Susan Rice: No regrets on Benghazi involvement
February 23rd, 2014
03:43 PM ET

Susan Rice: No regrets on Benghazi involvement

By Chloe Sommers

In her first Sunday talk show appearance since her use of Benghazi “talking points” set off a political firestorm in 2012, National Security Adviser Susan Rice was asked point-blank whether she has any regrets about her involvement in informing the public of developments regarding the violence before, during and after the attacks on a U.S. post in Libya.

"No," Rice bluntly told David Gregory on NBC's "Meet The Press.”

He noted that many believe the controversy over the accuracy of Rice's talking points cost her a chance at becoming secretary of state.

“This information I provided, which I explained to you, which was what we had at the moment, it could change,” Rice said. “I commented this was based on what we knew on that morning was provided to me and my colleagues and Congress, by the intelligence community, and that's been well validated in many ways since.

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U.S. points to group led by Guantanamo detainee in Benghazi attack
January 9th, 2014
12:23 AM ET

U.S. points to group led by Guantanamo detainee in Benghazi attack

By Elise Labott

The State Department will soon designate a militia led by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee as a terrorist group and connect it to the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack, U.S. officials familiar with the decision told CNN.

Officials said militants under the command Sufian bin Qumu took part in the armed assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Qumu is the leader of the group Ansar al-Sharia in the eastern Libyan city of Darnah, one of several militias believed to be responsible for the attack.

The group also has branches in Benghazi and Libya. Officials said the State Department is expected to designate all three branches as foreign terrorist organizations in coming days. FULL POST

December 6th, 2013
07:53 PM ET

Slain American teacher in Libya devoted to his faith

Ronnie Smith believed in three things: teaching, Libya and Jesus Christ.

The 33-year-old educator from Austin, Texas, was gunned down Thursday as he went on a morning jog outside his home in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

No one has claimed responsibility for the slaying. Libyan authorities have pledged to investigate the killing, the latest in a series of assassinations in some Libyan cities. There have been near-daily targeted killings in Benghazi and Derna, with the victims mainly security forces, activists and members of the judiciary.

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December 5th, 2013
03:08 PM ET

American teacher slain in Libya

By Elise Labott

American teacher Ronnie Smith has been shot and killed in Benghazi, according to the Facebook page of the international school in Libya where he worked.

The U.S. State Department confirmed the killing, and identified the educator as Ronald Thomas Smith II.

"The untimely death of Ronnie Smith has been felt by the whole school community," the International School Benghazi posted on its Facebook page. "He was a much loved teacher who supported students in their learning and always had time to help when asked. Ronnie was a professional who gave his time freely and without question. We do not understand why this has happened and it is extremely difficult for his students and his colleagues to accept."

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U.S. offers up to $10 million reward over Benghazi
November 15th, 2013
02:58 PM ET

U.S. offers up to $10 million reward over Benghazi

By Jamie Crawford

The United States has a reward of up to $10 million on the table for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the deadly terror attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, the State Department disclosed for the first time on Friday.

While U.S. authorities have filed charges in the case, no one has been arrested, prompting outrage in Congress.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack by armed militants in September 2012.

The reward has been in effect since January but never publicized.
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FBI chief on Benghazi probe: 'We will never stop'
FBI Director James Comey
November 14th, 2013
04:55 PM ET

FBI chief on Benghazi probe: 'We will never stop'

By Evan Perez

FBI Director James Comey told a Senate hearing on Thursday the agency considers the investigation of the deadly Benghazi terror attack among its "highest priorities."

In response to questions from Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, Comey said the FBI still has "a lot of people working very, very hard on this. We are committed bringing to justice those responsible for the attack and the murder of our folks.

"These are often difficult cases to make, but as you've seen for our work, we never give up and we will never rest until we bring to justice the people responsible," he said.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the armed assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya in September 2012.
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Filed under: Benghazi • FBI
November 8th, 2013
01:45 PM ET

'We were wrong': CBS's Lara Logan apologizes for Benghazi report

By David Simpson

CBS correspondent Lara Logan apologized Friday and said the network was "wrong" for a "60 Minutes" report that raised questions about the Obama administration's response to last year's attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The assault left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

"In this case, we were wrong. We made a mistake," she said on "CBS This Morning." "That's disappointing for any journalist. It's very disappointing for me."

A primary source for the "60 Minutes" report on October 27 was a security contractor using the pseudonym "Morgan Jones," later identified as Dylan Davies. Davies told CBS he was able to reach the Benghazi compound on the night of September 11, 2012, scale a wall and even fight off a militant.

That story cast doubt on whether the Obama administration sent all possible help to try to save Stevens and his three colleagues. The "60 Minutes" story was cited by congressional Republicans who have demanded to know why a military rescue was not attempted.

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October 29th, 2013
05:40 PM ET

First on CNN: US commandos were poised for raid to capture Benghazi suspect

By Barbara Starr

When U.S. commandos grabbed a former al Qaeda operative in Tripoli this month, American forces were just hours away from potentially launching a more dangerous covert raid to capture a militia figure facing charges in the deadly Benghazi terror attack, U.S. officials tell CNN.

U.S. special operations forces were ready, if ordered, to enter Benghazi and capture Ahmed Abu Khattalah, a leading figure in the Ansar Al-Sharia militia. But the mission never materialized.

The United States believes Ansar Al-Sharia was behind the September 2012 armed assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
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Libya approves U.S. operations to get Benghazi suspects
October 9th, 2013
11:17 PM ET

Libya approves U.S. operations to get Benghazi suspects

By Barbara Starr

The Libyan government has given the United States "tacit approval" to conduct missions inside Libya to capture suspects involved in the terror attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

The official has direct knowledge of the arrangements but declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.

