U.S. lawmakers investigating the September terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya said they are troubled by inadequate security measures at the consulate as well as the lack of U.S. military intervention during the assault that killed four Americans. The Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs received a four-hour classified briefing from federal officials on Thursday.
The September 11 attack in Benghazi came in waves over several hours.
Committee Chairman, Independent Joe Lieberman said U.S. armed forces should have been able to intervene and save American lives.
“The Department of Defense, obviously, did not have personnel or assets close enough to Benghazi to bring them to the scene of the terrorist attack in a timely way so they could protect American personnel there,” he said.
Military, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement officials briefed the committee during a marathon, closed-door session.
Joining Lieberman to speak with reporters afterward was the committee’s top Republican, Susan Collins, who said the Benghazi incident points to a U.S. military that is stretched too thin.
“There has been a significant reduction in our military presence in the Mediterranean [region], despite the fact that we are seeing growing instability and violence, and an increased presence of al-Qaida and affiliated groups in northern Africa,” said Collins.
Senator Lieberman agreed, saying, “This really goes to the budget debates that are going on right now because the American military is stretched.”
Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said American forces were on heightened alert on September 11, but did not have adequate intelligence about the Benghazi attack as it was occurring, and opted not to put additional U.S. personnel at risk.
Senators Lieberman and Collins also criticized security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Collins noted that long before the attack, a U.S. government report recommended enhancing security measures at vulnerable diplomatic outposts. Lieberman said classified video of the attack showed “the terrorists broke through the gates and basically walked in and set the facility on fire.”
The senators said they plan to conclude the Benghazi probe next month. Several other legislative committees also are conducting investigations.