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General's opinion on Benghazi draws a rebuke



By DEB RIECHMANN and DONNA CASSATA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A retired U.S. general came under sharp criticism from a Republican committee chairman on Thursday after testifying that the Obama administration reacted weakly to the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, the star witness at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, testified that U.S. forces "should have tried" to get to the outpost in time to help save the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. He blamed the State Department for not making stronger requests for action.

A few hours later, the powerful chairman of the Armed Services panel, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., challenged the testimony of Lovell, who was in U.S. Africa Command's headquarters in Germany monitoring the attack.

The general "did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the attack, nor did he offer specific courses of action not taken," McKeon said.

The disagreement muddied a Republican attempt to raise fresh questions about the Obama administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, assault by armed militants. The GOP has accused the administration of downplaying a terrorist attack just weeks before the election.

Lovell testified that it was clear that the attack was hostile action and not a protest run amok, as the Obama administration initially described it.

"Four individuals died. We obviously did not respond in time to get there," he said.

"There was a lot of looking to the State Department for what it was that they wanted, and in the deference to the Libyan people and the sense of deference to the desires of the State Department," he said.

Asked whether the military was allowed to adequately respond, Lovell said it was not. "The military could have made a response of some sort," he said.

McKeon's statement disputed Lovell's assertions based on his committee's interviews with more than a dozen witnesses in the operational chain of command and its review of thousands of pages of transcripts, emails and other documents.

"We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources the Defense Department had available to respond," McKeon said. "Lovell did not further the investigation or reveal anything new, he was another painful reminder of the agony our military felt that night: wanting to respond but unable to do so."

The unusual rebuke also pitted McKeon, who has said he was satisfied that the military did all it could, against Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a House committee chairman who has doggedly pursued the question of whether the military was told to "stand down" on the night of the attacks.

Congress has concluded that the military was never told to "stand down" and that assets such as fighter jets in Italy or other help weren't ready to respond in time for the two attacks that occurred eight hours apart.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on Armed Services, echoed McKeon's assessment, and said it was "deeply disturbing that false claims continue to be made about that tragic night."

The Obama administration initially described the attack as a response to the video that had sparked protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and elsewhere. Susan Rice, then the U.N. ambassador, went on Sunday television talk shows and described it as such. Those comments have stirred up political opposition ever since, as military and other officials have said it was clear it was a terror attack unrelated to the video.

The latest furor has centered on a newly released email from White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes that shows that within days of the attack the White House embraced talking points for Rice that blamed the turmoil that erupted in North African and Middle East cities in September 2012 on an anti-Islamic video.

Also at issue is why the Rhodes email, released through a Freedom of Information Act request from a conservative legal group, was not included among documents the White House released last year regarding the response to the Benghazi attack. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the email referred to the upheaval and rioting throughout the region, not Benghazi in particular, even though Benghazi is briefly mentioned.

"This release through a FOIA request, you know, has revived this story, but it doesn't mean that the facts have changed. They haven't," Carney said.

Angered by the omission of the email in material subpoenaed by the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before Congress.

On the Senate floor, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., renewed their call for a select committee to investigate.

"This is a cover-up," McCain said.

Lovell told the committee it was clearly not an attack borne of the protests.

The U.S. has not yet identified those responsible or the attack but now believes it was carried out by Islamist militants who set fire to the diplomatic outpost and engaged Stevens' security officials and others in gunfire. Stevens died of smoke inhalation in a safe room in the diplomatic compound. The diplomats were aided by officials from a CIA outpost a mile away.

A Republican congressman is drafting legislation to give the military and intelligence agency the authority to kill those responsible for the attack. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said Thursday that he will try to add his bill to the annual defense policy legislation when the House Armed Services Committee considers the measure on Wednesday.

Hunter said his legislation is the same as the authority that the Congress gave the government after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I don't know why they don't ask for it. They must not care," Hunter said in an interview. "It shouldn't take Congress to do this. They should have asked for this right after the attacks."

Hunter said his legislation was prompted by closed-door testimony from Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the panel in October that the U.S. cannot strike the perpetrators under the authorization for use of military force, the 2001 law that applies to terrorists.

---

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
katydid579 May 01 2014 at 2:52 PM

Why weren't there in-depth investigations when the 60 Embassy workers were killed under bush's watch?

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11 replies
cars May 01 2014 at 3:02 PM

what does this have to do with a bomb attack??? this was a 9/11 attack that Ray Charles could have seen coming, and Killary was to busy planning her run for President, and Obama was planning a vacation. That would be my guess.

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2 replies
islandrayd cars May 01 2014 at 3:06 PM

or golf..

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Duke Halle cars May 01 2014 at 3:17 PM

"What difference does it make? They are dead. " Hillary

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Sue May 01 2014 at 3:02 PM

Every time Obama tries to cover up something with more lies, he gets in deeper and deeper. I can't understand why the American people don 't see what a week leader they have elected as President and why he keeps getting away with all this. Is the media being blackmailed by the administration?

