Congress Demands Answers on Libya Security Failures

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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are demanding answers on whether requests for more security in Libya were ignored and why the White House claimed the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was sparked by an anti-Islam film rather than a coordinated assault by terrorists.

A House Committee held hearings today on the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Congress has many questions after the deadliest attack on diplomatic personnel in decades.

"This committee is dedicated to ensure that security is taken differently than it was leading up to the events here," Rep. Darrell Issa said.

Did the State Departament fail to protect the American Embassy in Libya? Dr. Sebastian Gorka, fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, spoke with CBN News on whether this attack could have been prevented, following this report.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who went to Libya, wanted to know why Washington did nothing about two previous attacks against American property, which Chaffetz said were tests by the terrorists.

"Guess what? The third time the terrorists, they were more successful, killing four Americans," he said. "I believe, personally, with more assets, more resources, just meeting the minimum standards, we could have and should have saved the lives of Ambassador Stevens and the people that were there."

State Department officials defended the administration's security decisions.

"We had the correct number of assets on September 11, 2012, that had been agreed upon," Deputy Secretary of State Charlene Lamb said.

"To say that we had the correct number of assets when our ambassador was killed just doesn't ring true to the American people," Issa responded.

Committee members are are also trying to understand why the Obama administration changed its account of the attack, blaming it first on angry reaction in Egypt and Libya to a film made about Mohammed.

"What this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated response to what happened, transpired in Cairo," Susan E. Rice, American ambassador to the United Nations, told ABC's "This Week" several days after the attack. "A small number of people came... to the consulate.. to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists."

Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy claimed the early information on the attack was sketchy.

"If any officials, including any career officials were on television on Sunday September 16, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said," he said.

Now the State Department is siding with Republicans. In a statement released Tuesday, officials say they never concluded that the consulate attack in Libya stemmed from protests over an American-made video.

In fact, they've now admitted there were no demonstrations outside the consulate in Benghazi.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee are working on the bipartisan investigation in a hyper-partisan climate less than a month before Election Day. All agree however that the attack creates global security challenges for America's diplomatic missions.

"I'm concerned that this attack signals a new security reality. Just as the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing did for the Marines, the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings did for the State Department, and 9/11 did for our entire country," former Regional Security Officer for Libya Eric Nordstrom said.

Security Requests Denied?

The revelation comes as new documents suggest an appropriate level of security was not in place at the consulate prior to the attack.

A former security official in Libya told congressional investigators that requests for more security were denied by the State Department.

He said authorities believed the consulate in Benghazi did not need additional diplomatic security agents because they had a safe house to go to in case of an emergency.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney also spoke about the Benghazi attack Tuesday, saying he knew one of the Navy SEALs killed defending the consulate.

"It touched me, obviously, that I recognized this young man I thought was so impressive has lost his life in the service of his fellow men and women," Romney said.

Meanwhile, the FBI continues to investigate the attack on the consulate.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed a State Department review panel to look into the security arrangements in Libya.

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John Waage

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.