United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice has denied she tried to mislead Congress about the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya in calling it a "spontaneous" protest, saying she was acting on the best information she had.
In a letter to Republican senators released Friday, Rice said she "consistently qualified, in some instances twice, the information I provided as preliminary" when she went on television and said the attack on the consulate was the result of an anti-Muslim film. U.S. officials subsequently labeled the Sept. 11 assault that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans an act of terrorism linked to Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
"In my Sept. 16 Sunday show appearances, I was asked to provide the administration's latest understanding of what happened in Benghazi," Rice wrote. "In answering, I relied solely and squarely on the information the intelligence community provided to me and other senior U.S. officials, including through the daily intelligence briefings that present the latest reporting and analysis to policy makers. This information represented the intelligence community's best, current assessment as of the date of my television appearances, and I went out of my way to ensure it was consistent with the information that was being given to Congress."
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Rice said the “best information at present” indicated the attack in Benghazi, Libya was a "spontaneous reaction" to the film.
In a joint statement, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said they did not buy Rice's explanation.
"The Obama administration failed to sufficiently protect our consulate and diplomats in Benghazi in the face of obvious and growing threats in eastern Libya in the months leading up to the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack," they said. "To make matters worse, the administration mishandled its response to the attack and appears to have selected intelligence that mischaracterized the attack and misled the American people. "
The senators said U.S. intelligence officials knew and informed the administration within hours that those who committed the assault were linked to Al-Qaeda.
"Either the Obama administration is misleading Congress and the American people, or it is blaming the entire failure on the intelligence community," the senators said. They added the administration's conduct after the attack "indicates a breathtaking level of incompetence."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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