Story Summary

US Ambassador to Libya, 3 Others Killed in Rocket Attack

Libya’s prime minister apologizes to the American people for the “cowardly act.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton names a second victim as Sean Smith.

“Criminals” burned and ransacked the U.S. Consulate, a Libyan official says.

Ambassador grew up in Davis area and Northern California

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Benghazi Libya Consulate aftermath

Damage at the Benghazi, Libya U.S. consulate. Arwa Damon and team were there 3 days after the attack. Photos show smoke and fire damage emerging from windows, rubble and damage inside the building, blood smears in the bathroom, hand prints on the wall of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ bedroom. (Courtesy: Arwa Damon Team/CNN)


U.S. special forces working with the FBI captured a key suspect in the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khatallah was captured over the weekend near Benghazi, U.S. officials said. His is the first arrest and detention by the United States in connection with the Benghazi attack.

Abu Khatallah will be brought to U.S. soil to face charges “in the coming days,” said Edward Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Abu Khatallah, who faces three federal criminal charges, will be tried in U.S. courts, said Attorney General Eric Holder.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens died in the September 11, 2012, attack, which became a political flashpoint.

“We retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days,” Holder said. “Even as we begin the process of putting (Abu) Khatallah on trial and seeking his conviction before a jury, our investigation will remain ongoing as we work to identify and arrest any co-conspirators.”

Abu Khatallah is now being held in a location outside Libya, officials said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said there were no civilian casualties in the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have departed safely from Libya.

Hillary Clinton’s response

The Benghazi incident raised questions about security measures at the compound, and whether President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had heeded warnings about possible assaults. Those questions still endure, especially as Clinton is perceived as considering a run for the presidency in 2016.

At a CNN town hall meeting Tuesday, Clinton said she was “very pleased” with the arrest of Abu Khatallah, whom she described as “the leader of the attack against Benghazi.”

But she acknowledged the grief or anger felt by families of the four Americans who were killed and said she empathized with the relatives. One mother, Pat Smith, delivered a message to Clinton through CNN earlier in the day demanding answers about prior security concerns at the Benghazi consulate.

“I totally relate to her as a mother — or any of the mothers of the four Americans that night. I can see why they’re inconsolable,” Clinton said.

“I’m still looking for answers,” Clinton added. “We’re doing our best we can to find out what happened.

“Now that we have Khatallah in custody, hopefully we will learn more from (that) perspective,” she said.

Clinton said she wants to know what was behind the attack. “It was, after all, the fog of war,” she said.

Alleged mastermind

Obama described Abu Khatallah as allegedly “one of the masterminds of the attack.”

“It’s a message to the world, that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice. Regardless how long it takes, we will find you,” Obama said.

“Our diplomats serve with incredible courage and valor in some very difficult situations. They need to know that this country has their back and will always go after anybody who goes after us,” Obama said.

In a statement Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel praised the service members who captured the suspect for their “unrelenting commitment to hold accountable those who harm American citizens.”

“Their tireless efforts may only be known to a few but are felt by all Americans who are proud of what they do every day to defend this nation,” Hagel said.

Last year, federal prosecutors filed sealed charges against Abu Khatallah in the Benghazi attacks, in which scores of militants using rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons assaulted the compound.

On Tuesday, a federal judge unsealed the charges, which accuse Abu Khatallah of killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility with a firearm and dangerous weapon, and of attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death.

The charges, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, also accuse him of discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.


Abu Khatallah is undergoing intelligence interviews before he is brought to the United States in the coming days, according to U.S. officials. Such interviews typically are done by the FBI-led High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG team, that includes agents from the FBI, CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said, however, he believed Abu Khatallah should be tried in Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba that the Obama administration is now trying to shutter.

“I’d bring him to Guantanamo. Where else can you take him to?” McCain said.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, disagreed with McCain and others who suggested the suspect should go to Guantanamo.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” he told reporters when asked on his way into a policy luncheon. “We go to Guantanamo, the rest of the world says, ‘How can you lecture us about secret prisons?’”

Leahy said, “We go to our federal courts, we show the rest of the world we’re brave, we can do it. We don’t have to run and hide. I like our justice system.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden ruled out Guantanamo as a holding facility for Abu Khatallah, citing how Obama hasn’t added any detainee to the U.S. base in Cuba since he took office.

