Yesterday, the bodies of the four Americans killed in the attack on a temporary U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone S. Woods, and Glen A. Doherty, arrived at Joint Base Andrews, where President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were on hand to memorialize them. In an emotional statement, Clinton remembered Stevens, who she knew personally, and went on to say that, “We will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines and face the future undaunted.”
“The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob,” she said. “Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts.”
Of those killed, Obama said, “They knew the danger, and they accepted it. They didn’t simply embrace the American ideal; they lived it, they embodied it.” Later, he added, “Even in our grief we will be resolute, for we are Americans.” Today, in his weekly radio address, the President took a more forceful tone, saying, “There is no excuse for attacks on our embassies and consulates. And so long as I am commander-in-chief, the United States will never tolerate efforts to harm our fellow Americans” and promising, “Right now, we are doing whatever we can to protect Americans who are serving abroad.”
Meanwhile, officials in the United States and abroad are still working to get to the bottom of what happened. Following the Thursday arrest of four men in connection with the attack , U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that “there is no intelligence indicating this was premeditated,” and that the group believed behind the incident — Ansar al-Sharia — was not affiliated with Al Qaeda. This statement contrasted with early reports that said the presence of rocket-propelled grenades and other rather advanced weapons indicated that the attack was not the result of the widely condemned Innocence of Muslims video but, rather, a planned Al Qaeda operation in response to a successful drone strike in Pakistan.
Not so, says British newspaper The Independent, which yesterday cited “senior diplomatic sources” and “American officials” who said that the U.S. State Department had “credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and ‘lockdown,’ under which movement is severely restricted.”
After all, Stevens’ presence in Benghazi was a closely kept secret, as was the location of a safe house used by evacuated consular staff, which later come under mortar attack. (Sensitive papers listing the names of Libyans helping the U.S. government were also taken from the consulate.) Earlier today, Libya’s President Mohamed al-Magariaf joined the conversation, telling Al Jazeera that the attacks were, he believed, Al Qaeda’s doing: “If you take into account the weapons used like RPGs and other heavy weapons, it proves that it was pre-planned. It’s a dirty act of revenge that has nothing to do with religion.”