Flag Reply +11 rate up
1 reply
bgr200 Sue May 01 2014 at 11:07 PM

I support the President because ended our 3 trillion , 5000, dead Americans, war in Iraq and pulled the country out of the ditch the Republican Administration drove into.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Tom May 01 2014 at 3:05 PM

Clearly the current administration has been staffed with a pack of liars that cannot be trusted to tell the truth, but even worse this pack of dogs use the different departments to strike out at anyone that speaks the truth. Makes Watergate look like boy scouts.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
2 replies
atokageneral Tom May 01 2014 at 3:12 PM

...you're doin' a heckova job Brownie, Mission Accomplished, intelligence shows that there are weapons of mass destruction throughout Irag, and on and on and on. Wipe that egg from your face.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
Duke Halle atokageneral May 01 2014 at 3:16 PM

Just can't let Bush go Really funny

Flag +4 rate up
crarob atokageneral May 01 2014 at 3:27 PM

Funny thing is the Gore Wh*re, Clinton, Kerry et al thought the sam thing. TS isn't it.

Flag 0 rate up
Duke Halle Tom May 01 2014 at 3:15 PM

Yes

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fernandezarthr May 01 2014 at 3:10 PM

......Impeach Obama Now!!!......

Flag Reply +12 rate up
2 replies
Duke Halle fernandezarthr May 01 2014 at 3:15 PM

Thank You

Flag Reply 0 rate up
OOOGOTS fernandezarthr May 01 2014 at 3:19 PM

Yes....IMPEACH!!! and.....tar and feather the SOB and every one he placed in office!!!!!

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Rosie - Harry May 01 2014 at 3:10 PM

Stop all of this discussion. If you look close you can find anything in any Administration we have had. What we must learn is the RESPECT our Leader and Our COUNTRY. We have come this far by FAITH. All joy and glory to our PRESIDENT.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
3 replies
Claudia Anderson May 01 2014 at 3:11 PM

Keep beating the dead horse. Hind site 20/20. Arm chair generals.
GOP busy trashing the Obama Administration and pointing fingers over
EVERYTHING, while they do NOTHING but obstruct. It is over and it is said that these 23 or so individuals perished. Where is the investigation on the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, the Investigation of the billions made by Haliburton and the investigation as to whether Haliburton even bid for the contract it got. Where is the investigation of the sewage facilities that were installed in Iraq but never functioned
yet we paid for them and they were never used. Where is the investigation regarding the BP oil spill in the gulf where it was a suspected Haliburton "part" that was faulty as indicated in some report. The money spent on the never ending attempts to find issues is driven by one thing and one thing only. There isn't a white elitist in the White House.
It is all getting old . Focus on doing something positive for a change.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
4 replies
jebocc May 01 2014 at 3:13 PM

Nine Americans died in Embassy attacks during Dubya's term. We hear no outrage from the right. Over 4000 Americans died and a hundred thousand Iraqui's died because of a gigantic lie about WMD. We hear zippo from the Repugs. Three Congresional investigations on Benghazi have turned up nothing but we still hear the Obama haters screaming fro blood, but then again they have nothing else to offer this country.

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4 replies
bienhoa72alum May 01 2014 at 3:14 PM

Thew Video was used by the attackers as an excuse, although they could have cared less. The military units that were available could not reach Ghent compound in time nor assess the situation on the ground and make an adequate response in the available time.

It was a horrendous incident acerbated by the Republican vote to restrict funds and troops in the area. Yet they continue to try and make some kind of a case about it to discredit the President.

It's over, mistake were made, people died.All true. What is also true is that the events were two years ago, and the Republicans are spending far too much time and money trying to make a mountain out of, well perhaps more than the proverbial molehill but far less than the proverbial mountain.

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2 replies
demslosebig2014 bienhoa72alum May 01 2014 at 3:17 PM

Its "couldnt have cared less."

Flag Reply +2 rate up
bobtrhn bienhoa72alum May 01 2014 at 3:28 PM

You sound like Obama. Are you sure it wasn't the fault of Bush?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
helenabb41 May 01 2014 at 3:15 PM

So the Hildebeast wants to know "What difference does it make" Let me tell you Madame Secretary, The Grandchild you're going to have and get to hold won't happen for those that you let die. I hope that child is nothing like you.

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2 replies
John helenabb41 May 01 2014 at 3:17 PM

Nor do I hope anyone else is like YOU! Get a life!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
helenabb41 John May 01 2014 at 3:23 PM

You must be in Colorado smoking you idiot. Your IQ is often probably confused with your shoe szie.

Flag +2 rate up
farberj John May 01 2014 at 3:28 PM

another obama zombie!

Flag +1 rate up
sun1045 helenabb41 May 01 2014 at 3:24 PM

Good comment.....

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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