WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. intelligence and State Department officials testified behind closed doors on Capitol Hill on Thursday about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that has turned into a contentious issue between Republicans and the administration of President Barack Obama.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of misinformation in the early days following the September 11, 2012, attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
Administration officials say their initial comments that it appeared the attack grew spontaneously out of protests over an anti-Muslim film rather than a premeditated strike were based on the best available information at that time.
Two top Republican senators on Wednesday threatened to block any nomination of Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to a Cabinet post, which must be confirmed by the Senate, for making those initial comments. Obama came to her defense and said if she was the right person for a spot in his Cabinet, he would nominate her.
On Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, acting CIA Director Michael Morell, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy were testifying behind closed doors at separate hearings of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Below the fold: Harry Reid Writes a ‘Dear John Letter’
(Think Progress) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has rejected Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) request to establish a Select Committee to investigate the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11. In a strongly worded letter * delivered to the former GOP presidential hopeful on Friday, Reid rebuked Republicans for politicizing the killings and baselessly claiming that the Obama administration is engaged in a cover-up of the incident. “I refuse to allow the Senate to be used as a venue for baseless partisan attacks,” Reid wrote, noting that several committees in the House and Senate are already investigating the tragedy.
Earlier this week, McCain, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), held around the clock press conferences and media appearances insisting that U.N. Ambassador misled the public when she described, five days after the attacks, the incident as a “spontaneous attack” inspired by an anti-Islam video. McCain and Graham promised to block Rice should she be nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State; Ayotte said she would consider the nomination.
In his letter, Reid reminded McCain that “elections are over; it is time to put an end to the partisan politicization of national security and begin working together to strengthen our efforts to dismantle and destroy the terrorist networks that threaten us.” He also rebuked the Arizona senator for skipping a closed-doors committee hearing on Benghazi in order to hold a press conference demanding more information about the attacks.
* The letter was copied to:
Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader
Senator Lindsey Graham, Senate Armed Service Committee
Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senate Armed Service Committee