Boehner demands answers on Benghazi, Panetta warns of ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants President Barack Obama to explain in a public address what administration officials knew and when they knew it before and following a terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya last month that claimed the lives of four Americans.
Though Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney declined to press Obama on the Benghazi attacks during a foreign policy debate Monday night, House Republicans have indicated they are not back down in their search for answers in a pattern of apparent security missteps prior to the attacks and misinformation afterward.
In a letter dated Thursday, Boehner asked Obama to provide a public accounting for what the White House knew about the security concerns of murdered U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and other Americans on-site in Libya and why the consulate was unable to receive the backup security it requested. And following an extended period in which the White House mischaracterized the terrorist attack as an organic riot response to an anti-Muslim video, Boehner wanted to know how the administration’s policy response to the violence had shifted in acknowledgment of the new narrative and how to make up for missed opportunities in the early stages of the incident investigation.
“Many Americans are frustrated and alarmed to read that news agencies appear to have better access to the site of the attack and to individuals of interest than the administration,” Boehner wrote.
Boehner also asked the president to dictate whether he was willing to take action in response to the attacks to protect U.S. national security interests.
“Mr. President, our country will not be able to move on from the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2012 until the public better understands the answers to these key questions and concerns,” Boehner said, asking Obama to make a public address in response to the letter at the earliest possible date.
Meanwhile, during a mid-afternoon media briefing at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was downplaying questions from reporters about reports of a U.S. drone hovering above the Benghazi consulate during the attacks and how much the Defense Department knew during and immediately after the assault.
“There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here,” he said. “…This happened within a few hours and it was really over before was had the opportunity to find out what was happening.”
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added during the briefing that questions should be saved until after ongoing investigations and reviews were completed.
“It’s not helpful, in my view, to provide partial answers,” Dempsey said. “I’m confident that our forces were alert and responsive to what was a very fluid situation.”