows about what occurred during the attacks, who is believed to have been responsible for them, and what the United States is doing to track down and hold the perpetrators responsible.

The committee said it will also examine security at the State Department and U.S. facilities in the Middle East and North Africa to determine whether existing measures are sufficient.

The committee will also examine whether U.S. intelligence agencies are well-enough funded and staffed with people with appropriate skills to properly operate in the Middle East and North Africa.

The response to the September 11 attacks in Libya has become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.

President Barack Obama's Republican critics have suggested that the administration's handling of the incident raises questions about its truthfulness and competence, even as Obama and his Democratic supporters are touting his success in cracking down on Islamic militants, including the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Republicans question why administration officials publicly played up intelligence suggesting that the Benghazi attacks grew from spontaneous demonstrations launched by militants against a short film lampooning the Prophet Mohammed.

Republicans also want to hear why the administration mentioned, but played down, intelligence suggesting the involvement of militants with suspected connections to al Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers.

A State Department email made public earlier this week showed that two hours after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission compound in Benghazi, the Department's Operations Center advised officials at various U.S. agencies that a militant group called Ansar al Sharia had claimed credit on Twitter and Facebook for the attacks.

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday said that such internet postings did not constitute hard evidence of who was responsible for the attacks.

The State Department has set up an independent review board to investigate the background and response to the Benghazi attacks.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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Comments (1)
totherepublic wrote:
November is too late.

The Speaker Of The House has sent the following letter to the President Of The United States. I doubt we, or the Speaker, will hear from the President.

“I respectfully request that you, as our country’s President and Commander-in-Chief, publicly address the following questions and concerns that are on the minds of many of our fellow Americans,” writes Boehner:

•It is clear from publicly-available information that Ambassador Stevens and our personnel on the ground in Libya had significant concerns about security in Benghazi and around the consulate. While the Department of State is responding to questions regarding its decisions, it is reasonable to believe you and senior Administration officials would have at some point been personally briefed by Ambassador Stevens, given the high-profile nature of our bilateral relationship and significant challenges facing the Libyan people and government, as well as our national interests in Libya. Your public remarks on October 22, 2012 focused on the merits of democratic transition in Libya, which are widely supported in Congress, but you did not take the opportunity to discuss whether you were aware of the rising trend in militias and other security problems the country team was monitoring. When was the last time you were briefed by Ambassador Stevens about the evolving security and political situation in Libya? Did he make any direct observations or raise any concerns to you or your staff about the security situation in country?

•There are reports that military options and assets were offered to and considered by the White House during and in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack. Can you explain what options were presented to you or your staff, and why it appears assets were not allowed to be pre-positioned, let alone utilized? If these reports are accurate, the artificial constraint on the range of options at your disposal would be deeply troubling.

•The National Security Council staff receives significant amounts of raw information and intelligence from throughout the government on a daily basis, and significant and urgent items are flagged for senior White House policymakers. It is clear that information now in the public domain contradicts how you and senior Administration officials consistently described the cause and nature of the terrorist attack in the days and weeks immediately following. Why did the Administration fail to account for facts that were known at the time? I also request that you explain how the Administration’s policy response has shifted now that it is publicly acknowledging the attack as an act of terrorism and not a result of an escalating protest against an internet video.

•Many Americans are frustrated and alarmed to read news that agencies appear to have better access to the site of the attack and to individuals of interest than the Administration. House Republicans have consistently expressed concern with your preference for a law enforcement response to acts of terrorism, and news reports have documented the limits of and the missed opportunities by insisting the response to the attack be handled as a criminal investigation. The American people deserve to know how your Administration is re-adjusting its response on this critical point, as well as how you intend to handle the detainment and interviews of persons of interest.

I think we know now why Romney did not challenge obama at the debate…The Speaker Of The House is handling this through LEGAL channels. If you know what I mean.

Oct 25, 2012 5:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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