News / Middle East

    Lawmakers to Probe Attack on US Compound in Benghazi

    Suzanne Presto
    The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a closed hearing Thursday to review the events surrounding the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.  Lawmakers say they want to review intelligence capabilities in the region, as well as the level of security at U.S. compounds.

    Four Americans were killed in the assault: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and military veterans Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith.

    "The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack," said President Barack Obama in a televised address the following morning.  "We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats."

    Militants staged the assault on the 11th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack the United States has ever known.

    Spontaneous or Planned?

    A few days later, Libya's interim president, Mohamed Magariaf, suggested al-Qaida was responsible.

    Mr. Magariaf said the attack yielded "concrete evidence" about "who the attackers are, the way they attack, what kind of weapons they used."  He added that "all this indicates clearly that the attackers are well trained and well prepared and have planned this in advance."

    That description contrasted sharply with comments made the same day by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  She appeared on a number of talk shows and described the attack as "a spontaneous reaction" to a protest hours earlier outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  The protest in Cairo was apparently in response to an obscure anti-Islamic video on the Internet.

    "We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy, or to the consulate rather, to replicate this sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo," said Rice on ABC television's This Week program.  "And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists."

    Ambassador Rice says the intelligence community provided her with that now-discredited explanation.

    Suggestions of Spin

    But some Republicans suggested political maneuvering ahead of the presidential election.  

    "The Mideast is falling apart and they're trying to spin what happened in Libya because the truth of the matter is al-Qaida is alive and well and counterattacking," said Senator Lindsey Graham when he appeared on the CBS television program, Face the Nation.

    Mitt Romney, who ran for president against President Obama, raised the issue in one of his debates with the president.

    "And there was no demonstration involved.  It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people," said Romney, as he debated Mr. Obama.  "Whether there was some misleading or instead whether we just didn't know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself why didn't we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration.  How could we have not known?"

    In late October, the Reuters news agency reported that an official email showed that the White House and State Department were advised hours after the assault that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit on Facebook.   

    "Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence, and I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters the following day.

    Security  

    The level of security at the Benghazi mission is another contentious issue.

    Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, who worked with embassy security in Libya earlier this year, testified before lawmakers last month about the worsening security situation.

    "Militias appeared to be disintegrating into organizations resembling freelance criminal operations.  Targeted attacks against Westerners were on the increase," Wood described.  "In June, the ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public announcement that he liked to run around the embassy compound in Tripoli."

    Wood said the regional security officer tried to obtain additional personnel, but diplomatic security remained weak.  The State Department rebuffed requests to extend the missions of security teams that had been protecting diplomats in the country.  

    The U.S. Department of Defense released a timeline last week that indicates Pentagon leaders knew of the attack in Benghazi an hour after it began, but they were unable to mobilize reinforcements based in Europe in time to prevent the killings.  

    The State Department says an independent Accountability Review Board is now examining the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack and its report might be ready by mid-December.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora