The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee requested a slew of documents from the Obama administration today as part of the panel’s investigation into last month’s attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced one week ago that they planned to investigate the incident, as well as statements made by the administration in the immediate aftermath of it that have become an issue on the presidential campaign trail.
In separate letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the Senators ask for classified documents and briefings about the circumstances of the Sept. 11 attack, which killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
“We seek to understand the specific circumstances as a means to determine whether actions are necessary, either by Congress or the executive branch, to prevent and protect against similar attacks in the future, to address broader policy or operational issues, and ultimately to improve our security without degrading our government’s ability to carry out diplomatic activity around the world,” Lieberman and Collins write.
The Senators press Clinton on statements made by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in a series of television appearances on the Sunday after the attack in which Rice made statements that have since been publicly criticized.
“If any of Ambassador Rice’s public statements on September 16 were inaccurate, please explain the reason for the inaccuracies and identify the persons most knowledgeable about how and why inaccurate information was publicly conveyed,” they write to Clinton.
Rice said Sept. 16 that the Benghazi incident was believed to be a “spontaneous reaction” rather than a carefully planned terrorist strike. The public explanation at the time suggested it was tied to a protest of an anti-Muslim film, even though details had emerged that pointed to a more coordinated attack.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) raised questions about Clapper’s actions following the attack in a Wednesday interview with a San Francisco television station.
“I think what happened was the Director of intelligence, who is a very good individual, put out some speaking points on the initial intelligence assessment,” Feinstein told CBS 5. “I think that was possibly a mistake.”
“There’s no question but that it was a terrorist attack, there is no question but that the security was inadequate, and I think that there is no question that we need to work on our intelligence,” she said.
In a separate letter, three Republican Senators wrote to Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus and Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan pushing for a response to a query they made last week about the Benghazi situation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.