Susan Rice defends initial comments on Benghazi

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, defended her early account the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, responding to critics who say she gave misleading information about the nature of the attack and the motive behind it.

Rice said Wednesday she "relied solely and squarely" in preliminary information given to her by the intelligence committee shortly after the assault that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

Asked about her initial comments by CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk at the U.N., Rice said she "made clear that the information was preliminary, and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers. Everyone has worked in good faith to provide the best assessment based on info available."

She also said the FBI and the State Department were still investigating the attacks on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

"They will look into all aspects of this heinous terrorist attack, to provide what will become the definitive accounting of what occurred," she said.

Rice appeared on CBS News' "Face the Nation" five days after the September assault and suggested that there was no evidence the incident was a pre-planned act of terrorism. She said the violence appeared to be a spontaneous flare-up by protesters enraged over an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

The White House later scrapped that theory and said the assault was actually a calculated terrorist attack.

Rice has been under the microscope in recent days because she has been mentioned as President Barack Obama's potential choice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Her Benghazi remarks drew fire from Republicans who accused the ambassador of misleading the American people. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsay Graham were particularly critical of Rice, saying she did not deserve the promotion and could not be trusted.

Rice said that she respects Sen. McCain, but found his criticism to be "unfounded" and said looks forward to the opportunity to discuss all of this with him.

"Let me end by saying I knew Chris Stevens," Rice added. "I worked closely with him and had the privilege of doing so as we tried together, as a government, to free the Libyan people from the tyranny of Qaddafi. He was a valued colleague, and his loss, as well as the loss of his three colleagues, is a massive tragedy for all of us who serve in the U.S. government, and for all the American people.

  • Sara Dover On Twitter»

    Sara Dover is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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