CAPITOL HILL — U.S. lawmakers have received the first post-election briefings on the deadly September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Senators are not revealing specific information provided to them by administration officials at the closed-door encounters, but several Republicans say they are far from satisfied with what they have learned so far.
On Congress’s first day of work since the elections, State Department and intelligence officials provided classified briefings to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Emerging from the Foreign Relations Committee briefing, Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho said he wants to know more about the Benghazi attack and the Obama administration’s actions before and after the incident.
“There are still questions. We are hearing explanations. But there are a lot of us that want clearer explanations than what we are getting,” Rish said.
Lawmakers are duty-bound not to divulge details from classified briefings, and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois honored that tradition. But he did speak in general terms about what he learned about the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
“We just went through a detailed chronology in terms of what happened on September 11. And there were some genuine acts of heroism that were performed there by Americans trying to save those who were in danger and lost their lives,” Durbin said.
Lawmakers are being given access to intelligence reports and classified communications pertaining to events in Libya. National Intelligence Director James Clapper and acting Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Morell are expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee later this week.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida says another top official should testify: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I think, ultimately, we need to hear from Secretary Clinton. I am sure she is willing to come in and talk about it. I know she is traveling, but hopefully she will be back soon and we can get some answers from her,” Rubio said.
Rubio said he wants to know more about security assessments at the consulate prior to the attack, and why some administration officials insisted in the days after September 11 that available information pointed to a spontaneous demonstration rather than a pre-planned assault.
“I do not think there is any reasonable doubt now that this was not a protest gone violent. This was an attack," said Rubio.
Senator Durbin said there is a reason it has taken weeks for the Obama administration to collect and provide information about the incident.
“It was a chaotic situation [in Benghazi], and it sprung up in a matter of hours. And there was a limited access to even videotapes [of the attack] afterwards. And we are trying to put it all together. But it was a chaotic scene, and we were not able to have people on the ground to inspect that scene for a long period of time," Durbin said.
Complicating matters further is the sudden resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus. Several senators say that if Petraeus has information to share about events in Benghazi, he should testify on Capitol Hill.