Jay Carney Defends White House on Libya

Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:02pm

Updated, 6:04 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeatedly argued today that the administration provided the best intelligence it had about the Sept. 11 attack in Libya to the public.

Carney faced numerous questions from the press corps about an apparent disconnect between what the White House and top officials including Carney had been saying about the attack — suggesting it was a reaction to an inflammatory video — and State Department statements Tuesday that they never concluded the video caused the attack.

“We’re focused on the facts as we get them,” Carney said. “People who claim they know all the facts aren’t being straight. … Again, this is a moving picture.”

Carney, who was speaking at the same time that the House Government and Oversight Committee was grilling State Department officials, contended that the White House and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice always noted the assessment that the video caused the attack was preliminary and that investigations were ongoing.

But Carney acknowledged that there was not enough security at the consulate to protect it. On Capitol Hill, Eric Nordstrom, the State Department’s regional security official in the capital of Tripoli through July, told lawmakers that given the unprecedented size and sophistication of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, additional security personnel or infrastructure likely would not have overpowered the assault.

Still, Carney said, “There is no question that when four Americans are killed at a diplomatic facility that something went wrong.” He said President Barack Obama was focused on making sure such attacks are not successful in the future.

He also pushed back when asked why the president has not said more about what Carney has acknowledged was a terrorist attack. Carney said the president has spoken on a number of occasions about the attack, including when he received the caskets of the four slain Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, when their bodies were flown back to the United States.

Lanhee Chen, policy director for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign, issued a response after Carney spoke and the hearing concluded.

“With each passing day, we learn more about the ways in which the Obama Administration misled the American people about the tragic events that transpired in the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. Nearly a month later, the Obama Administration continues to offer incomplete and indirect responses to simple and straightforward questions,” Chen said. “It is up to President Obama and his Administration to ensure that congressional investigators and the American people have a full accounting of the facts not just from that day, but from the days and months leading up to the attack. There are many questions about whether or not the Administration properly heeded warnings, provided adequate security, or told the American people the whole truth in the aftermath of the attack. On an issue of this importance, nothing short of full and complete candor is acceptable. We can’t learn from our mistakes if we don’t undertake an honest, transparent effort to assess them.”