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Entries in Benghazi (27)

Tuesday
Oct302012

Game On? McCain Blasts Obama on Benghazi at ‘Storm Relief’ Rally

ABC News(ONTARIO, Ohio) -- After nearly 48 hours of squall stall, Sen. John McCain has kicked the the presidential campaign back into gear, ripping the Obama administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi during a brief speech Tuesday afternoon at a “storm relief and volunteer appreciation” event in central Ohio.

“The president is either engaged in a massive cover-up deceiving the American people or he is so grossly incompetent that he is not qualified to be the commander-in-chief of our armed forces,” McCain told a gathering of Romney supporters.

“I think it’s interesting to note that when there was a success, such as when, thank God, we were able to get bin Laden, the administration poured out every single detail, even details that put American lives in danger,” McCain said, answering reporters’ questions later.

It’s a familiar line of attack from the Arizona senator, who during a Sunday appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation called the incident “the worst cover-up of incompetence I have ever observed in my life.”

“This administration is very good at touting and giving all the details, like when they got bin Laden but now we know there were tapes, or recordings inside the consulate during this fight…and the FBI finally got in and took those and now they’re classified as ‘top secret,’” McCain added, suggesting the president understood the nature of the attack weeks before informing the public.

Speaking at another “storm relief event” earlier in the day, Mitt Romney was more cautious.

“We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all of the suffering going on in a major part of the country,” he said as volunteers boxed up food, bottled water, diapers and batteries for storm victims.

Romney is in Florida Tuesday night. He will join Sen. Marco Rubio on the campaign trail Wednesday morning. President Obama is not expected back on the stump before Thursday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct242012

Republicans Press White House for Explanation on Benghazi Emails

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Top congressional Republicans are pouncing on the email alerts sent to national security officials in real-time during the assault on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month, one of which suggested a known terrorist group claimed credit for the attack in its immediate aftermath.

In light of the emails, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire teamed up Wednesday to write a letter to question President Obama why his administration "consistently described the attack for days afterward as a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video."

"These emails make clear that your administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to al Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for it," the trio wrote. "This latest revelation only adds to the confusion surrounding what you and your administration knew about the attacks in Benghazi, when you knew it, and why you responded to those tragic events in the ways that you did."

In a separate statement, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the email alerts "undermine any administration claim to have ever believed in good faith that our ambassador and three other American officials were murdered in a 'spontaneous reaction' to a film trailer posted on the Internet."

"I again call upon President Obama to release any intelligence reporting which led his administration to characterize the firebombing of our consulate and the assassination of our ambassador as a spontaneous demonstration against a movie clip," King wrote. "The White House should also release the intelligence analyses which finally convinced them that this was a terrorist attack."

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, also questioned what the White House and State Department initially knew.

"These emails add to the growing list of serious questions about what top officials from the Obama administration initially knew about the attacks on Americans in Benghazi and about who was responsible just hours after the assault began," Price wrote in a statement. "At the very least, they demand that, on behalf of the American people, we continue to ask why the Obama administration attempted to so adamantly and publicly push an alternative narrative about the attacks for more than two weeks after four Americans were killed. It is a narrative that appears to have been, from almost the very beginning, in doubt."

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday disputed any notion that the email alerts should be viewed as conclusive evidence.

"Posting something on Facebook is not, in and of itself, evidence," Clinton told reporters. "I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be."

Clinton reiterated that the State Department's internal investigation is ongoing and is examining all the evidence, "not cherry picking ... one story here or looking at one document there." She called a full investigation the "appropriate approach" before drawing any conclusions about the attack.

At least one congressional Democrat came to the administration's defense, urging lawmakers to afford investigators ample time to review the incident.

"We shouldn't do anything to compromise the ongoing effort to hunt down the attackers or the ongoing review of this attack by the independent accountability board," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "We need to let these investigations go forward and only then draw conclusions."

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday, "There was a variety of information coming in" in the aftermath of the attack as the intelligence community assessed strands of information to "make judgments about what happened and who was responsible."

White House officials added that the alerts were not definitive, noting that Ansar al-Sharia denied responsibility for the attack six days later.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that the email mentioning Ansar al-Sharia was sent by the State Department's operations center, whose role is to collect public, unclassified information and disseminate it to senior administration officials in "real time."

Nuland added that the operations center sends tens of emails each day to keep administration officials informed of "what's out there in the public," and though it uses some judgment in sending out summaries of what various extremist groups and press reports are saying, the summaries should not be considered analysis.

"They report what they get. So if they reported, 'embassy in Tripoli says,' then it is based on something that embassy in Tripoli said," she said. "Whether that can be right or that could be wrong is something to be evaluated later."

Nuland confirmed that assessments on the reports are made by the intelligence community.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct172012

Obama Camp Touts Libya Exchange as Key Moment in Debate

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama campaign Wednesday touted the president’s back-and-forth with Mitt Romney on Libya Tuesday night as “one of the best moments in recent debate history,” as the White House continued to defend the Obama administration’s handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“The president made clear that being commander-in-chief is about being a leader and not about political gamesmanship,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with president aboard Air Force One Wednesday.

