Senators to Obama: ‘Address the American people directly’ on questions about Libya

October 24, 2012

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We were disturbed by information in a news article yesterday citing internal emails sent from U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi during the siege on our Consulate last month, which were distributed by the State Department to the White House and other agencies. These emails make clear that your Administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to Al-Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for it. This latest revelation only adds to the confusion surrounding what you and your Administration knew about the attacks in Benghazi, when you knew it, and why you responded to those tragic events in the ways that you did.

Regardless of your statement in the Rose Garden on the day after the attack, you and members of your Administration consistently described the attack for days afterward as a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video. Your spokesperson repeatedly insisted on this version of events, as did your Ambassador to the United Nations, as many as five days after the attack occurred. In television interviews nearly a week after the events in Benghazi, you yourself even refused to describe it as a terrorist attack, instead emphasizing the role played by a hateful video. This concerted misrepresentation of the facts of the case – facts that, it appears, you and your Administration possessed almost as soon as the attack began – is why so many of our constituents are demanding a fuller explanation of why your Administration responded as it did.

The confusion that many Americans feel about your handling of the events in Benghazi is amplified by other unanswered questions. Why, for example, did your Administration insist that a spontaneous demonstration was responsible for the attack on our Consulate, but as the State Department later divulged, no demonstration even occurred in Benghazi? Why were requests for greater security assistance by officers on the ground not fulfilled, especially in light of the fact that there had already been two attacks on our Consulate in Benghazi this year and an attempt to assassinate the British Ambassador – events about which you should have known? Finally, in light of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and the escalating series of attacks in the preceding months, why were there no rapid reaction forces or other military assets available in the region to deploy to Libya in the event of an emergency on September 11, 2012 – a day that our intelligence agencies consistently cite far in advance as a moment of heightened security threat for the United States and our citizens and interests abroad?

We believe the American people deserve answers to these and other questions that you and your Administration still have not adequately answered. The American people have the right to know what information your Administration was receiving about the attacks in Benghazi once they began, when you received it, how you reacted to it, and why you and other members of your Administration continued for days after the attack to speak about it in ways that increasingly seem at odds with intelligence and other reporting that you had available to you. We urge you to address the American people directly on these and other vital questions that still surround the tragic murder of our fellow citizens last month in Libya.


John McCain

Lindsey Graham

Kelly Ayotte

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