Officials from the State Department say that they had never concluded that the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya was prompted by an anti-Muslim film, as the administration initially claimed, according to the Associated Press and ABC News. The news comes as Republicans in Congress are set to hold hearings on Wednesday investigating the attack.
According to State Department officials who spoke anonymously on Tuesday, the day in Benghazi had been a peaceful one, but devolved into an attack involving machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and mortars, The AP reported. When asked about the administration’s since-retracted claim that the attacks had been spontaneous and the result of the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims,” an official said, “that is the question you'd have to ask others, that was not our conclusion," according to The Hill.
According to The Hill, a State Department official said Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack, remained inside the compound in the day leading up to the attack out of prudence. The official said some people were “out in the street in front of the compound, everything is calm at 8:30 p.m., there is nothing unusual - there has been nothing unusual during the day at all outside."
At 9:40 p.m., according to an official, agents inside the compound heard “loud noises coming from the front gate” and “gunfire and explosion," according to The Hill.
The attack resulted in the death of Stevens and three other Americans, and led to widespread questions about security at the U.S. mission in Libya and the administration's handling of the matter after the attack.
On Wednesday, senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs stood by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who said on the Sunday shows shortly after the incident that the attack was brought on by the anti-Islamic video. Gibbs said Rice would never mislead the American public.
“I have no doubt that what Susan Rice said was exactly the intelligence assessments she was provided by the intelligence community in order to prepare for those appearances,” Gibbs said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Nobody wants to get to the bottom of this more than the Obama administration and the White House. We need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect our consulates and our missions across the world.”
When challenged on recent reports that suggest the administration knew otherwise, Gibbs reaffirmed his answer.
“Susan Rice would not have gone out there and in any way tried to deliberately mislead anybody,” Gibbs said. “That certainly would never be the case. Susan Rice was briefed by the intelligence community, and what she was talking about on Meet the Press and on that Sunday was exactly what the intelligence community was telling her.”