Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to mounting questions Wednesday about what went wrong in Libya and who’s responsible by asking for more time to complete an internal review, saying, “nobody will hold this department more accountable than we hold ourselves.”
The secretary vowed to get to the bottom of the terror attack that killed four Americans last month in response to a letter by Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, claiming the department turned down requests for more security amid a string of attacks and threats in the lead-up to the Sept. 11 strike.
“No one wants to determine what happened that night in Benghazi more than the president and I do. No one is more committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen again, and nobody will hold this department more accountable than we hold ourselves because we serve with and we knew the four men we lost,” Clinton said Wednesday. She did not address the lawmakers’ specific allegations.
As Clinton assured lawmakers that a newly formed “Accountability Review Board” will be getting on the case this week, a U.S. official also confirmed to Fox News that the administration is tracking suspects, though the official could not speculate on what action — such as drone strikes — the U.S. could take inside Libya’s borders.
The official claimed some of the militants involved were killed during the Sept. 11 firefight at the U.S. compound in Benghazi.
Despite the movement, there is still no confirmation that FBI agents dispatched to Libya have arrived in Benghazi.
And Chaffetz expressed concern that the State Department’s findings would be pushed off until “after the election.”
“There are clear signs that (there were) security concerns in Libya and other embassies around the world, and what they were doing is diminishing security in the name of normalizing relations,” Chaffetz told Fox News.
Issa and Chaffetz detailed several attacks in Benghazi in the lead-up to the strike that they suggested should have been warning signs.
Further, they claimed sources told them that diplomats made “repeated requests” for additional security but were denied.
New signs also were emerging this week that officials were receiving guidance that the attack was coordinated in the immediate aftermath of the strike despite public comments to the contrary.
The New York Times, which first reported that the U.S. was tracking suspects, reported that, according to one official, spy agencies were intercepting communications from militant Ansar al-Shariah fighters boasting to someone with an Al Qaeda affiliate.
Reuters also reported that the Obama administration had “about a dozen” intelligence reports within hours of the attack suggesting Al Qaeda-tied militants were involved.
Fox News reported last week that intelligence officials were picking up that it was a terror strike within 24 hours.
Still, top administration officials in the week after the attack insisted it was a “spontaneous” reaction to protests over an anti-Islam film. That film was driving demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa, but lawmakers and others were saying from the start that Libya was a different situation despite the initial claims of the Obama administration.
Letters obtained exclusively by Fox News also appear to show the State Department refused to get involved when the company tasked with protecting the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, raised security concerns.
The letters pertained to a dispute between Blue Mountain Libya, the security license holder in Libya, and its operations partner Blue Mountain UK, which trained and provided the local guards.
A source with knowledge of two State Department meetings — one in June and a second in July — told Fox News that Blue Mountain Libya felt the security provided by the UK partner was “substandard and the situation was unworkable.”
But according to the source, when the Libyans tried to bring in a third party — an American contractor — to improve security, a State Department contract officer declined to get involved.
Asked about that letter Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the department’s investigation likely would address the issue.