By Hope Hodge
While members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were tight-lipped about a classified briefing on the deadly terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, many made it clear they still had unanswered questions about what happened.
Committee member Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters following the mid-afternoon briefing that he was pushing to hear from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has so far been absent from the hill following the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I think ultimately we need to hear from Secretary Clinton," Rubio said. "I think she's willing to come in and talk about it, I know she's traveling, but hopefully she'll be back soon and we can get some answers from her. I think she has an invaluable role to play."
Rubio said he still wanted to know what assessments had been made early on about the safety of the diplomatic operation in Benghazi, what is being done now to prevent the success of another attack at U.S. diplomatic missions around the world, and why the administration had chosen to characterize the attacks as a spontaneous response to an offensive YouTube video for weeks following the attacks.
At this point, Rubio said, that narrative has been utterly discredited.
"I think it's pretty clear at this point in hindsight that this was a planned and coordinated attack," he said. "Now we can debate on how they coordinated it and how many days in advance they planned it, but I don't think there's any reasonable doubt now that this was not a violent protest. This was an attack by well-armed, military style individuals who carried out this attack against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi."
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.
Rubio said he also wanted to hear from former CIA director David Petraeus regardless of his sudden resignation in disgrace on Friday, though that testimony would come before the Senate Intelligence committee, where Rubio also sits.
Another member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), said he was still drawing conclusions about what happened in Benghazi, and the inquiry process was far from over.
"I think there's going to be a number of people who are asked to come and speak," he said. "We're hearing explanations. A lot of us, I think, want clearer explanations."
Risch said it was clear that the State Department and the intelligence community, who at times have shopped conflicting public narratives about the Benghazi attacks, needed to operate "without daylight" between them.
"It is absolutely critical that you have no daylight between the two agencies and they work very closely together," he said. "My experience is, there's a lot of that that goes on."
Sen. Dick. Durbin (D-Ill.), also on the committee, attributed the tumultuous public aftermath of the attacks to the circumstances of the violence.
"We're trying to put it all together, but it was a chaotic scene, and we weren't able to have people on the ground to inspect that scene for a long period of time. So it's very difficult to reconstruct it with precision," he said.
Committee members were unrevealing about the classified briefing itself, but Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), sounded a hopeful note.
"We're getting to the bottom of it," he said.