US ambassador Chris Stevens killed in Libya - as it happened
We're going to wrap up the live blog. Here's a summary of where things stand:
• Basic details of the attack on a US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, , remain unknown. US officials said they don't know how Ambassador Chris Stevens died. It is unclear who carried out the attack, and whether it was planned beforehand, as the White House suspects.
• President Obama paid tribute to Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith and two other Americans killed in Benghazi in a meeting with State Department staff.
• The film said to have incited the anti-US violence appears to have been made without the full cooperation of its actors, one of whom told Gawker she was shocked to learn she had performed in a spoof of Islam. The film was originally not about the Prophet Mohammed but about someone called Master George, she said. The identity of the filmmaker is still unknown.
• The outpost in Benghazi was unguarded by Marines, as all full US embassies are. The Benghazi post was an interim facility with lesser security. Fifty members of an elite Marine guard were deployed to Benghazi Wednesday.
• Mitt Romney drew fire for attacking the White House response to the crisis in Cairo before news had emerged of Stevens' death in Libya. President Obama said Romney "seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later."
• Libyans staged rallies in Tripoli and Benghazi to condemn the attacks on the US outpost. Libya elected its first post-Gaddafi prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur.
Basic facts of Benghazi attack still unknown
points out that the basic facts of the Benghazi attack - who carried it out and why - still are unknown.
Some things we don’t yet know: Who is responsible? A Libya-based extremist group with links to Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility; the Libyan government has pointed fingers at Al Qaeda. Washington has said nothing. Were the Libya and Cairo protests coordinated? There’s no evidence of that.
Was the Benghazi attack part of protests of a Western film perceived as anti-Islamic, or was it planned in advance and just took advantage? , and at least one commentator the killing was in retaliation for a US drone strike in Pakistan.
Benghazi compound was 'interim facility,' lacked embassy-level security
Marines were not posted at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi where Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed because it was “'an interim facility' that the State Department began using 'before the fall of Qadhafi,'” :
The Benghazi consulate had “lock-and-key” security, not the same level of defenses as a formal embassy, an intelligence source told POLITICO. That means it had no bulletproof glass, reinforced doors or other features common to embassies. The intelligence source contrasted it with the American embassy in Cairo, – “a permanent facility, which is a lot easier to defend.” The Cairo embassy also was attacked Tuesday.
References to Islam in film were overdubbed: report
About that "film," "Innocence of Muslims": its every detail seems to disintegrate under the first light of examination.
now reports that every reference in the film to Islam appears to be overdubbed. The film apparently isn't, or wasn't, about Islam at all:
If you watch closely, you can see that when the actors are reading parts of the script that do not contain Islam-specific language, the audio from the sound stage is used (the audio that was recorded as the actors were simultaneously being filmed). But anytime the actors are referring to something specific to the religion (the Prophet Muhammed, the Quran, etc.) the audio recorded during filming is replaced with a poorly executed post-production dub. And if you look EVEN closer, you can see that the actors’ mouths are saying something other than what the dub is saying.
the news organization says was "released on the behalf of the 80 cast and crew members of "Innocence of Muslims" – although who released the statement and how CNN is sure of its authenticity is unclear.
The statement condemns the film and claims the actors were duped:
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose," the statement says. "We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."
Update:has spoken with an actress in the film. She had no idea the movie was a spoof of Islam, she tells him. "It wasn't based on anything to do with religion," she said:
Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress from Bakersfield, Calif., has a small role in the Muhammed movie as a woman whose young daughter is given to Muhammed to marry. But in a phone interview this afternoon, Garcia told us she had no idea she was participating in an offensive spoof on the life of Muhammed when she answered a casting call through an agency last summer and got the part.
The script she was given was titled simplyDesert Warriors.
"It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago," Garcia said. "It wasn't based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn't anything about Muhammed or Muslims or anything."
Senior US officials: No confirmation on how Stevens died
Senior administration officials have delivered a new briefing on the attack in Benghazi. Ambassador Stevens was inside the diplomatic compound at the time of the attack but officials do not know the cause of his death.
My colleague Chris McGreal reports:
Officials said the consulate began taking fire at about 10pm Libya time. Fifteen minutes later, the attackers got past "robust security"- American and Libyan - and into the building, setting it on fire.
