By Suzanne Kelly
A conciliatory meeting between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Republican critics backfired following revelations that the CIA removed terrorism references in unclassified talking points about the U.S. consulate attack in Libya.
Rice, who serves as the top U.S. envoy to the United Nations, met with Republican senators Tuesday over the September 11 attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
She asked for the meeting with Republican Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham after their sharp criticism of her response to the Benghazi attack. The Republican senators have maintained that they are concerned about her explanation on what caused the attack.
At the time of the attack that left four Americans dead this year, Rice said an anti-U.S. demonstration led to the violence, an assertion later disproved by intelligence officials and reports from the ground.
By Dan Lothian
After facing criticism from Republican lawmakers surrounding her characterization of the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice will hold meetings on Capitol Hill about Libya, an administration official said Monday.
Rice will meet with Sen. John McCain on Tuesday morning, a Senate source said.FULL STORY
By Jennifer Rizzo, with reporting from Pam Benson
Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill on Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.
That's according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who spoke to reporters after the closed hearing, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes.
The account Petraeus gave was different from the description the Obama administration gave on September 14, King said.
Then, the attack was described as "spontaneous," the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim film that got out of control outside the compound.
Petraeus told lawmakers Friday that he had discussed the possibility of it being a terrorist attack in his initial briefing in September, according to King.
"He had told us that this was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start," King said. "I told him, my questions, I had a very different recollection of that (earlier account)," he said. "The clear impression we (lawmakers) were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack."
The "spontaneous" adjective was "minimized" during Petraeus' testimony Friday, King said.
By Jill Dougherty
In an emotional speech honoring the slain U.S. ambassador to Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is taking "immediate steps to bolster security and readiness at our missions across the globe."
Clinton said the State Department and the Defense Department already have dispatched joint teams to review high-threat posts "to determine whether improvements are needed in light of the evolving security challenges we now face."
U.S. diplomats serve in more than 275 posts in 170 countries around the world, Clinton noted Thursday.
Three investigations into the circumstances of Christopher Stevens' death are under way: by the FBI, Congress and the State Department's Accountability Review Board. "We will apply its recommendations and lessons learned to our security around the world," Clinton said.
The review board is expected to issue its report by early to mid-December, according to the State Department.
An Obama administration official whose now controversial comment that the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya was "spontaneous" relied on talking points provided by the CIA based on its assessment that an intelligence official said on Friday was updated days later with new information.
The disclosure to CNN appears to offer some clarity around the Obama administration's early stage explanation of the September 11 attack by armed militants that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
But CNN National Security Contributor Fran Townsend injected a new element into the crucial time line on Friday night, reporting on Anderson Cooper 360 that senior intelligence officials had multiple conversations with senior White House officials in the first 24 hours after the attack.
Townsend, a former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush, added that "we don't know" what was said.
"But I can tell you from having lived through these crises, you're getting a constant feed of what the intelligence community understands about what is currently going on and what has happened on the ground," Townsend said.
She added that "they will caveat the information" because in the first hours there "will be all sorts of information, some of it which will turn out not to have been true."
By Michael V. Hayden, CNN Contributor
Editor's note: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was appointed by President George W. Bush as CIA director in 2006 and served until February 2009, is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm. He serves on the boards of several defense firms and is a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University. Hayden is an adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
Even as last month's events in Benghazi, Libya, become clearer (it was a terrorist attack), the aftermath of Benghazi on American politics and on American policy is far from settled.
The immediate question is why did it take so long to characterize accurately what happened there?
By Mallory Simon and Jason Hanna
Some publicly known details of the September 11 killings of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, have changed in the weeks since the attack.
U.S. officials initially said the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and a nearby U.S. annex came as protesters outside the consulate rallied against an online video that unflatteringly portrays Islam's Prophet Mohammed. That explanation seems to have shifted as investigations progressed.
The following is the latest information that CNN has gleaned about the attack, and some unanswered questions.
At a contentious congressional hearing Wednesday, two State Department officials defended the Obama administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Speaking before the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee, Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy responded to insinuations that the State Department was responsible for a lack of preparedness ahead of the Benghazi consulate attack.
"We regularly assess risk and resource allocation, a process involving the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington, using the best available information," Kennedy said.
The assault on the U.S. compound was "an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men," Kennedy said.
His colleague, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs Charlene Lamb, added that the state department "had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time," drawing a sharp rebuke from committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California.
"To start off by saying you had the correct number, and our ambassador and three other individuals are dead, and people are in the hospital recovering because it only took moments to breach that facility somehow doesn't seem to ring true to the American people," Issa said.
By Jill Dougherty
The State Department stood by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice Monday, rejecting calls by Republicans that she step down
Asked to comment on demands by Rep. Peter King, R-New York, that Rice step down for what he says were misleading comments about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters: "Secretary (Hillary) Clinton believes that Ambassador Rice has done a superb job, so let's just start there, and we completely reject any such calls here in this building."
Asked to explain inconsistencies from the Obama administration about the attack on the mission in which four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died, Nuland said: "When we gave our initial impressions that very first week of how we understood things had happened, we were very careful here, the secretary was careful, to make clear that these were preliminary assessments, that we would have to fully investigate, and to the extent that there were lessons to be learned we were going to have to take those on board."
By Elise Labott
In the weeks before he defected from Syria, then-Prime Minister Riad Hijab put feelers out to contacts in the United States and other governments.
In addition to ensuring his family got out of the country, Hijab wanted guarantees that he would not be persecuted for his role in the government of President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials say.
"He wanted assurances from the opposition that a post-Assad Syria will take into account all Syrians, including minorities, and there will not be revenge attacks on those who at one time supported the regime," one administration official said. The official described Washington's role as that of a "middleman."
The United States was able to produce a chorus of voices from the Syrian opposition promising that Syrians planning for a post-Assad transition are committed to ensuring human rights for all Syrians, including minorities. But that's far from a guarantee for Hijab or for any defector.