Romney was “exposed as the guy who wanted to use Libya, use the tragedy overseas as a political football,” she added.

Speaking at the second presidential debate, the GOP nominee attacked the president for his administration’s changing characterizations of the assault, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or, actually, whether it was a terrorist attack,” Romney said.

The Obama administration initially suggested the assault was linked to broader unrest in the region sparked by an amateur anti-Muslim film, but later admitted it was not precipitated by an anti-American protest at the consulate and termed it a “terrorist attack.”

At the debate, Obama noted that the day after the attack he delivered a statement in the White House Rose Garden describing it as “an act of terror.”

“I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror,” Romney said, to which the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, corrected that Obama “did, in fact” call it an act of terror.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that Obama was specifically talking about the Benghazi attack when he mentioned “acts of terror” in his Rose Garden speech.

“Any time an embassy or diplomatic facility is attacked by force with weapons and Americans are killed, that is an act of terror,” Carney said. “It was not an accident that the president spoke of acts of terror in the Rose Garden.”

Further, Carney said, Obama mentioned it as terror on several more occasions “within the next several days,” and he reiterated again that the administration has been as transparent and forthcoming as it can be given the nature of the attack and intelligence gathering in its aftermath.

Asked why, if it had been so transparent, were questions still mounting about the administration’s handling of the situation, Carney offered two reasons. One, the intelligence has evolved and changed over time, Carney said. And, two, he said, “There was a clear attempt from the hours after the attack in Benghazi by critics of the president led by Gov. Romney to try to score political points out of this tragedy.”

Pressed as to why the administration felt the need for both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, over the last few days, to clarify that they were ultimately responsible for the U.S. response to the attack, Carney partially blamed their political foes.

“In part, because of the effort by Republicans to politicize [the issue],” Carney said, “but also because this is a very serious and tragic incident.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct122012

White House Clarifies Biden’s Benghazi Embassy Security Comment

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- Questions on Vice President Joe Biden’s comments about the Benghazi embassy attack in his debate last night, specifically that “we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again,” dominated the daily briefing by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Friday.

“He was speaking directly for himself and for the president. He meant the White House,” Carney said, deflecting notions that “we” meant the entire administration.

“Those are things that are handled by security personnel at the State Department. So that, I think -- it is very clear if you look at it in context in terms of what the vice president was responding to,” he said.

But Carney refused to go deeper into the subject, declining to say whether Obama or Biden were specifically aware of these requests through their daily security briefings leading up to the Sept. 11 anniversary, the day of the Benghazi attack.

Carney then quickly pivoted the discussion to the political side, arguing that Biden’s opponent in the debate, Republican vice presidential nominee Congressman Paul Ryan, politicized the incident by questioning the evolving statements made by administration officials in the wake of the attack.

“I think the attack by -- and what has largely been a political attack by Republicans, in this case by Congressman Ryan, was to try to suggest that the president and the White House was responsible for assessing security in a diplomatic facility in Benghazi,” Carney said. “So I think, going back to last night’s debate, the lack of understanding about how this works may explain why Congressman Ryan consistently supported and authored budgets that slashed spending for diplomatic security, and he now takes a different position on these matters in the aftermath, which is clearly part of an effort to politicize what should not be politicized.”

Carney returned to this refrain during his briefing adding, “this president fights to make sure that embassy security and diplomatic security is adequately funded, make sure that that funding is restored when efforts on Capitol Hill are made, principally by House Republicans, including Congressman Ryan, to slash it in order to cut taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent in this country.”

Attempts by reporters to nail down when exactly or if President Obama or Vice President Biden were aware of the security requests were met with responses including “I cannot get into the specific details of a classified briefing and a classified document” or “what has always been the case is that we have been very transparent about what we know and made clear that, as hours and days and weeks have passed by and more facts have come to light and more has been revealed through the investigations under way, that, you know, we have gained a clearer picture of what happened and what did not happen. And we’ve been very transparent about that.”

Carney continued making the same points he has for weeks: “I can tell you absolutely that there was no actionable intelligence that suggested there would be a -- an attack at the Benghazi facility, absolutely, categorically. That is a fact.” And, “the president wants to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct102012

Romney Drops SEAL Story After Mother Complains

The Doherty Family(BOSTON) -- Mitt Romney’s campaign said Wednesday he will stop citing his meeting with a former Navy Seal killed in last month’s terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya after the victim’s mother protested his use of her son’s death.

“He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda. It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama,” said Barbara Doherty, the mother of the slain Navy Seal Glen Doherty.

She added, “I don’t trust Romney.”

A Romney aide told ABC News Wednesday that the Republican candidate will respect Mrs. Doherty’s wish and stop telling the story on campaign stops about how he met Doherty a few years ago.

“Gov. Romney was inspired by the memory of meeting Glen Doherty and shared his story and that memory, but we respect the wishes of Mrs. Doherty,” campaign spokesman Kevin Madden said.

