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Sharp Criticism, Some Words In Defense At Hearing On Benghazi Attack

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Two very different views from two different witnesses today as the House House Oversight and Government Reform Committee opened its probe into the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

From Utah National Guard Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Special Forces soldier who was Site Security Team commander in Libya from Feb. 12 to Aug. 14:

"The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there. The situation remained uncertain and reports from some Libyans indicated it was getting worse. Diplomatic security remained weak. In April there was only one U.S. diplomatic security agent stationed there. The RSO [regional security officer] struggled to obtain additional personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with."

From Eric Allan Nordstrom, supervisory special agent with the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security:

"In Benghazi, the Government of Libya through the 17th February Brigade provided us consistent armed security since the very earliest days of the revolution. A core unit of 17th February Brigade was housed at our compound. ...

"While I'd love to have had a large secured building and tons of security personnel in Benghazi, the fact is that the system we had in place was regularly tested and appeared to work as planned despite high turnover of DS [diplomatic security] agents on the ground."

Nordstrom also offered "personal condolences to the families of these four patriots who gave their lives in the service of their country."

The committee's hearing is being webcast here.

Meanwhile, as The Associated Press reports:

"The committee hearing followed assertions Tuesday night by the State Department that it never concluded that the Sept. 11 attack stemmed from protests over an American-made video ridiculing Islam. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in what the administration now says was a terrorist attack.

"Asked about the administration's initial — and since retracted — explanation linking the violence to protests over the anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet, one official said, 'That was not our conclusion.' "

NPR's Michele Kelemen is due to have much more about today's hearing on All Things Considered later today. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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