She cited the successful prosecutions of terrorists in U.S. courts such as the aspiring Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, so-called underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and al Qaeda propagandist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was also Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law.

Mother wants answers

Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, a State Department information officer who died in the Benghazi attack, told CNN Tuesday that she is still unsatisfied with U.S. responses on why the consulate wasn’t given additional protection when it asked.

“Why did they deny him the security they asked for over eight times?” Smith said.

“Why can’t they just give me an answer on something?”

She said the blame belongs to Clinton.

Earlier this year, Clinton said the deaths of Americans in Libya was her biggest regret during the four years she headed the State Department.

“My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi,” Clinton said in January at a National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans. “It was a terrible tragedy losing four Americans — two diplomats and — now it is public so I can say — two CIA operatives.”

An ardent critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, called for a delay to criminal prosecution and said Abu Khatallah should be interrogated for intelligence.

“We should have some quality time with this guy. Weeks and months. Don’t torture him, but have some quality time with him,” Graham said. “I’m glad they caught the gentleman and at the end of the day I hope we gather intelligence through the law of war and interrogation.

“If they bring him to the United States, they’re going to Mirandize this guy and it would be a mistake for the ages to read this guy his Miranda rights,” Graham said.

CNN interview with suspect

Republican lawmakers, who have accused the Obama administration of a political cover-up over Benghazi, have regularly criticized the Justice Department for failing to bring Abu Khatallah to justice even as he taunted U.S. authorities in meeting with CNN’s Arwa Damon at a well-known luxury hotel in Benghazi in May 2013.

During a two-hour interview without cameras, Abu Khatallah provided a rambling account of the Benghazi attacks and even defended al Qaeda.

Abu Khatallah didn’t deny he was there the night of the consulate attack.

“Is this a journalistic interview or an interrogation?” he told CNN when asked about his role.

CNN: “It’s a journalistic interview.”

Abu Khatallah: “The way that you are asking is like an interrogation, I have experience with interrogations.”

CNN: “What time did you arrive?”

Abu Khatallah: “I can’t tell you exactly.”

At another point, Abu Khatallah stated about the consulate: “I didn’t know where the place was. When I heard, we went to examine the situation. When we withdrew and there was shooting with medium guns, and there were RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) in the air and people panicked, we tried to control traffic.”

But he said by the time he entered the compound, everyone had withdrawn. Abu Khatallah also claimed in the interview that Ambassador Stevens suffocated because he was trying to burn important documents.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki referred Tuesday to how a reporter had contact with the suspect a year ago.

“The comparison to the fact that a member of the media, with all due respect, had contact with or interviewed this individual is not relevant,” Psaki said. “Frankly, it is not a surprise that an individual like this would show up for an interview. We don’t think they would show up for a scheduled meeting with the special forces. So obviously it is more challenging to undertake our operations.”

Pentagon spokesman Kirby was asked whether there had been other attempts to capture Abu Khatallah.

“The presumption in the question is that you know he was going to McDonald’s for milkshakes every Friday night, and we could have just picked him up in a taxicab. I mean these people deliberately try to evade capture,” Kirby said.

A capture takes a lot of planning, Kirby said.

“I don’t think anybody is going to apologize for the effort over such a long period of time that eventually led to his capture,” Kirby said.

Security controversy

Last January, a Senate Intelligence Committee report on Benghazi said the panel’s majority believed that attack was “likely preventable” based on known security shortfalls at the facility and prior warnings.

In early May, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pressed questions about the administration’s handling of consulate security and announced he would form a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. Boehner’s announcement came after previously unreleased documents, including an e-mail from a White House national security aide, raised questions about what the Obama administration knew about the armed assault and how it responded in the days after.

The attack occurred 11 years to the day after the terror attacks on U.S. soil that killed 2,977 people. The diplomatic mission was assaulted and burned, and later that night mortar and rocket fire was directed against a U.S. diplomatic annex in the city.

The attack was first portrayed as violence by an angry mob responding to a video made in the U.S. that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, but officials later determined that it was a terrorist attack.

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An independent review of the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi released Tuesday cited “management deficiencies” at high levels of the State Department.

The attack left four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens,dead.

“Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” the report read.

It said “there was no protest prior to the attacks,” which the report described as “unanticipated in their scale and intensity.”

The report also cited as “inadequate” the Bureau of Diplomatic Security security staff in Benghazi on the day of the attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it, “despite repeated requests from Special Mission Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing.”

