FBI investigators search Benghazi crime scene 3 weeks after deadly consulate attack

FBI investigators finally paid a visit to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya to collect evidence of the terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, on the 11th year anniversary of Sept. 11. 

The investigators were escorted to Benghazi by the U.S. military, which provided protection as the security situation in Libya remains precarious. The Pentagon confirmed today that the on-site visit lasted only “a number of hours.”

Read more: U.S. counter-terrorism official calls Benghazi consulate assault an ‘opportunistic’ terrorist attack

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little declined to provide further details on the military support team, saying that he “wouldn’t want to tip off the wrong people.” Little hinted that investigators may return to Benghazi for follow-up visits.

The three-week delay in their arrival raises questions on whether federal investigators would be able to collect usable evidence from the consulate building, which has been heavily damaged by fire in the attack, looted by protesters, and scoured by journalists.

For example, a CNN correspondent found Stevens’s personal journal after the attack and used material from his journal to corroborate and report on security concerns that the Ambassador expressed. (The journal was turned over to an intermediary for return to Stevens’s family.)

Yesterday, a Washington Post reporter found sensitive documents that detailed “weapons collection efforts, emergency evacuation protocols, the full internal itinerary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip to the city and the personnel records of Libyans who were contracted to secure the mission” that were left at the crime scene.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the documents recovered by the Washington Post were all “unclassified.”

The Obama administration has been criticized by Republican lawmakers for not responding quickly enough to the Benghazi attack and for not providing adequate security for the consulate.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 10 to review the “security failures of Benghazi.”

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), claimed that the State Department had ignored a “clear pattern of security threats” against U.S. and Western diplomats in Libya in the months leading up to the Benghazi attack.

Read more: Secretary of State Clinton hints Benghazi attack might be linked to Al Qaeda in North Africa

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Wednesday that the State Department is cooperating with congressional inquiries but urged the public to not jump into conclusions until the FBI and State Department’s investigations are completed.

“We are already working with Congress and the relevant committees, and we will continue to respond to questions and requests in a cooperative way,” said Clinton. “No one wants the answers more than we do here at the Department…So we have to keep working through lots of documents and talking to scores of individuals before we have a definitive accounting. Over the course of this review, there will naturally be a number of statements made, some of which will be borne out, and some of which will not. So let’s establish all the facts before we jump to any conclusions, and let’s do so so that we can get to the bottom of what did happen.”


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