Congressman Kenny Marchant (TX-24) issued the following statement demanding answers from the Administration regarding the attacks by terrorists that killed four Americans nearly two months ago.
The loss of American lives abroad is far more important than any election and it is about time this Administration step forward with exactly what happened in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. It has been nearly eight weeks since the attacks that killed our ambassador and three other public servants. In that time, the American people have had far more questions about what happened than answers. Indeed, the Administration has been evasive and dishonest in their response to what happened in Benghazi. That is why I have written to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, demanding answers, and to Chairman Issa, encouraging him to hold more hearings on the attack and the Administration's actions in response.
As you may remember, the Administration spent the first two weeks blaming a YouTube video for the attack on our consulate in Benghazi. On September 18th, President Obama suggested a link between the attack and the video in an appearance on David Letterman's show and, in his speech to the United Nations on September 25th, he said, "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam." Placing blame on a YouTube video for the brazen attacks of Islamic militants is disgraceful. There is absolutely no excuse for perpetrating acts of terrorism.
It took the Administration more than a week to admit that the attacks were not spontaneous and that they indeed were a coordinated, pre-planned terrorist attack. On several Sunday morning shows during the morning of September 16th, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, was steadfast in her assertion that the attack was both spontaneous and a result of unrest due to a video. Reporting from Fox News, ABC's Jake Tapper, and Newsweek's Eli Lake, strongly suggests the Administration knew it was not a spontaneous attack within 24 hours and, in light of recent emails obtained by Reuters, it is likely they knew it was a planned attack within two hours. Why the charade? Why was Ambassador Rice sent out to mislead the public on the cause and nature of the attacks?
In recent weeks, we have learned that Ambassador Stevens had requested increased security on multiple occasions. It was denied. Some have conveniently blamed it on a lack of embassy security funding in the State Department's budget. But, when asked whether embassy funding was to blame for a denial of increased security, a State Department official under oath told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, "No sir." Later in a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also walked back prior assertions that funding was an issue. It is clear the State Department had enough funding to provide additional security to our embassy and consulates in Libya. Why was it denied? Who made that determination? Where does the buck stop?
The American people deserve answers to dozens of questions that still remain unanswered. We need to know why security was reduced in Benghazi prior to the 11th anniversary of 9/11, especially in such a high-risk diplomatic post like the one in Libya. We need to know why requests for additional security were rejected and who made that final decision to deny it. We need to know why the president and Administration officials were so insistent on blaming a YouTube video for the attacks and why they continued to push the false narrative that the attacks were spontaneous.
We must find out why the military was stationed so far away from such a critical hotspot, particularly on the anniversary of 9/11. We also need to have a serious discussion about the protocol for requesting increased embassy security. This will undoubtedly come to light as we investigate whether there was a communications breakdown in the White House, State Department, and intelligence communities. From the looks of it, there was systemic failure, even negligence, on many levels within the White House and State Department.
We owe it to the families of the four Americans who died nearly two months ago while serving their country to get answers to the questions that have been raised. We owe it to our Foreign Service officers, many of whom risk life and limb everyday in dangerous posts worldwide. We owe it to the American people who deserve the truth about what happened. Some say this is a "disinformation campaign" by the Administration. If it isn't, then it surely is a case of profound incompetence. Regardless, I will not relent until we get answers. This is my commitment.
November 1, 2012
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2291 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton:
It has been almost two months since the tragic attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Office Sean Smith, and U.S. security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. In the time that has passed, the American people are left with more questions than answers and their faith in our government has been greatly diminished.
On September 16, 2012, Ambassador Susan Rice made in one of her many television appearances stating "Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous---not a premeditated---response to what had transpired in Cairo." Not only was this a premeditated terrorist attack, but it appears as though our intelligence community knew that it was a terrorist attack in its immediate aftermath. According to a Reuters report of October 23, 2012, officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack. Rocket propelled grenades, AK-47s, mortars, and artillery used in the attacks are not the usual weapons of choice for a spontaneous mob. Even if the Administration was not sure about these reports, how could Ambassador Rice confidently and repeatedly tell the American people that the attack was the result of an online anti-Muslim film? Does Ambassador Rice have any plans to officially retract her statements of September 16, 2012?
In addition to the confusing statements regarding the cause of the attacks, I am very concerned about the information that has recently surfaced regarding repeated requests for additional security protection at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. FoxNews reported on October 31, 2012 that an August 16, 2012 cable said that the State Department's senior security officer did not believe that the consulate in Benghazi could be protected. Who at the State Department read this cable and why were insufficient actions taken to protect our foreign service officers in Libya?
It is in our paramount interest to ensure that such a tragic loss of life never happens again. In the aftermath of Libya, are there any outstanding cables or notices from State Department security officers or diplomats requesting additional security protection that either have not been acted on or are not fully implemented?
I am further concerned about the dependence on the February 17 Martyrs Brigade for securing the U.S. mission. Though it is the responsibility of the host nation to provide for the security of foreign embassies and compounds, why did the original security contingency plans depend upon help from the February 17 Martyrs Brigade? We should not be completely dependent upon irregular militias to provide crucial security protection of our diplomatic compounds. Do any of our current compounds in Libya rely on the February 17 Martyrs Brigade for protection? Additionally, do any of our other outposts around the world depend upon the assistance of militia in the event of an attack? I have the utmost respect and honor for the Marines and other service members that guard our foreign embassies and compounds. We should rely upon them, and not irregular militias.
I thank you for your review of this correspondence and look forward to your prompt reply.
Member of Congress