Approval for action against Benghazi suspects, which was granted in recent weeks, is the same type of agreement that allowed a U.S. raid this past weekend in Tripoli.
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Authors of Benghazi report grilled in Congress
The U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya following an attack on September 11, 2012
September 19th, 2013
08:46 PM ET

Authors of Benghazi report grilled in Congress

By Jamie Crawford

The leader of a review board that investigated the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, lacked sufficient independence to reach an objective finding of fault, a congressional committee chairman said on Thursday.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering that he failed to see how the Accountability Review Board could have come to an objective conclusion about the September 2012 attack based on Pickering's long career as a State Department official.

"You talked about 42 years in the organization you were overseeing," Issa said to Pickering, who drew on his diplomatic experience to help him lead the panel.

"If we looked at the bank failures of 2007 and brought Jamie Dimon in to head the board, some might say that there was an inherent conflict because of his experience in life," Issa said of the JPMorgan Chase chairman.

"Mr. chairman, with greatest respect, this was not, quote, a 'gotcha' investigative panel," Pickering replied.

He asked why a group looking for answers would be empaneled without understanding the specific minutiae of how diplomacy is carried out.

"I appreciate that," Issa shot back. "Obviously, this was not a 'gotcha' panel, because nobody was 'gotcha-ed.'"

The exchange between Issa and Pickering illustrated the sharp political emotion that has defined many exchanges over the Benghazi attack by armed militants, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Issa's investigation has been a partisan flashpoint as he has pushed the Obama administration hard to get a better understanding of pre-attack security at the diplomatic outpost and why no one at the State Department lost their jobs after Pickering's investigation noted shortcomings.

Earlier this week, the Republican majority staff of the committee released a report that also raised new questions. It noted the relatively short time it took the review board to investigate the attack and issue its findings, and pointed out that those interviewed by the panel were not made available to members of Congress.

The Democratic minority staff, led by its ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, released its own report just as Thursday's hearing got underway. It questioned the findings of the Republican staff report.

"Based on all of the evidence obtained by this committee, this Benghazi review was one of the most comprehensive ARB reviews ever conducted," Cummings said. "I have seen no evidence, none whatsoever, to support these reckless Republican accusations. To the contrary, witness after witness told the committee that the ARB's work was 'penetrating,' 'specific,' 'critical,' 'very tough,' and the 'opposite of a whitewash.'"

But the fireworks were just getting started as a session that ran more than four hours got underway. It examined numerous areas around how and why certain facets of the review board investigation were undertaken.

Former Joint Chiefs Chairman retired Adm. Michael Mullen, who served as Pickering's co-chair, was effusive in his assertions that there were no orders for any military detachments to "stand down" that had already put in motion to try and arrest the assault on the diplomatic building and a nearby CIA annex.

"This is not something you can just wish to happen instantly. There's a lot of planning, preparation, as rapidly - to do it as rapidly as one can do it," Mullen said in reference to questions of how no U.S. military assets made it to Benghazi that night.

"We are not big enough in the military to be everywhere around the world to respond to where every embassy is that might be high-risk. We have to take risks and figure that out," he said.

Questions emerged from multiple members of the committee as to why the review board did not assign any culpability for management and other shortcomings to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as head of the department.

"We had very clear evidence, full and complete to our information, that the authority - responsibility, the accountability rested with the people we identified," Pickering said in explaining why failures in the State Department structure were centered at the assistant secretary level.

"If the secretary (Clinton) wasn't involved, I must be on another planet," Rep. John Mica said in response.

In interviews with media outlets prior to her stepping down earlier this year, Clinton said she took responsibility for the security of diplomats and diplomatic outposts around the world in her role as secretary.

There have been 18 such review boards since 1986 that have investigated attacks on U.S. facilities overseas.

Many members of the panel questioned Pickering and Mullen as to why certain recommendations from the report that looked into the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa were not carried forward.

"Secretary (Madeleine) Albright as a result of that recommendation, met daily with the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security first thing in the morning. And that established a nexus, a chain, which neither her - I think none of her three successors kept. I think that may have been an error," Pickering said.

"I think that in some ways her interest - and put it this way - in no more Nairobis and no more Dar es Salaams was an important instinct. I think that that was a rather good process, and in some ways I'm sorry it wasn't repeated," he said.

The review board led by Pickering and Mullen made 29 recommendations, one of which was to establish another independent review to identify "best practices" in the public and private sectors in security intelligence, risk management and accountability - all areas where problems were identified at the State Department.

That panel, led by former Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, warned that the State Department did not pay enough attention to the bureau overseeing security for 275 diplomatic posts and called for it to be elevated in its importance to deal with a growing threat.

As a result of the Benghazi attack, the State Department created a new position of deputy assistant secretary of state for high threat posts and has begun to beef up security and improve training.

But Issa contended Thursday that it was the purview of his committee and that of Congress to interview many of the same witnesses who were on the ground in Benghazi that spoke to the review board in order to get an understanding of where accountability for the attack lay.

"I am in the process of issuing subpoenas because the State Department has not made those people available, has played hide and go seek, and is now hiding behind a thinly veiled statement that there's a criminal investigation," he said of the FBI probe.

And in the next sentence, Mr. Issa laid out the roadmap for his committee in the Benghazi investigation.

"That's part of the reason that this investigation cannot end until the State Department gives us at least the same access that they gave your board," he said.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Benghazi • Congress • Hillary Clinton • Issa • Libya • Security Brief • State Department
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