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Administration, GOP chairman spar before debate

Updated 7:01 PM ET

WASHINGTON The Obama administration and a House Republican chairman aren't waiting for Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy to begin a contentious argument over U.S. policy in Libya.

Administration officials complained Saturday that the GOP's release of 166 pages of documents Friday on the security situation in Benghazi threatens the lives of several Libyans who are named in the documents and who worked with the U.S.

U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 in what the administration now says was a terrorist attack.

The documents were released by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman. Issa held a hearing this month in which a State Department official acknowledged she declined requests from U.S. officials in Benghazi for more security. The official, Charlene Lamb, said she believed before the attacks that security at the Benghazi consulate was sufficient.

The administration officials said those named could be in danger in Benghazi, a city with known al Qaeda sympathizers like the militant group Ansar al-Shariah, which is suspected of carrying out the attack.

Two administration officials said Issa failed to ask the State Department to review the documents for sensitive information before releasing them to the public. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be quoted publicly on matters related to the ongoing investigation of the attack.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on Issa's committee, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined in the criticism.

Frederick Hill, Issa's spokesman, said the documents were given to State Department officials and Cummings almost two weeks ago.

"That Cummings and State Department officials did not express specific concerns about Libyans mentioned in these unclassified documents obtained by the committee until three days before the presidential debate on foreign policy is telling," Hill said. He added the department has yet to directly contact the committee with any requests for specific redactions to the documents.

Hill added that the committee did make redactions in the documents, and the Libyan individuals mentioned in the records worked in positions where their interactions with westerners would not be surprising.

Kerry said in a statement, "It's bad enough that it's becoming a political sideshow presumably driven by the calendar of Monday's upcoming presidential debate, but even worse is that in their rush to make news they've exposed Libyans who were working side by side with America."

Cummings added, "There was absolutely no reason for Rep. Issa to do this other than an obviously partisan attempt to affect the upcoming presidential debate. He did not take even the most basic precautions of checking with security experts, intelligence officials, or his own committee members before he rushed to make these documents public."