House Hears Testimony on September 11 Attack in Libya

Posted October 10th, 2012 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. House of Representatives has started hearing testimony on the situation in Benghazi prior to the September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The hearing Wednesday, which is being held by the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, includes testimony by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, the former head of the U.S. military team in Libya, and Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.

White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan was in Libya Wednesday to discuss investigations into the attack with Libyan leaders.

Senior State Department officials told reporters Tuesday ahead of the hearing that they never concluded the assault was part of protests against an anti-Islam video. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials also said there was “nothing unusual” at the consulate site before the attack.

The Obama administration initially linked the attack to the protests, but administration officials later said it was a planned terrorist attack. The State Department is conducting its own investigation into the incident.

A memo detailing earlier testimony to a congressional investigator says Eric Nordstrom, the former chief security officer for U.S. diplomats in Libya, sent cables to Washington in March and July asking for more security officers in Benghazi, but got no response.

He said Charlene Lamb, a State Department official who is scheduled to testify Wednesday, believed the post did not need more security because it was equipped with a residential safe haven that could be used in case of emergency.

In the account given late Tuesday, the State Department officials said Ambassador Stevens, embassy officer Sean Smith and a security agent retreated to the safe haven after a large group of armed men entered the compound.

The attackers set fire to furniture inside the building, filling it with smoke that later forced the three men to flee. They became separated, and security forces who arrived to assist them found only the security agent on the roof and Smith's body.

The security forces were unable to find the ambassador, and retreated with the remaining people at the compound to an annex that also came under fire before they were able to evacuate.