In a letter to President Obama, the senators highlight a series of inquiries the administration has not yet answered - noting that failure to provide answers raises questions about whether the administration is deliberately stonewalling Congress and the American people.
"The American people and their representatives in Congress need to understand what you knew about the Benghazi terrorist attack and when you knew it. We also have a right to know what steps you and your administration took - or failed to take - before, during, and after the terrorist attack to protect American lives," the senators wrote.
October 31, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, that resulted in the murder of four Americans-including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Unfortunately, you and your senior administration officials have not been forthcoming in providing answers to the many questions that have emerged.
On October 9, 2012, we sent a letter to the senior intelligence officials in your administration in an effort to obtain answers to these questions. More than three weeks have passed, and we still have not received a response. To make matters worse, since that original letter, we sent several subsequent letters to you or to your senior administration officials asking a number of questions, and we have failed to receive a single letter in response.
The American people and their representatives in Congress need to understand what you knew about the Benghazi terrorist attack and when you knew it. We also have a right to know what steps you and your administration took-or failed to take-before, during, and after the terrorist attack to protect American lives.
In order to facilitate an immediate response to our important questions on behalf of the American people, below are the questions from the letters we have sent over the last three weeks.
In our October 9, 2012, letter that we wrote with Senator Saxby Chambliss, we asked the following questions of Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, Jr.; Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus; and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor, John Brennan:
• Within 48 hours of the attack, was there credible information and reporting to suggest that the assault on our Consulate and other U.S. facilities in Benghazi should be characterized as a terrorist attack?
• At what time did intelligence community agencies or elements first assess that the events in Benghazi were a terrorist attack?
• What information did the intelligence community provide to senior policymakers that led some of them to draw the conclusion as late as five days after the attack in Benghazi that it was the result of a spontaneous demonstration, not a terrorist act?
• Was there no credible evidence at that late date that was compelling enough for the intelligence community and the senior policymakers to draw a conclusion with at least moderate confidence that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist act?
On October 15, 2012, Senator Graham sent letters to Mr. Brennan, Director Clapper, Director Petraeus, as well as National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon. The letters highlighted the fact that on June 6, 2012, assailants placed an improvised explosive device (IED) on the north gate of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The IED detonated and ripped a hole in the security perimeter that was described by one individual as "big enough for forty men to go through." This attack was preceded by an earlier IED attack against the Consulate in April 2012. Based on these facts, the letter included the following questions:
• Were you aware of these attacks?
• Did you inform the President of these attacks?
• If so, what action was taken to protect our Consulate?
• If you did not inform the President, why not?
On October 15, 2012, Senator Graham sent you a similar letter asking the following questions:
• Were you informed of these attacks on our Libyan Consulate?
• If not, why not?
• Did you consider these serious events?
• If you were informed, what action was taken to protect the Consulate?
On October 19, 2012, we sent a follow-up letter to the same three senior intelligence officials in your administration noting that ten days had elapsed since we sent the October 9 letter.
On October 24, 2012, we sent a letter to you asking the following questions:
• Why 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?
• In light of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and the escalating series of attacks in the preceding months, why were there not 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?
On October 26, 2012, we sent a letter to Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta; Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus; and Attorney General, Eric H. Holder requesting the immediate declassification of the surveillance video in and around the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi for the two days-September 11 and 12, 2012-that it and related U.S. facilities were under attack.
On October 27, 2012, Senators McCain and Portman sent a letter to Secretary Panetta asking the following questions:
• What military forces were available to provide support to U.S. personnel in Libya?
• What military forces were requested to provide support to U.S. personnel in Libya, by whom, and what forces were provided?
• What communication and coordination did you have with the President and other members of the National Security Council regarding possible Defense Department support in Libya?
Your failure to answer these important questions will only add to the growing perception among many of our constituents that your administration has undertaken a concerted effort to misrepresent the facts and stonewall Congress and the American people. We look forward to a prompt and thorough response to these questions. The American people deserve a full accounting of what happened in Benghazi where four brave Americans were murdered.
United States Senator
United States Senator
United States Senator
United States Senator
Cc: The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Secretary of Defense; The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States; The Honorable James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of National Intelligence; The Honorable David H. Petraeus, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency