UN Ambassador Susan Rice defended comments she made after the September 11th attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, which have drawn continuing criticism from Republicans.
UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Wednesday defended her remarks on a September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to the North African nation.
Republicans have criticized Rice, seen as a possible nominee to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for appearing on several TV talk shows five days after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi and saying that preliminary information suggested the assault was the result of protests over an anti-Muslim film, rather than a premeditated strike.
“I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers," Rice told reporters at the United Nations in her first comments on the controversy.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in the attack, which has raised questions about security of diplomatic missions, U.S. intelligence about the threat, and the adequacy of the immediate response.
"Everyone, particularly the intelligence community, has worked in good faith, to provide the best assessment based on the information available," Rice said. "None of us will rest ... until we have the answer and the terrorists responsible for this attack will be brought to the justice."
Senate Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham vowed last week to oppose any attempt by President Barack Obama to elevate Rice to a Cabinet position that would require Senate confirmation.
Rice said that while she had "great respect" for McCain, some statements that he made about her "are unfounded" and that she looked forward to have an opportunity to discuss the issue with him.
The White House has also said that Rice's comments were based on the best information she had at the time.
Sen. Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Sunday that the Rice had been "using the unclassified talking points which were provided by the intelligence community."
NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell contributed to this report from Reuters.
Intelligence officials say they knew it was terrorist attack from the beginning, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was given unclassified talking points that were deliberately vague. But Republican critics say that helped mislead the public. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
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