US Ambassador Susan Rice said on Wednesday that her early account of the attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in Benghazi was based on the initial intelligence community assessments and was always subject to review and updates.
She said she respects Republican US Senator John McCain, who has been critical of her, but says “some of the statements he’s made about me have been unfounded, but I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him.”
Her comments attributing the attacks to a mob enraged over an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube were widely denounced by Republicans during the US presidential campaign. The attack came on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the US, and her critics said it was clearly a terrorist attack aimed at the anniversary. Late US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
The focus has fallen on Rice because she is a longtime White House insider and is believed to be US President Barack Obama’s first choice to replace US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is not expected to stay on during his second term.
Rice told reporters outside the UN Security Council: “As a senior US diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities, American diplomatic facilities around the world and Iran’s nuclear program.”
“The attack on our facilities in Benghazi was obviously a significant piece of this,” Rice said.
Hours before the Benghazi violence, a mob in Cairo attacked the US embassy there to denounce the videos as anti-Islamic blasphemy.
“When discussing the attack against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community,” she said.
“I made clear that the information was preliminary, and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers,” she added. “Everyone, particularly the intelligence community, has worked in good faith to provide the best assessment based on the information available.”
“You know the FBI and the State Department’s Accountability Review Board are conducting investigations as we speak. And they will look into all aspects of this heinous terrorist attack, to provide what will become the definitive accounting of what occurred,” she said.
“Let me just end by saying I knew Chris Stevens. I worked closely with him and had the privilege of doing so as we tried together, as a government, to free the Libyan people from the tyranny of [late Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi. He was a valued colleague, and his loss, as well as the loss of his three colleagues, is a massive tragedy for all of us who serve in the US government, and for all the American people,” Rice said.
“None of us will rest, none of us will be satisfied until we have the answers, and the terrorists responsible for this attack are brought to justice,” she said.