Republicans are blasting the Obama administration for failing to act on real-time information that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was under attack.
Emails obtained by the news agency Reuters show that officials at the State Department were told within two hours of the attack starting that the al-Qaida-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility.
Reacting to the report, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton said he was not surprised by the disclosure, telling Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Tuesday night that "what the emails show beyond any doubt is that the State Department was fully possessed of the information in real time."
Bolton said the "paper trail" now makes it harder for the Obama administration to "sweep away" the security failure at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, in which Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans were killed.
On Capitol Hill, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called for additional hearings on Libya based on the emails, telling Fox News that he had already spoken to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the panel.
“This thing is getting more and more traction, more and more legs, and it’s getting uglier every day," Chambliss said. "And I think the thing we need to do is be honest with the American people — and say, here’s what we knew, here’s when we knew it, here’s what the president knew, and when the president knew it.”
Bolton also blamed the failure to launch an immediate military response to the attack, based on the email traffic that reportedly reached the White House situation room and the State Department, on election year politics and the administration's reluctance to admit that al-Qaida "was resurgent in Libya."
"It undercut the [Obama campaign] storyline that the war on terror is over, al-Qaida's on the run, the Arab spring has been a success," Bolton said. "And that led to the denials of the request [before the attack] for security enhancement. That led to the tragedy in Benghazi. And I think that then led to this ridiculous story that it was caused by some YouTube video."
Bolton described it as "a willful blindness" to reality.
The White House initially blamed the attack on rioting in protest of an amateurishly made film called "Innocence of Muslims," a clip of which appeared on YouTube. The movie depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizing dolt.
The emails obtained by Reuters show they were sent by someone with a State Department email address, however the person's name was redacted as were the names of the 41 addresses it was sent to. Most of those also had State Department email addresses, although one was a Pentagon address and one an FBI address.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also weighed in on the emails, declaring the reports as proof that the administration had lied to the American people about what information it had on the attacks and how early the president may have known what was happening on the ground in Benghazi.
"It's atrocious. It's appalling. And yet it's not surprising," she said of the reports, saing the administration had "tried to pull the wool over the American public's eyes."
Republican strategist and former State Department official Liz Cheney, also told Van Susteren she was "really surprised" there was no action taken in response to the emails detailing how the attack proceeded and that the Libyan group Ansar al-Sharia was claiming responsibility for it.
"It's impossible for me to believe that the secretary of defense would not have said to the president, Here are your options, Mr. President. We need to know, did the president seek . . . those options? Did the president then reject those options?" Cheney asked.
"And I also would like to know where the secretary of state was in all of this because these emails were coming in to the State Department, to the Situation Room, to [other U.S. intelligence agencies]," she added. "These are people that are directly under her responsibility and authority. Where was she at 5:00 PM on September 11? What was going on? What did she recommend?"
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