The State Department now says it never believed the Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was a film protest gone awry, giving congressional Republicans new fodder for criticizing the Obama administration's initial accounts of the assault. The State Department's extraordinary break with other administration offices came in a department briefing yesterday, where officials said "others" in the executive branch concluded initially that the protest was based, like others in the Middle East, on a film that ridiculed the Prophet Mohammed. That was never the department's conclusion, a senior official told reporters.
The Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing today on diplomatic security in the attack that killed US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Briefing reporters yesterday ahead of the hearing, department officials were asked about the administration's initial—and since retracted—explanation linking the violence to protests over the anti-Muslim film. One official responded, without specifying, that it was a question for others to answer. Today's hearing will include testimony from Eric Nordstrom, the former chief security officer for US diplomats in Libya, who told the committee his pleas for more security in March and July of this year were ignored. (Read more Libya stories.)