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White House releases Benghazi emails

WASHINGTON, May 15 (UPI) — The White House Wednesday released more than 100 pages of emails related to talking points on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The release came a day after White House spokesman Jay Carney accused Republicans of fabricating — or at least misrepresenting — the content of the emails.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice came under fire for her appearances on Sunday talk shows in the immediate aftermath of the attack during which she chalked up the violence to anger toward an anti-Muslim film that had been circulating.

The New York Times reported Democrats and top aides had been urging President Obama to release the emails to knock down Republican charges.

Earlier this week, McClatchy Newspapers reported U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had refused offers of more security before the attack on the consulate.

Why Stevens, who was killed along with three other embassy workers, turned down the offers was unclear, given embassy officials during an Aug. 15 meeting concluded they could not defend the consulate in Benghazi amid deteriorating conditions in the city.

In a cable, the embassy outlined the circumstances and said it would detail what it needed in a separate cable.

“In light of the uncertain security environment, U.S. Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to U.S. Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover,” said the cable, which was first reported by Fox News.

Rather than wait for the second cable, however, Army Gen. Carter Ham, then-commander of the U.S. Africa Command, called Stevens and asked if the embassy needed a special security team, the officials said. Stevens told Ham it did not, the government officials said.

During a meeting several weeks later, Ham again asked Stevens if he wanted additional military security and again Stevens said no, the officials told McClatchy.

“He didn’t say why. He just turned it down,” one official said, speaking anonymously.

McClatchy said the offer of aid and Stevens’ refusal were not revealed in either the State Department’s Accountability Review Board investigation of the Benghazi events or during congressional hearings and reports issued into what happened Sept. 11, 2011, when the consulate was stormed and Stevens and three other diplomatic staffers were killed.

Gregory Hicks, Stevens’ deputy, was not asked about the offer during his appearance before a House of Representatives committee last week, and testimony has not been sought from the now-retired Ham.

Both Hicks and Ham declined to comment, McClatchy said.

“As far as Mr. Hicks knows, the ambassador always wanted more security and they were both frustrated by not getting it,” Hick’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing said.

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, indicated some lawmakers may have known about the Stevens-Ham discussions before last week’s hearing.

“There were certainly robust debates between State and Defense officials over the mission and controlling authority of such forces,” Frederick Hill told McClatchy in an email. “The lack of discussion by the public [Accountability Review Board] report about the role interagency tension played in a lack of security resources remains a significant concern of the oversight committee.”

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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