Kerry says he’ll answer questions on Benghazi

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he’s determined to answer any questions related to the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, as House Speaker John Boehner pushed for more information from the Obama administration.

The day after a lengthy House committee hearing on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, Kerry told reporters as he traveled overseas that anyone culpable of wrongdoing will be dealt with appropriately. But he said he was withholding judgment on testimony in Congress suggesting that senior State Department officials were pressured or demoted for objecting to the administration’s initial and since-debunked explanations for the attacks.

After an independent Accountability Review Board in December found systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies in the State Department, four employees in the Near East Affairs and Diplomatic Security sections resigned or were reassigned.

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died when insurgents attacked the facility and a nearby CIA station in assaults several hours apart.

Top administration officials first said the attacks grew out of spontaneous protests over an American-made, anti-Islamic video circulating on the Internet. But they later acknowledged the attackers were well-equipped terrorists carrying out what appeared to be a planned operation.

Boehner on Thursday asked President Barack Obama to direct the State Department to release internal emails, sent the day after the Benghazi assault, that dealt with the cause for the attacks. He told reporters one email from a senior State Department official to her superiors said “that she had told the Libyan ambassador the attack was conducted by Islamic terrorists.” Boehner said the State Department “would not allow our committees to keep copies of this email when it was reviewed.”

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters Thursday the department was following up directly with the House leadership and members about Boehner’s request.

Boehner and others have sharply criticized the administration’s initial description of the Benghazi attacks. Five days after the attack, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on Sunday TV talk shows and cited the protests in statements that have been widely discredited.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper told a Senate panel earlier this year that the criticism was unfair because Rice was “going on what we were giving her.” Officials in the intelligence community have said they were responsible for substantive changes in the talking points provided to Rice.

Boehner said an interim report by Republicans on five House committees suggests otherwise.

“Our committees’ interim report quotes specific emails where the White House and State Department insist on removing all references to a terrorist attack to protect the State Department from criticism for providing inadequate security,” Boehner said. “Congress will continue to investigate this issue, using all of the resources at our disposal.”

The White House dismissed Boehner’s call for release of the document, with spokesman Eric Schultz saying the administration has cooperated sufficiently with Congress.

“This administration has made extraordinary efforts to work with the five congressional committees investigating the Benghazi attacks — including, over the past eight months, testifying in what is now 11 congressional hearings, holding 20 staff briefings, and providing over 25,000 pages of documents,” Schultz said.