A look at why the Benghazi issue keeps coming back

By Connie Cass

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, May 18 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

From the first draft, the CIA described the attack in Benghazi as a spontaneous outgrowth of the movie protests that began in Egypt — which indicates that was the theory in Washington then. However, the No. 2 diplomatic official in Libya at the time says he knew immediately it wasn't true and was demoted after he questioned the version of events Rice recited on TV.

One edit especially has been criticized as political: Victoria Nuland, then State's spokeswoman, sought removal of a reference to a CIA warning about the potential for anti-American demonstrations in Cairo and jihadists trying to break into that embassy. Nuland wrote that "could be abused" by lawmakers to criticize her department for failing to take heed.

Also deleted were references to the CIA's past warnings about dangerous extremists linked to al-Qaida in Benghazi.

After many deletions, the meat of the talking points read: "The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."


The month after Obama was re-elected, an independent review board issued its harsh verdict.

Senior officials in Washington had failed to protect the Benghazi mission, even after diplomats in Libya asked for more security, said the panel appointed by the State Department.

Since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, eastern Libya has been plagued by violence and awash with heavily armed militias. The U.S. compound as well as British diplomats and the Red Cross had been targeted by explosives in smaller attacks several times over the spring and summer.

The danger was obvious.

And yet security was "inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," the Accountability Review Board concluded.

Four State Department officials were reassigned or resigned as a result.

"We clearly fell down on the job with regard to Benghazi," Deputy Secretary of State William Burns told lawmakers.

Republicans put the focus on Clinton's responsibility. In combative congressional hearings in January, the outgoing secretary of state said the cables from Benghazi seeking help never reached her.

"I did not see these requests. They did not come to me," she said. "I did not approve them. I did not deny them."

Obama called the poor security "a huge problem" and said changes would be made to protect risky posts.

Democrats tried to shift some blame to congressional Republicans, complaining that they cut $300 million from the Obama administration's budget request of $2.6 billion for diplomatic and embassy security in 2012.


Could the military have done more to help on Sept. 11? A former top diplomat thinks so.

Gregory Hicks, who was Stevens' No. 2 and monitoring the crisis from Tripoli that night, suggests that sending fighter jets or even a cargo plane overhead might have scared off the insurgents with a show of force. That might have saved the lives of the two CIA contractors by preventing the final assault on the CIA annex, which came about eight hours after the first attack on the diplomatic mission, Hicks told a House committee.

Hicks also said four members of a special forces team in Tripoli wanted to fly on a Libyan plane to Benghazi but were told to stand down. Pentagon officials said the evacuation was already beginning by then and those forces would have arrived too late.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate there wasn't enough information about what was happening on the ground to send in aircraft. For example, for several hours officials didn't know what had happened to the ambassador.

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