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Another day, another change in the “official” story on the U.S. consulate attack in Libya

By Capitol Hill Blue Staff and Wire Service Reports
October 10, 2012

Aftermath of the attack on Sept. 11, 2012
(AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)

The “official” story on the cause of the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya has changed again with the State Department now saying it never believed the assault that killed a U.S. ambassador and other Americans  was a film protest gone awry — a move that gives congressional Republicans new fodder for criticizing the Obama administration‘s initial accounts of the assault.

The State Department’s claim is a solid break with other administration officials and underscores a growing rift in the Obama administration that adds to increasing concern among Democrats that the wheels may be coming off the once smooth-running White House operation.

In a department briefing Tuesday, officials said “others” in the executive branch concluded initially that the protest was based, like others in the Middle East, on a film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.

That was never the department’s conclusion, a senior official told reporters.

White House and Capitol Hill sources tell Capitol Hill Blue that the State Department moves has left White House senior staff steaming while Congressional Republicans are smiling with glee.

The Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on diplomatic security in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The attack as become a political football in the final weeks before the election.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has accused the State Department of turning aside pleas from its diplomats in Libya to increase security in the months and weeks before the attack in Benghazi. One scheduled witness Wednesday, Eric Nordstrom, is the former chief security officer for U.S. diplomats in Libya who told the committee his pleas for more security were ignored.

Briefing reporters Tuesday ahead of the hearing, department officials were asked about the administration’s initial — and since retracted — explanation linking the violence to protests over an American-made anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet. One official responded, without specifying, that it was a question for others to answer.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, and provided no evidence that might suggest a case of spontaneous violence or angry protests that went too far.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republican lawmakers have increasingly sharpened their criticism of the administration’s initial explanation of the attack. They said they never accepted the original explanation.

It was a top administration diplomatic official, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who gave a series of interviews five days after the attack that wrongly described the attack as spontaneous.

She said that the administration believed the violence was unplanned and that extremists with heavier weapons “hijacked” the protest against the anti-Islamic video. She did qualify her remarks to say that was the best information she had at the time. Rice since has denied trying to mislead Congress.

A concurrent CIA memo obtained by The Associated Press cited intelligence suggesting the demonstrations in Benghazi “were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” and “evolved into a direct assault” on the diplomatic posts by “extremists.”

Nordstrom, the former security official in Libya, addressed the diplomatic security issue in an Oct. 1 email to a congressional investigator. He said his requests for more security were blocked by a department policy to “normalize operations and reduce security resources.”

A memo Tuesday by the Oversight Committee’s Democratic staff provided details of Nordstrom’s interview with the panel’s investigators. In that interview, Nordstrom said he sent two cables to State Department headquarters in March 2012 and July 2012 requesting additional diplomatic security agents for Benghazi, but he received no responses.

He stated that Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary for international programs, wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi artificially low. He said Lamb believed the Benghazi facilities did not need any diplomatic security special agents because there was a residential safe haven to fall back to in an emergency.

Nordstrom’s Oct. 1 memo to the congressional investigator said, “You will note that there were a number of incidents that targeted diplomatic missions and underscored the GoL’s (government of Libya) inability to secure and protect diplomatic missions.

“This was a significant part of (the diplomatic) post’s and my argument for maintaining continued DS (diplomatic security) and DOD (Department of Defense) security assets into Sept/Oct. 2012; the GoL was overwhelmed and could not guarantee our protection.

“Sadly, that point was reaffirmed on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi.”

Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper and Larry Margasak contributed to this story.

Copyright 2012 Capitol Hill Blue and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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3 Responses to Another day, another change in the “official” story on the U.S. consulate attack in Libya

  1. Keith

    October 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    When are the American people (finally!) going to realize these incompetent clowns don’t have the faintest idea how to run a COUNTRY let alone a foreign policy?

  2. ray

    October 11, 2012 at 1:22 am

    i guess after you do some research and realize you jumped the gun. Charlene Lamb is a career bureaucrat having served 3 republican administrations …

  3. Sandy Price

    October 11, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Was there not a decrease in funding for the protection of our foreign embassies? When this came up for a vote, was it not Paul Ryan’s vote that approved of pulling this funding? When a decrease in protection funding allows our embassy to be open for attack, how the hell can the White House be responsible? This is a perfect example of the agreement made by Mitch McConnell to vote down any bill that would make Obama look good. Well in this case, 4 brave Americans were killed!

    Is this just another example of trying to lessen the safety of our official offices in many areas and then it happens, President Obama is somehow responsible?

    What frightens me is the power from the GOP that has set up unnecessary deaths of our American soldiers. How far will the Republicans go to put Romney in the White House?

    What am I missing here? Governor Romney is a known liar who will do everything in his power to follow the dreaded platform of division in all Americans. That platform comes directly from the mind of the Mormon Church! Prohibitions of abortions, gay marriages and birth control. Is this what the voters want? Apparently this is what they want!