(LAS VEGAS) — White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on an assertion by the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that requests from diplomats in Libya for added security prior to the September 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, were denied.
“I’m not going to get into a situation under review by the State Department and the FBI,” Carney said.
Earlier today, chairman of the committee Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chair of the subcommittee on national security, homeland defense, and foreign operations, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asserting that “multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 (2012) attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi. The mission in Libya, however, was denied these requests by officials in Washington.”
The two congressmen also listed thirteen incidents leading up to the attack – ranging from I.E.D. and RPG attacks to a “posting on a pro-Gaddafi Facebook page” publicizing early morning runs taken by the late Ambassador Chris Stevens and his security detail around Tripoli.
“Was State Department headquarters in Washington aware of all the above incidents?” they asked Secretary Clinton, requesting written responses by October 8. “If not, why not?”
“If so, what measures did the State Department take to match the level of security provided to the U.S. Mission in Libya to the level of threat?” they asked. The two also asked for details of “any requests made by Embassy Tripoli to State Department headquarters for additional security, whether in general or in light of specific attacks” detailed in the letter.
Carney said that “embassy security is a matter that is in the purview of the State Department,” and noted that “Secretary Clinton instituted an accountability review that is underway as we speak” while the investigation of the attack itself is being conducted by the FBI.
The press secretary said that “from the moment our facility was attacked” the president has been focused on providing security to all diplomatic posts “and bringing the killers to justice.”
About the list of security issues, Carney said it was a “known fact that Libya is in transition” and that in the eastern part of Libya in particular there are militant groups and “a great number of armed individuals and militias.”
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland confirmed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received the letter by the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and that Clinton intends to respond to the Congressman today.
“Her letter will make absolutely clear the desire of this department, — her personal desire — to cooperate closely with the committee and with all members of Congress, both in their document request, in their request for witnesses for their hearing, because we share the same goal. We want to get to the bottom of precisely what happened and learn any lessons that we need to learn from it,” said Nuland. “We’re taking this very, very seriously.”
She declined to give a specific comment over the claims that the State Department had rejected requests made by diplomatic staff in Libya for additional security before the Sept. 11 attack.
“I’m not in a position from this podium today to answer the specific requests and the specific assertions in the letter. That’s going to be part of the process that we have to go through in this building,” said Nuland. “We are currently amassing all of the documents, all of the information that we had before, during, after, so that we can be responsive”
But she also said that she didn’t expect Clinton’s letter to answer the specific claims either.
“Her response is going to be relatively succinct today… expressing her complete commitment and this building’s commitment to work with the Congress to get fully to the bottom of this, but I don’t anticipate she’ll be able to answer the specific questions today,” said Nuland. “But obviously that is our expectation and hope over time, that we’ll be able to answer all of the questions, because we have questions too.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN