U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today sent the following letter to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urging him to schedule as soon as possible a Committee hearing regarding the murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three more fellow Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.
November 2, 2012
The Honorable Carl Levin
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
We write to urge you to schedule as soon as possible a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three more of our fellow Americans in Benghazi on September 11. It is our understanding that the Committees on Foreign Relations, Intelligence, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs are all planning to hold hearings of their own on this important matter. The Committee on Armed Services also has a vital oversight role to play, and it is essential that we exercise this responsibility at the earliest possible date when the Senate reconvenes this month.
The tragic events in Benghazi touch on important military and national defense issues, including the role that our armed forces must be prepared to play to protect American citizens and interests worldwide. Based on information we have received from the Department of Defense and discussions with Department personnel, it appears clear that, at the time of the attack on our Consulate in Benghazi and throughout the duration of the fight, there were no forces in the region on sufficient alert that could have arrived in time to affect the outcome of the conflict. This is especially concerning because the attack was sustained for several hours on a day -- September 11 -- when our intelligence community had clearly urged Americans serving abroad to be on heightened alert due to the elevated threat level surrounding this symbolic date. Furthermore, as has been publicly reported, Department of Defense personnel have been on the ground in Libya providing security for civilian members of the country team. While the Department of Defense has played a supporting role for U.S. efforts in Libya, the events of September 11 raise many questions about whether that role was adequate and appropriate in a country as volatile and insecure as Libya.
The attack in Benghazi also has many implications for the role and requirements of U.S. armed forces in North Africa and the Middle East and for the broader disposition of our military at a time of increased pressure on the defense budget. As the leaders of our intelligence community have testified repeatedly to the Committee, the threat level in North Africa and the Middle East has been rising for the past two years. And yet, on September 11, Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants were able to mount a sophisticated assault lasting several hours against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, a city that has posed clear security concerns for some time, and U.S. armed forces were unable to respond in a timely way. Whether this troubling fact is explained by insufficient intelligence, a lack of necessary military capabilities assigned to perhaps the most threatening region of the world, command decisions taken at the time, or all of these and other factors, it surely raises salient questions about defense resources, military readiness, intelligence sharing, and the strategic priorities of the Department of Defense. These critical issues are the oversight responsibility of the Committee, and they deserve thorough review and examination by the full Committee as soon as possible.
We look forward to working with you on this important matter.