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October 10, 2012

White House Defends Stance on Libya Attack

by Kent Klein

The White House is defending its response to the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama administration officials acknowledged that their account of the incident changed as new information became available.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday the administration’s description of last month’s assault has shifted because of updated information.

“We have been clear all along that this was an ongoing investigation, that as more facts became available we would make you aware of them as appropriate, and we have done that,” Carney said.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other American diplomats were killed  September 11, in a violent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Some White House officials originally linked the assault to protests over a privately-made video ridiculing Islam.  Neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially mentioned terrorism.  They later said it was a planned terrorist attack.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has criticized the administration’s changing response to the incident, and charged that the president has a weak foreign policy, especially in the Middle East.

The Republican-led House of Representatives began hearings Wednesday into the attack, questioning whether there was adequate security at the consulate in Libya.

Some Democrats have accused Republicans of using a tragedy for political gain, less than four weeks before the presidential election.

The White House spokesman acknowledged that greater security was needed at the facility in Benghazi.

“I think there is no question that when four Americans are killed at a diplomatic facility, that something went wrong,” Carney said.

The State Department has been investigating the incident, and Carney told reporters the president is committed to following the facts wherever they may lead.

“From the day that this happened, the president has been focused on ensuring that we are doing everything we can to bring the perpetrators to justice, making sure that diplomatic personnel and facilities around the world are protected, and that we take the steps necessary to find out what happened and why,” Carney said.

Meanwhile, the president’s top expert on counterterrorism, John Brennan, was in Tripoli Wednesday, meeting with Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf and other top officials.  White House officials say they discussed the investigation of the incident and ways the U.S. can assist Libya in efforts to strengthen its democracy.