Benghazi attack: Will Senate inquiry be a factor in presidential election?
Senator Lieberman says his committee will try to ‘find out what happened and why’ in the Benghazi attack, but panel staff say the information-gathering stage is unlikely to be finished by the election.
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Republicans insist that information was available within hours of the deadly assault to confirm it was not the case of a riot appropriated by extremists, while the administration says investigations are still determining exactly what happened in Benghazi.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures What happened at the US Consulate in Libya?
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"To this day we do not have a complete picture, we do not have all the answers" as to what happened in Benghazi, Secretary Clinton said Friday. "There is much we still don't know, and I am the first to say that."
Administration officials say there was nothing mendacious about the initial characterization of the attack as one of extremists taking advantage of a demonstration outside the Benghazi consulate, especially since US diplomatic missions in a number of Islamic countries were the target at the same time of protests over an anti-Islam video made in the United States.
The administration did not characterize destruction of the Benghazi consulate as terrorism until Sept. 20, when White House spokesman Jay Carney told reports it was “self-evident” the Benghazi assault was a “terrorist attack.”
A few days later, in comments at a high-level United Nations meeting on the Sahel region of Africa, Clinton hinted that the administration was seeing the hand of North African terrorist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Benghazi attack.
The issue of Al Qaeda’s role in Benghazi is as politically fraught as any of the other aspects of the case. When it is raised, Democrats tend to point out that Obama has far surpassed former President George W. Bush in aggressively pursuing Al Qaeda’s leadership and regional affiliates, while Republicans say it was well known that Islamist extremists were operating in eastern Libya, and that the administration should have been prepared for something like what happened in Benghazi.
The question of preparedness leads to the issue of diplomatic security – another area of concern largely dominated by partisan rancor in the hothouse of a presidential and congressional campaign.
Republicans point to congressional testimony last week by some mid-level State Department officials that diplomats in Libya saw their requests for heightened security – including for Benghazi – turned down. Democrats counter that it is Republicans in Congress, including Congressman Ryan, who have engineered hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to the State Department’s diplomatic security budget over recent years, even as the US has been called on to expand its diplomatic presence in increasingly volatile and dangerous places, such as Benghazi.