Republicans demand answers amid ongoing confusion surrounding Libya attacks

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks with Bob Schieffer on the September 16th edition of "Face the Nation."
CBS
(CBS News) Amid conflicting reports over how and when the Obama administration determined that the recent attacks in Libya may have been acts of terrorism, and allegations that the White House may have knowingly mischaracterized the events in their aftermath, a handful of Republican lawmakers are blasting the administration's response and demanding additional information about how the attacks unfolded.

The Washington Post on Thursday published a timeline of the White House responses over the last two weeks, from the initial claims that the attacks were the result of protests over the anti-Muslim video, to the Tuesday admission that the four Americans killed in the violence were victims of a "terrorist attack on our embassy," to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's suggestion on Wednesday that al Qaeda or other similar terrorist groups may have somehow figured into the attacks.

In the aftermath of the incident, some have questioned the security measures in Benghazi that allowed the attacks to penetrate the American embassy - leading to the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya - as well as the White House's explanation of how the events unfolded.

On Wednesday, the Daily Beast published a report suggesting that U.S. officials knew terrorists were behind the attacks within 24 hours - even while members of the administration were still publicly tying them to the video.

Even now that the Obama administration says the attacks were the work of terrorists, it maintains there is no evidence to suggest the attacks were "pre-planned" or "well-coordinated." And President Obama has not personally used the word "terrorism" or "terrorist" in relation to the Benghazi attack.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the handling of the situation "unbelievable," and argued that believing the attacks could have been a spontaneous response to an American-made anti-Muslim video demonstrated "incredible naiveté."

"Like they say, 'Come on honey, bring your mortars, we're going to a spontaneous demonstration," he said Thursday in an interview with "CBS This Morning," of the notion that the violence escalated from an impromptu demonstration outside of the consulate building. "It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of warfare and what's going on in that part of the world."

"It was obvious...this was a planned attack," he argued. "Anybody who understands warfare knows that is not a spontaneous demonstration... They carried heavy weapons, mortars, RPGs."

A handful of House Republican lawmakers are demanding specific answers from the administration and on Wednesday sent Mr. Obama a letter saying as much. The letter, signed by eight House committee chairs, suggested that the administration had misled the American people "to believe this attack was a protest gone wrong, rather than what it truly was - a terrorist attack on the United States on the anniversary of 9/11" - an idea they said they were "disturbed" by.

"We are seeking additional information regarding the intelligence leading up to the attack, the security posture of our embassy, the role former Guantanamo Bay detainees may have played, as well as the way forward in Libya and, indeed, the region," the letter read.

Meanwhile, McCain and three other Republican Senators - Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. - sent a letter to Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, demanding an explanation as to "how the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations could characterize an attack on a U.S. consulate so inaccurately five days after a terrorist attack that killed four Americans."

Rice: Paul Ryan's criticism of Obama's foreign policy is "baseless"

"In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, you made several troubling statements that are inconsistent with the facts and require explanation," the senators wrote. "We look forward to a timely response that explains how the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations could characterize an attack on a U.S. consulate so inaccurately five days after a terrorist attack that killed four Americans."

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