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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More