As reports provide new details about the Sept. 11 anniversary attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced this week that she had heard enough to accuse President Barack Obama and his administration of neglecting their duties to protect American personnel abroad.
“I am outraged to hear reports that the United States Government failed to address security needs in Libya, even more with reports that trained personnel on the ground were discouraged from responding to reports of trouble at our Consulate in Benghazi," Murkowski said in a statement on Wednesday. "I have no patience for the constantly changing stories coming out of the White House and even less for the empty explanations from senior administration officials who cannot or will not explain why things went wrong."
The terrorist assault on the U.S. facility claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Questions surrounding the episode had earlier revolved around the administration's inconsistent attempts to assign responsibility for the attack, but recent reports have sparked renewed scrutiny over how the event was handled as the compound came under siege.
Reporting by Reuters suggested that the White House had been quickly informed that the attack was coordinated by militants, and was not a spontaneous demonstration set off by an anti-Islam video, as some officials had claimed. A later report by Fox News claimed that requests for backup from intelligence officers on the ground were denied by superiors. While these various accounts have fanned the flames of conservative criticism, experts and administration officials have challenged their accuracy and denied that such conclusions were so clear.
Obama has taken “ultimate” responsibility for the security of U.S. personnel abroad. He's also promised that his administration would mount a full probe on the attack and bring those responsible to justice.
In her statement, however, Murkowski appeared to ask the president to provide "straight and honest answers" more promptly.
“I strongly encourage the White House to step up and take responsibility for any mistakes made," Murkowski said. "Even more importantly, though, I ask them to step forward with the truth of what happened, didn’t happen and why -- so that the American people have the full story.”
Murkowski joins a chorus of Republican colleagues criticizing the administration's handling of the incident and its aftermath.
Over the weekend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) compared the controversy to Watergate, suggesting that it may have been even worse due to the loss of life in Benghazi. A number of other Republicans, including surrogates for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have sought to score political points on the issue, using recent reports to suggest that the Obama administration hung U.S. personnel out to dry, and then deliberately covered up the evidence.