Obama says initial data on Libya attack was wrong
In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer that aired Wednesday night, President Obama acknowledged his administration released faulty information about last month's deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday acknowledged his administration passed faulty information to the public about last month's deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but suggested those reports came in the interest of keeping the public abreast of what they knew at the time.
In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer that aired Wednesday night, Obama said "as information came in, information was put out," and those reports "may not have always been right the first time."
The admission came as critics questioned early accounts of the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats at the consulate on the night of Sept. 11.
At first, the administration said the attack was started by opportunists taking advantage of the chaos surrounding protests over a video critical of Islam — whether in the region in general or in Benghazi specifically, it wasn't completely clear.
In a Sept. 16 interview on "Meet the Press," Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, said what happened in Benghazi was "initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video."
Officials now call it a deliberate act of terrorism, and the State Department this week said there were no protests in Benghazi that night. The level of security at the consulate was the subject of a congressional hearing Wednesday.
Republican Mitt Romney has stepped up his criticism of the Obama administration over the past month. On Wednesday, Romney policy director Lanhee Chen charged the administration with continuing to "offer incomplete and indirect responses to simple and straightforward questions."
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that Rice and others were working from early information "based on the facts that we knew as they became available and based on assessments by the intelligence community."
The State Department's former security chief for Libya told Congress on Wednesday that higher walls and a half-dozen extra guards couldn't have stopped the Sept. 11 assault. At the hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Democrats noted that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has been slashing proposed budgets for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which protects 275 U.S. diplomatic missions, many of them in conflict zones.
But Eric Allan Nordstrom, who served as the chief security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli until July, testified that the "ferocity and intensity" of the attack exceeded any violence that he had seen in Libya or elsewhere.
Includes material from McClatchy Newspapers and The New York Times.