Before the report was released, a source who had read it told CNN that senior management in charge of diplomatic security “does not come out well at all.”

Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell is the head of diplomatic security, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb oversaw State Department decisions on security at the diplomatic outpost. Lamb testified before Congress about the security precautions; documents show Lamb denied repeated requests for additional security in Libya.

The Accountability Review Board completed its investigation into the matter this week and sent a copy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for review. A classified version of the report was delivered Tuesday afternoon to members and staff of the committees on Capitol Hill that have jurisdiction over the State Department.

The unclassified version was released Tuesday night.

Veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, both members of the review board, will brief members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees in a classified setting about the report on Wednesday.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Tuesday that Clinton, who is home recovering from a stomach virus and concussion, wrote a letter to members of Congress that will accompany the report being sent to Capitol Hill.

Clinton ordered the review in the aftermath of the attack. Such reports are mandated by Congress when Americans working on behalf of the United States government are killed overseas.

Read more: Benghazi attack back in the spotlight

In a notice sent to all State Department employees Tuesday, the department explained how the report would be implemented once it was released.

“To implement the Board’s recommendations, the Secretary has directed the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources to lead the implementation team, supported by the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the Under Secretary for Management, the Director General of the Foreign Service, the Executive Secretary and the Deputy Legal Advisor,” the notice said.

Employees were told that the implementation team had met Tuesday and would continue to do so regularly to implement the recommendations of the board.

The politics surrounding the events that led to the report have claimed one political casualty, with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice last week pulling her name from consideration to succeed Clinton. Some Republican senators had said they would put a hold on her nomination if President Barack Obama had submitted it, based on comments Rice made in the days after the attack.

In place of Clinton, Deputy Secretaries of State William Burns and Thomas Nides will testify before the House and Senate committees Thursday.

™ & ©2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

National & World News

Clinton: I’m Responsible for Diplomats’ Security

LIMA, Peru-

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday tried to douse a political firestorm over the deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, saying she’s responsible for the security of American diplomatic outposts.

“I take responsibility,” Clinton told CNN in an interview while on a visit to Peru. “I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.”

But she said an investigation now under way will ultimately determine what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed on September 11.

“I take this very personally,” Clinton said. “So we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and then we’re going to do everything we can to work to prevent it from happening again, and then we’re going to work to bring whoever did this to us to justice.”

The attack took place in the eastern Libyan city that was the cradle of that country’s 2011 revolution. Obama administration officials initially blamed a mob inflamed by a U.S.-produced movie that mocked Islam and its Prophet Mohammed, but later said the storming of the consulate appears to have been a terrorist attack.

With criticism growing, Vice President Joe Biden said during last week’s vice presidential debate that the White House did not know of requests to enhance security at Benghazi, contradicting testimony by State Department employees that requests had been made and rejected. After the debate, the White House said the vice president did not know of the requests because they were handled, as is the practice, by the State Department.

“In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there’s always going to be confusion,” Clinton said. “And I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. As time has gone on, that information has changed. We’ve gotten more detail, but that’s not surprising. That always happens.”

She added, “What I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game.”

“I know that we’re very close to an election,” Clinton said. “I want to just take a step back here and say from my own experience, we are at our best as Americans when we pull together. I’ve done that with Democratic presidents and Republican presidents.”

Her remarks drew a quick response from three Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, including ranking member John McCain.

Clinton’s statement of responsibility was “a laudable gesture, especially when the White House is trying to avoid any responsibility whatsoever,” the Arizona senator said in a joint broadside with Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. However, they added, “The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the commander-in-chief. The buck stops there.”

Stevens, State Department computer expert Sean Smith and security contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died in the Benghazi assault, which State Department officials now say was the work of dozens of armed men.

Clinton also described a desperate scene in the State Department during the hours of the attack, as staff tried to find out what had happened.

“This was a many-hour ordeal that we were all involved in, and I was deeply concerned as you would obviously assume, to hear about an attack,” she said. Not only was the picture coming out of Libya murky, but also, “Then we couldn’t find Ambassador Stevens, and we were trying desperately to figure out what happened to him and to Sean Smith and to the others who were there.”

Clinton said her mission now is to make sure such an attack will never happen again, and also to ensure the work of American diplomats won’t be stopped even in dangerous areas like Benghazi.