On Tuesday in Van Meter, Iowa, Romney told the story of meeting Glen Doherty, a Massachusetts native, a few years ago.

“He told me that he keeps going back to the Middle East.  He cares very deeply about the people there,” Romney said, recalling his conversation with the former SEAL. "He served in the military there, went back from time to time to offer security services and so forth to people there.  You can imagine how I felt when I found out that he was one of the two former Navy SEALS killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11.”

Romney briefly choked up while telling the story, saying, “It touched me.”

Boston television station WHDH posted the interview with Doherty’s mother Wednesday. Romney told the story at a campaign stop just hours before in Ohio Tuesday night and again Wednesday in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.

Last month, after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, which took the lives of Doherty, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, and two other Americans, Romney and his wife, Ann, issued a statement offering condolences to his family.

“Glen served America with bravery and distinction, and gave his life in an effort to save others. Befitting his service as a Navy SEAL, his legacy is one of heroism and courage. We grieve for his loss -- and for all who lost their lives -- and pray for the comfort of those who will miss him,” Romney wrote at the time.

In a separate interview with a Seattle radio station a friend of Doherty’s, Elf Ellefsen, recalled hearing Doherty talk about his encounter with Romney in less-than-glowing terms.

“He said it was very comical,” Ellefsen said in an interview with radio station KIRO. “Mitt Romney approached him ultimately four times, using this private gathering as a political venture to further his image. He kept introducing himself as Mitt Romney, a political figure. The same introduction, the same opening line. Glen believed it to be very insincere and stale.”

“Honestly it does make me sick,” Ellefsen said in the interview with KIRO’s Libby Denkmann. “Glen would definitely not approve of it. He probably wouldn’t do much about it. He probably wouldn’t say a whole lot about it. I think Glen would feel, more than anything, almost embarrassed for Romney. I think he would feel pity for him.”

Brandon Webb, another former SEAL and Doherty’s best friend, was with Doherty when he met Romney and remembers Romney reintroducing himself twice.

“Glen and I both gave him a hard time when he reintroduced himself to us a second time. Mitt took it well and we all had a good laugh about it,” said Webb, managing editor of SOFREP.com, for which Doherty was a contributing writer.

But he remembers Doherty being respectful about Romney.

“Glen was very respectful about our encounter with Mitt Romney. That was the kind of guy Glen was. He respected everyone regardless of their differences and that’s what made him such a great human being,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep162012

Ambassador Susan Rice: Libya Attack Not Premeditated

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was not premeditated, directly contradicting top Libyan officials who say the attack was planned in advance.

“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice said Sunday morning on This Week.

“In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated,” Rice said, referring to protests in Egypt Tuesday over a film that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud. Protesters in Cairo breached the walls of the U.S. American Embassy, tearing apart an American flag.

“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to – or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo,” Rice said. “And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons… And it then evolved from there.”

Ambassador Christopher Stevens, along with three other Americans, were killed in Libya following the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.  Rice said the FBI is examining the attack, saying their investigation “will tell us with certainty what transpired.”

Rice’s account directly contradicts that of Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf, who said this weekend that he had “no doubt” the attack was pre-planned by individuals from outside Libya.

“It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” he told CBS News.

Rice said there were no Marines present to protect the consulate in Libya, saying the U.S. presence there is “relatively new” since the revolution that overthrew former dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

“There are not Marines in every facility. That depends on the circumstances. That depends on the requirements,” Rice said. “Our presence in Tripoli, as in Benghazi, is relatively new, as you will recall. We’ve been back post-revolution only for a matter of months.”

But Rice said there was a “substantial security presence” at the consulate in Benghazi, noting that two of the four Americans killed there were providing security.

“We certainly are aware that Libya is a place where there have been increasingly some violent incidents,” Rice said. “The security personnel that the State Department thought were required were in place… It obviously didn’t prove sufficient to the nature of the attack and sufficient in that moment.”

“But the president has been very clear. The protection of American personnel and facilities is and will remain our top priority,” Rice added. “That’s why we’ve reinforced our presence in Tripoli and elsewhere.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Adm. Mullen: US Pursuing 'Limited Objectives' in Libya

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is focused on "limited objectives" as part of the coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, and will take a "supporting role" in the coming days, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday.

"The French were the first ones in yesterday, in terms of starting to establish the no-fly zone. The United States is taking the lead in terms of the coalition," Mullen told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour. "And we look to, in the next few days, transition that to a coalition leadership."

Mullen said getting the no-fly zone in place "has been successful so far," taking out Libya's air defenses, and limiting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's ability to fly planes or continue marching forces toward the rebel-held Benghazi.

"We're very focused on the limited objectives that the president has given us and actually the international coalition has given us, in terms of providing the no-fly zone so that he cannot attack his own people, to avoid any kind of humanitarian massacre, if you will, and to provide for the humanitarian corridors, humanitarian support of the Libyan people," Mullen said.

Mullen did not say that removing Gadhafi from power was a direct objective of the no-fly zone, and would not speculate on the length of time needed for coalition forces to operate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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