Timeline of events, comments surrounding Benghazi

By Larry Margasak

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 4:04 p.m. MDT

Sept. 18. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says the White House doesn't have any indication the Benghazi attack was premeditated, but adds it's still under investigation and the assessment could change. The president on the "Late Show" with David Letterman describes the anti-Muslim film and then says: "Extremists and terrorists used this (as) an excuse to attack (a) variety of our embassies, including the one — the consulate in Libya."

Sept. 20. The president says that extremists used the anti-Islam video as an excuse to assault U.S. interests overseas, including the attack in Benghazi. Secretary of State Clinton says she's appointing an independent accountability review board to review the circumstances of the attack. Retired diplomat Thomas Pickering will lead the panel.

Sept. 24. Romney leads a chorus of Republican criticism of the administration's foreign policy, accusing the president of minimizing the killings in Libya as a mere "bump in the road" rather than part of a chain of events that threatens American interests. Carney calls the accusations "desperate and offensive."

Sept. 25. The president, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, says that attacks on U.S. citizens in Libya "were attacks on America" and calls on world leaders to join in confronting the root causes of the rage across the Muslim world. Romney calls the attack an act of terrorism and says the United States must use foreign aid to bring about lasting change in such places.

Sept. 26. Carney says that Obama considers the deadly assault a terrorist attack.

Sept. 27. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says there can be no doubt that terrorists had planned and carried out the attack, but Republicans lash out at the president and senior administration officials over their evolving description.

Sept. 28. Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said, "As the intelligence community collects and analyzes more information related to the attack, our understanding of the event continues to evolve. In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to executive branch officials and members of Congress...."

"Throughout our investigation we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving. As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists."

Oct. 4. A team of FBI agents arrives in Benghazi to investigate the assault and leaves after about 12 hours on the ground.

Oct. 5. UN Ambassador Rice denies she tried to mislead Congress, telling three Republican senators in a letter that her comments on Sept. 16 were based on the best information available at the time from intelligence officials.

Oct. 10. A top State Department official, Charlene Lamb, acknowledges at a House hearing that she had declined to approve more U.S. security as violence in Benghazi spiked. She said the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate. She told lawmakers, "I made the best decisions I could with the information I had."

Oct. 11. Vice President Joe Biden says in his debate with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan: "We weren't told they wanted more security there." Romney says the attack is an issue in the presidential campaign, in part because Americans wonder why it took the Obama administration so long to acknowledge it was a terrorist act.

Oct. 12. The White House defends Biden's "we weren't told" debate statement; Carney says Biden was referring to the White House, the president and himself.

Romney says, "The vice president directly contradicted sworn testimony of State Department officials. He's doubling down on denial." Romney also says: "President Obama, this is an issue because Americans wonder why it was it took so long for you and your administration to admit that this was a terrorist attack,"

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