US officials denied security before Libyan attack

US officials sought more security before Benghazi attack that killed US ambassador.

The late US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens with Libyan President Mahmoud el-Megarif. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - US officials in Libya asked repeatedly for more security at their mission in Benghazi before the September 11 attack that killed four Americans there, but Washington denied the requests, leaders of a congressional committee said on Tuesday.

US Representatives Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding details of the requests for more security.

They said the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold an October 10 hearing on the Benghazi attack.

"Multiple US federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the US mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi," Issa and Chaffetz wrote.

"The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington," the Republican lawmakers said.

Issa is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Chaffetz oversees its subcommittee on national security, homeland defence, and foreign operations.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the assault on the mission the evening of September 11. Last Friday, the top US intelligence authority declared it believed this was a "deliberate and organized terrorist attack."

Debate over whether the Democratic Obama administration was caught unprepared by an assault by militant groups has become US election-year fodder.

Republicans have criticised initial statements by administration officials, including US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who suggested the attacks were protests against an anti-Muslim film.

The White House referred questions on the lawmakers' letter to the State Department. The department has declined to comment on most aspects of the security situation in Benghazi, pending an FBI probe and a special department review panel.

Stevens died of smoke inhalation when he was trapped alone inside the burning consulate in Benghazi. Another diplomat, Sean Smith, and two US security personnel were also killed.

Issa and Chaffetz said the attack was the "latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to" the assault.

Their letter said unarmed Libyan guards employed at the Benghazi mission were warned by their family members to quit their jobs in the weeks before the assault, "because there were rumours in the community of an impending attack."

"Please detail any requests made by embassy Tripoli to the State Department headquarters for additional security, whether in general or in light of specific attacks," as well as the department's response, the lawmakers wrote to Clinton, asking for a response by next Monday.