WASHINGTON — Four weeks before the election, Republicans used a politically charged House hearing to confront State Department officials about security at the U.S. consulate in Libya and assail the Obama administration's early response to the killing of the ambassador and three other Americans there.
GOP lawmakers refused to accept the department's explanation Wednesday that protection judged adequate for the threat was overwhelmed by an unprecedented assault in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
They also rejected Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy's explanation that officials were relying on the best intelligence available in characterizing the attack afterward as stemming from a protest over an anti-Islam Internet video rather than a deliberate, planned act of terrorism.
A top State official acknowledged she declined to approve more U.S. security as violence in Benghazi spiked, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate.
"I made the best decisions I could with the information I had," said Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security.
Regardless of allegations of blame, there is no dispute over the tragic result. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, including two former Navy SEALs, were killed in what administration officials now describe as an act of terrorism.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that in hindsight "there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from happening. There were four Americans killed."