The Cable

State Department: Stop asking us about the Benghazi attack

The State Department told reporters Friday afternoon that it won't answer any more questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans until the investigation into the incident is complete.

"I'm going to frustrate all of you, infinitely, by telling you that now that we have an open FBI investigation on the death of these four Americans, we are not going to be in a position to talk at all about what the U.S. government may or may not be learning about how any of this this happened -- not who they were, not how it happened, not what happened to Ambassador Stevens, not any of it -- until the Justice Department is ready to talk about the investigation that's its got," State Department spokeswoman Victorian Nuland told reporters late Friday afternoon.

"So I'm going to send to the FBI for those kinds of questions and they're probably not going to talk to you about it," she said.

All aspects of the attack, including what led up to it, its causes, the identity of the perpetrators, and the circumstances surrounding the death of Amb. Chris Stevens and the other three Americans,are off limits for reporters.

The new policy leaves many questions about the Benghazi attack unanswered, potentially for a long time, such as the identity of the attackers, whether they were connected to protests earlier in the day in Cairo, what were the exact circumstances and cause of Stevens's death, whether the administration had indications of the threat beforehand, and whether the consulate's security was adequate or not.

Many of these questions are sure to be asked by lawmakers, beginning with the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, who called today for an investigation into the security procedures at the Benghazi consulate before and during the attack.

Two senior officials did speak extensively about the events of the night of the attack on the consulate Sept 12 in a background conference call with reporters, but that's all the information the administration intends to give out, Nuland said.

Reporters at the briefing pointed out that the officials on that conference call noted that they were giving out preliminary information that might have been wrong and if the State Department doesn't talk about the night's events ever again, that wrong information would remain uncorrected in the public sphere.

"The U.S. government is going to be happy to let incorrect information stand?" one reporter asked.

"I will make a personal pledge to you that if I become aware that information we gave that first night is radically wrong in a way that you deserve to know, I will do my best to get that information to you," Nuland said. "But I have to respect the fact that this is now a crime scene."

The Cable

Senators call on State Department to investigate Benghazi security failures

The heads of the Senate Homeland Security Committee called on the State Department's inspector general today to urgently investigate the security procedures and decisions at the Benghazi consulate before and during the attack on Sept. 11, as well as the personal security of Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of the four Americans killed in the assault.

"In light of the horrific attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel there, we write to request that you conduct a thorough investigation of the Department's development of security requirements for the Benghazi Consulate as well as the resource decision-making process to provide security for this post," wrote Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (R-ME), in a letter to State Department Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel that was obtained by The Cable.

"Upon completion of your findings, we urge you to provide recommendations to improve security at other diplomatic posts around the world, with a focus on smaller posts and non-permanent facilities established by the Department in post-conflict nations like Libya."

The senators want the inspector general's office to investigate whether there was adequate security at the Benghazi consulate, whether there was an established and clear process for determining security requirements at overseas posts and whether that process was followed in Benghazi.

Lieberman and Collins also want to know if it's true that the Libyan government told the U.S. government to move or increase security at the Benghazi consulate before the attacks, as Libyan Deputy Minister of the Interior Wasif al-Sharif reportedly said, whether the State Department beefed up security after a bomb exploded near the consulate in May, and how State vetted the local security forces, who may have been complicit in the attacks.

"The media has reported that one of the Foreign Service Officers killed in the attack, Sean Smith, may have expressed concern about the security provided by the local security forces hours before his death. Minister al-Sharif reportedly told media outlets that local security forces pointed extremists towards the annex site after U.S. personnel managed to escape the main compound," the senators wrote.

Lastly, the senators want the State Department to investigate the operational security procedures around Stevens and determine who might have known that he would be in the consulate at that time and why he didn't have more protection.

"Who is responsible for determining the security requirements, including personnel, equipment, and other assets, that are necessary to maintain the protection of the Chief of Mission and other personnel at each overseas facility, and was this procedure followed in Benghazi?" they wrote.

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