In advance of the panel’s first closed-door Benghazi hearing this week, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the administration should have known the consulate assault was a terrorist attack the minute rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were used.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on Fox News Sunday she still needs to go through thousands of pages of documents, but noted that the five prior incidents in Libya this year alone “aren’t intelligence, they are not threats.”
“They are actual attacks on the British ambassador, on our consulate once before, on a number of other things, on the United States missions. Now, that, to me, is sufficient intelligence to make a decision,” she said. “Now — so we want to see what the extenuating circumstances are, that the security wasn’t beefed by us, if it couldn’t be beefed up by the Libyans or we didn’t close down the consulate.”
Feinstein said she didn’t think the waffling on the nature of the Sept. 11 attack had to do with politics, but “something to do with our assessment.”
“My view is very simple and very direct. The minute you know mortars were used, the minute you know RPGs are used, it’s either a terrorist attack or it’s a military attack. Those are the only two things it could be,” the senator said. “What is a terrorist? It isn’t necessarily all one thing. A terrorist uses the attack as a vehicle and we all know that now. Therefore, it is pretty clear the minute mortars show up and RPGs show up, you have a terrorist attack.”
“Prior incidents give me a good assessment of whether there is a high likelihood, so that the assessment can be with confidence. And, I think that assessment could have been made earlier on, with confidence,” she added.
Feinstein said she has concerns that after the attack “changes were made but the changes were not major” for security at U.S. installations.
“I went to the memorial service in San Francisco for Chris Stevens. The Libyan ambassador to the United States spoke and twice during his remarks, he said, ‘I am so sorry that we could not protect your consulate’ — which is a total admission that the Libyan government was incapable of protecting our facilities,” she said. “This raises a major question for the future. We have 285 embassies and consulates over the world. And, the threats pour in. What do we do?”