The top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee said Thursday that the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was a premeditated terrorist attack, expressing shock that the administration hadn’t provided better security at the outpost.
“I’m just stunned and appalled that there wasn’t better security for all of the American personnel at that consulate, given the high-threat environment,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “The attack in Benghazi was not a black swan, but rather an attack that should have been anticipated based on previous attacks against western targets, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, the presence of al Qaeda in that country and the overall threat environment.
Collins, who spoke during a Homeland Security panel hearing on the attack, rebuffed suggestions from the administration that the operation may not have been planned.
“Based on the briefings I have had, I’ve come to the opposite conclusion,” she said. “I just don’t think that people come to protests equipped with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and other heavy weapons. And the reports of complicity — and they are many — with Libyan guards who were assigned to guard the consulate also suggest to me that this was premeditated.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also believes the administration should have done more.
“They had previous warnings of pending attacks – in every way,” McCain said.
Collins, who is one the less partisan Republicans in Congress, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) fired off a letter to the State Department’s Inspector General demanding “a thorough investigation of the Department’s development of security requirements for the Benghazi Consulate as well as the resource decision-making process to provide security for this post.”
The hearing drew some coverage, as attention in the media appears finally to be shifting from Gov. Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks on the U.S. outposts in Libya and Egypt to whether the Obama administration did enough to protect the Libyan consulate.
The White House had sought to avoid such coverage and questions about whether the administration had let its guard down on 9/11, declaring at first that the attack was nothing more than an assault by protestors angered by a video denigrating Mohammed.
The White House position has since shifted to an acknowledgement that the assault may have been planned, though officials continue to insist that the video served as a catalyst and suggest that planning was not days in the making.