“We can’t retreat. We have to continue to lead. We have to be engaged,” she said. “We can’t hang out behind walls.” She said Stevens, who came to Benghazi on a cargo ship to start building ties with rebel leaders during last year’s revolt, “knew that more than anybody.”

™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


Actors in the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims” are weighing options to file a lawsuit against the filmmaker, saying they were duped by the man who has a criminal past.


TRIPOLI, Libya — Four people have been arrested in connection with the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, the top aide to the president of the parliament said Friday.


Ambassador Chris Stevens lived in Davis as a child. Tia Ewing reports.

This video was published to YouTube in May 2012 as an introduction of Chris Stevens to Libya, where he was starting his ambassadorship.

Meet Chris Stevens, US Ambassador to Libya, and learn about his unique connection to the Arab world. تقديم السفير الأمريكي الي ليبيا السيد كريس ستيفنز التقي مع السفير الأمريكي الي ليبيا السيد كريس ستيفنز وتعرف علي علاقته المميزة والفريدة بالعالم العربي

Local News

Killed Ambassador Grew up in Davis, Bay Area


An ambassador killed Tuesday during an attack on the US Consulate in Libya grew up in Davis and the Bay Area.

J. Christopher Stevens was among the four Americans killed in the rocket attack on the consulate building in the city of Benghazi.

Stevens lived in Davis in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, attending Pioneer Elementary School and Emerson Junior High School.

He then moved to the Bay Area, attending Piedmont High School and graduating in 1978.

Stevens then went to the University of California, Berkeley, for undergraduate studies before joining the Peace Corps.

He arrived in Libya as ambassador from the US in May 2012. Stevens has served various overseas missions as part of the US Foreign Service, several in the Middle East.

Stevens is the first sitting ambassador to be killed while serving since 1979.

In addition to Stevens, an information officer Sean Smith, and two Marines also died in Tuesday’s attack.


U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday strongly condemned the killing of the United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, in a rocket attack on the U.S. Consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesday.

He called the attack “outrageous,” and confirmed that four Americans, including Stevens, were killed.

“Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States,” Obama said.

Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979.

Libya’s Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib apologized “to the American people and the government, and also to the rest of the world” for the “cowardly criminal act.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified a second victim as Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer who was a ten-year veteran of the State Department, a husband and a father of two.

The two other victims have not been named.

An “angry crowd” marched on the consulate on Tuesday, furious about an online film considered offensive to Islam, Libya’s Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said Wednesday. The U.S. mission in Egypt was also attacked Tuesday in response to the film.

Al-Sharif said that consulate security staff opened fire when they heard gunfire outside the mission.

“This led to more anger and this is when the consulate was stormed,” he said, suggesting that there were elements loyal to the regime of deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi aiming to create chaos among the protesters.

“Criminals managed to get in and they burned and ransacked the consulate,” he said.

The U.S. mission is very badly damaged and was being looted on Wednesday, said a contractor working at the mission, who asked not to be named for security reasons.

He said he saw the bodies of all four Americans on the street Wednesday morning.

Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said Stevens was “a friend of Libya, and we are shocked at the the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.”

“I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere,” Abushagur said on Twitter.

The contractor in Benghazi said he could hear rocket-propelled grenade attacks Tuesday night.

Libyans were also killed, the contractor said, saying the victims were shot on the spot.

The bodies of the four Americans are now at Benghazi airport, the contractor said, citing the Libyan minister of foreign affairs and a top immigration official in Benghazi.

Libya’s governing party condemned the attack as a “criminal and cowardly act” and vowed to “track down the perpetrators and to maintain the country’s security and the safety and security of its guests,” Libya’s official LANA news agency reported.

Stevens was the American envoy to the Libyan rebel movement that overthrew Gadhafi last year, based in the rebel capital of Benghazi.

Friends say he loved Libya and had a deep affinity for the Libyan people, enjoying heading out into the field and getting to know people.

A speaker of Arabic and French, he was among the first American diplomats sent to Libya in 2007 when the United States resumed ties with the Gadhafi regime.

The last time an American ambassador was killed by terrorists was in 1979, when the envoy to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, was kidnapped and killed during an attempt to rescue him, according to State Department records.

Stevens is the sixth U.S. ambassador to die by violence in the line of service. Two others have been killed in plane crashes.

CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Jomana Karadsheh, Elise Labott , Lesa Jansen, Saad Abedine, Mariano Castillo and Kirsten Dewar contributed to this report.