Last night, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accepted responsibility in the failure to appropriately secure our diplomats in Libya. While it was a step forward in the accountability process, Representative James Lankford (R-OK) expressed concern over continued communication failures between senior State Department officials and the White House over the events surrounding the attack in Benghazi last month.
"While the State Department is responsible for the security of our personnel on the ground, they are also responsible for compiling all the facts related to our mission abroad to disseminate to the White House and the American people. Secretary Clinton omitted a key component in her remarks yesterday by failing to address the repeated misstatements on what caused the attacks," observed Lankford.
"Secretary Clinton is willing to take responsibility for the security lapse in Benghazi but not for the false information given to the American people after the attack," Lankford said. "That responsibility, according to the State Department in a conference call to the press last week , "is a question that you would have to ask others.'
"The State Department confirmed that Ambassador Stevens walked guests out of the compound around 8:30 p.m. on September 11, then at approximately 9:40 p.m. the security cameras showed armed men assaulting the compound. Apparently the State Department knew that night there was no protest on the street and there was no mention of a YouTube video in Libya. If the video protest story did not originate with the State Department, where did the patently false information come from that was circulated to the American people for over a week?" asked Lankford.
In order to assess statements made by various officials regarding the role of the video, below is a timeline of key statements.
September 14: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spoke to the press
Jay Carney: "We don't have and do not have concrete evidence to suggest this was not in reaction to the film."
September 16: Ambassador Susan Rice made remarks to networks
Ambassador Rice: "But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy -- sparked by this hateful video. We do not--we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned."
September 18: President Obama appeared on David Letterman
President Obama: "Here's what happened. You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of shadowy character who is extremely offensive video directed at Muhammad and Islam, making fun of the Prophet Muhammad. And, so, this caused great offense in much of the Muslim world."
October 9: State Department Conference Call (night before the House Oversight Hearing)
" The next question is from the line of Brad Klapper with AP. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, yes. You described several incidents you had with groups of men, armed men. What in all of these events that you've described led officials to believe for the first several days that this was prompted by protests against the video?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I'm not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened. The Ambassador walked guests out around 8:30 or so, there was no one on the street at approximately 9:40, then there was the noise and then we saw on the cameras the -- a large number of armed men assaulting the compound."