The election might be over, but the Benghazi fiasco isn’t — not nearly. Congress is gearing up this week for another round of hearings on the Sept. 11 attack that killed Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. In total, four House and Senate panels are due to hold closed-door briefings this week, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), expected to kick things off on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.
In the two months since Ambassador Stevens’s death, a dizzying amount of information — some of it contradictory — has emerged about the security situation in Benghazi and the administration’s handling of the attack. Here’s a guide to what we know, what we don’t, and what’s likely to come up as lawmakers try to get to the bottom of it all this week.
Protest or planned attack?
In the immediate aftermath of the consular attack, President Barack Obama and other senior administration officials generally portrayed the incident as a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Muslim YouTube video that had sparked protests across the Middle East. In his initial remarks from the Rose Garden, Obama said that “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation,” but did not directly refer to the attack as a terrorist plot. (He was more explicit a day later.)
Soon after, White House spokesman Jay Carney denied that the administration had any “actionable intelligence” that the attack was “planned or imminent.” On “Face the Nation” on Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told Bob Schieffer that the attack “began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo.” Her remarks were caveated, and according to the New York Times, she was merely repeating talking points given to her by the CIA. Moreover, one intelligence official insisted to the paper, “The bulk of available information supports the early assessment that the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”
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