Tate Zeigler (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
Washington – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) today released the following statement in response to a letter they received this afternoon from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta regarding the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012:
“Over the past month, we and our colleagues have sent 13 separate letters to senior Administration officials, including President Obama, seeking an explanation for why no U.S. armed forces were available to go to the aid of the four American citizens who died during the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Today, we finally received from the Secretary of Defense the first response to our many letters. Unfortunately, Secretary Panetta's letter only confirms what we already knew – that there were no forces at a sufficient alert posture in Europe, Africa or the Middle East to provide timely assistance to our fellow citizens in need in Libya. The letter fails to address the most important question – why not?
“This question is all the more puzzling considering that the attack in Benghazi occurred on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history – a day when we know that our enemies around the world are plotting and planning to hit us again. Furthermore, the attack was only the latest in a series of assaults against Western interests in Benghazi, including an attempted assassination of the British Ambassador and two previous attacks on our consulate in Benghazi this year. It was for this reason that U.S. security professionals on the ground in Libya had made repeated requests for additional personnel and security assistance.
“In short, we knew that our enemies wanted to hit us in Benghazi. They had already tried on at least two occasions. The most glaring example can be found in the August cables from the Embassy in Tripoli to the State Department. Our own people on the ground were concerned about the threat. And yet, on the one day out of the year – September 11 – when the threat level is perhaps the highest, the military was not in a position to come quickly to the aid of Americans under attack in Benghazi.
“We reiterate our requests to the President, the Director of National Intelligence, the Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, and the Attorney General, to level with the American people and tell us what happened and why these four brave Americans were not better protected.”