PUBLISHED:14:39 EST, 28 September 2012| UPDATED:17:03 EST, 28 September 2012
Democrats, including Senator John Kerry, a possible Secretary of State if Barack Obama wins a second term, have joined Republicans in demanding answers as to why terrorists were able to murder the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
The new Democratic demands as it emerged that no threat assessment was conducted before Chris Stevens, the late U.S. Ambassador, and his team began ‘taking up residence’ at the Benghazi compound.
A source told Fox news that the security lapses were a ‘total failure’ and there was no proper security equipment installed in the compound’s buildings apart from a small number of video cameras.
The source said that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, the security lapses were a 10.
Kerry, the chairman, and all 18 other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have written to the State Department calling for information about violence in Libya and elsewhere across the Middle East around the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The involvement of Democrats in raising pointed questions about the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis, and particularly the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens, could hand Mitt Romney a fresh political opportunity.
After initially denying that terrorism was involved – to much public scepticism from Republicans – the Obama administration later changed its story, saying that operatives linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for the attack that killed Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.
The White House’s insistence that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to a crude anti-Islam film made in California, has been widely ridiculed and debunked.
Foremost among the officials insisting the attacks were not terrorism was Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who went on five Sunday talk shows to deliver the now-discredited talking points.
On September 16th, Rice told NBC’s ‘Meet The Press’: ‘First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing and we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired.
But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video.’
Rice is a rival to Kerry for the position of Secretary of State in succession to Hillary Clinton, who has said she will step down in January.
With Rice’s reputation severely battered, Kerry’s case for taking over at the State Department – a position that needs Senate approval – has been bolstered.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on September 14th: ‘These protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region. We have no information to suggest it was a pre-planned attack.’
As recently late as last week, Obama said: ‘What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.’
It recently emerged, however, that intelligence officials knew within 24 hours that al-Qaeda was linked to the attacks in Benghazi – prompting Republican accusations of lies and cover-ups.
In the letter, the Senators posed a number of questions, asking: ‘Please expand the accounting of the attacks against U.S. missions in Egypt, Libya and Yemen beginning on September 11 2012, to include attacks that took place at any U.S. missions from September 11-13 2012.
The letter, obtained by Foreign Policy magazine’s The Cable blog, also referred to attacks on the U.S. embassies in Sudan, Tunisia, and Pakistan and elsewhere.
Most pointedly, they ask ‘whether the U.S. or the host governments had intelligence prior to the attacks on Egypt, Libya or Yemen’ and whether any intelligence was shared with security personnel.
Republicans have accused the White House of playing down the possibility of terrorism because in an election year Obama wants voters to believe that al-Qaeda has been routed and is not resurgent in any way.
ABC News has reported that intelligence officials in Libya immediately suspected that the attack was not tied to the movie.
They said the attackers knew where to get Stevens after he fled to a safe house and used insurgent mortars to hit the building, indicating a trained and experienced force.
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