A previously undisclosed e-mail from a top State Department official identified the terrorist organization that carried out the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Wednesday. The e-mail went out four days before U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said in several TV interviews that the assault grew out of a “spontaneous demonstration.”
Gowdy said the September 12 e-mail was sent to senior State Department officers from Elizabeth Jones, acting secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. The South Carolina Republican, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, read the message aloud at a committee hearing on the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three members of his staff. Gowdy said the e-mail is not classified, but claimed Democrats on the committee had blocked its release. He urged the Democrats to exercise “bi-partisanship” by agreeing to make the document public.
Jones wrote that she had spoken with the Libyan ambassador to Washington, Gowdy said, quoting: “I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.”
“Let me say that again,” Gowdy said. “She told him. The State Department, on September 12, days before our ambassador went on national television, is telling the ambassador to Libya the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with terrorists.”
Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission under Stevens, said Libyan President Mohammed Magariaf was on U.S. television talking about the planned terrorist attack on the U.S. mission on the same day Rice was on five Sunday morning interview programs saying a “spontaneous demonstration” at the consulate had been “hijacked” by extremists. Hicks, who was at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli at the time, told the committee there was no evidence of a demonstration prior to the heavily armed assault and that he was certain Stevens would have called to tell him about it if there had been.
When asked what impact Rice’s comments had on relations between the United States and the Libyan government, Hicks said U.S. officials ran into bureaucratic resistance and that it took about 18 days before the FBI was allowed in to investigate.
“The crime scene was unsecured for 18 days?” Gowdy asked, his voice rising.
“Yes,” Hicks replied.
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