More than six weeks have passed since a deadly terrorist attack that claimed the lives of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and the details of exactly what happened and how U.S. officials responded remain murky. Ongoing discoveries of new information have led the Administration to alter its accounts and raised even bigger questions.
Initial reports revealed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and a nearby CIA annex came under fire the evening of September 11, 2012. The attack claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Early Obama Administration statements claimed the attack was carried out by protesters angry over a U.S.-produced Internet video. Media reports and official accounts quickly pointed to an organized terrorist attack.
It's now clear from a series of emails leaked last week that the White House, Pentagon and State Department had real-time updates during the attacks and information suggesting it was a coordinated terrorist attack rather than a protest. It is also clear that officials in Benghazi raised concerns about unchecked extremism and a lack of adequate security months before the attack occurred.
The American people deserve the truth about what happened. That's why I sent a letter this week to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking for a timely, truthful and complete time line of the events, decisions and persons involved in those decisions leading up to and throughout the attacks.
The letter states, "It has been 48 days since the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on our U.S. consulate and the CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya. It is unacceptable that you have yet to provide a clear accounting of the events and decisions that led to the brutal murders of four brave Americans." It goes onto say, "American blood was shed at the hands of terrorists. Brave men who dedicated themselves to service and believed their country would stand behind them were left unprotected and brutally murdered. Americans deserve truthful, timely and complete answers. The families of these American heroes deserve answers."
As a Senator and former Agriculture Secretary, I've worked with diplomats around the world. We put patriotic Americans in very tough places, and we need to assure them their security is a top priority. Clearly, mistakes were made here. We need to get to the bottom of this, correct whatever went wrong and hold accountable anyone responsible for carrying out the attacks or impeding a necessary response. It's also time to stop the delays. The Administration's actions have given many Americans and the media reason to believe the facts are being withheld until after the election for political reasons. I hope this isn't the case and releasing the facts now could put these concerns to rest.
September 11 has again become a dark day in American history. This indeed was a terrorist attack--one that left a top U.S. diplomat and three others dead. We must resolve that this will never happen again. A sound response to these events, one that brings guilty parties to justice and prevents future attacks, is the least we can do for the families who lost loved ones and for a country targeted by terrorists.