Officials said there were three people inside at the time - Stevens, Sean Smith, a state department technician, and an American security guard
The guard escaped but went back into the building to try and find Stevens. He came across Smith, who was already dead, but could not find the ambassador before the guard was driven out by the fire and thick smoke.
About an hour later, American security personnel were able to get back into the consulate but Stevens was gone. US officials said that at some point - although they do not know the time - the ambassador either escaped the consulate or was helped out and was taken to hospital by Libyans. It is not clear if he was alive at that point.
US officials did not discover what happened to Stevens until his body was returned to them at Benghazi airport at about dawn. They say they do not yet know the cause of his death although a doctor at the hospital who treated Stevens said he succumbed to smoke inhalation.
Officials declined to speculate on who was behind the attack or whether it was preplanned or opportunistic. But one said that intelligence of potential attacks on US targets to mark the anniversary of 9/11 did not flag up any warnings in Benghazi.
An official also said that a Libyan militia, formed during the revolution, came to the defense of the US consulate.
Libyan congress elects new prime minister
Before the attack in Benghazi, the big news out of Libya today was to have been the election of a new prime minister, Dr. Mustafa Abushagur.
In a general national congress vote Abushagur, formerly the deputy prime minister, won out over Mahmoud Jibril, who was foreign minister in the post-Gaddafi transitional council.
Obama: 'Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later'
President Obama has criticized Mitt Romney for making what the president said were premature attacks on the White House over its handling of the overseas crisis.
"Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later," Obama said. "As president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that."
Reuters' Matthew Keys captured the audio of the CBS special report. Obama begins speaking at :56.
Libyans rally in Benghazi to condemn attack
In addition to the rally in Tripoli, Libyans gathered in Benghazi today to condemn the attack on the US diplomats. on Facebook is collecting images ():
Obama meets with State Department staff
President Obama and Secretary Clinton met with State Department employees after speaking to them about the life and service of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues.
Gen. Dempsey calls Florida pastor
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey has called Terry Jones, the Florida-based pastor and provocateur, to ask him to disavow the film "Innocence of Muslims," ABC News reports.
Jones' promotion of the film in a Sept. 11 ceremony apparently fed outrage that produced yesterday's attacks on US diplomatic outposts.
Jones is known for promoting anti-Islamic spectacles. His threats to burn Qurans in 2010 led to an international outcry and deadly riots in Afghanistan.
Robert Gates, then the Defense Secretary, called Jones at the time to dissuade him.
Gallup: Libyan approval of US among highest ever recorded
Libyan officials are at pains to emphasize that the attackers on the Benghazi compound were extremists who do not represent the views of the Libyan government or people.
"This attack in no way serves the interests of the people or the Libyan authorities, and cannot be considered a defense of Islam," Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, . "Moreover, this attack gravely damages the image of Islam."
found approval of the United States among Libyans to be among the highest levels ever recorded in the Middle East / North Africa region:
As Libya faces enormous challenges in establishing security and laying the groundwork for a stable and prosperous state, Gallup surveys show Libyans are reaching out to the West for increased partnership. The U.S. in particular has an excellent opportunity to build a mutually beneficial, productive relationship with Libya for the first time in decades and could potentially find itself with a new, democratic ally in North Africa. A majority of Libyans (54%) surveyed in March and April 2012 approve of the leadership of the U.S.-- among the highest approval Gallup has ever recorded , outside of Israel.
McCain, Lieberman condemn attacks, pay tribute to Stevens
Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman have taken the Senate floor to speak about the attacks abroad and the death of Ambassador Stevens.
"I could not be more proud of Ambassador Chris Stevens," McCain said.
Lieberman speaks. "It strikes me as no coincidence," he says, that the Benghazi attack happened on the 9/11 anniversary. "We did not let bin Laden succeed then, and we will not let these extremists" in Libya succeed now.
"We look now to the government of Libya... to act swiftly and precisely to find the attackers and killers," Lieberman says.
Rally in Tripoli: 'We are sorry'
Libyans are rallying in Tripoli to protest the killing of the four Americans in Benghazi.
Egyptian Coptic backer of film 'sorry' about deaths
One of the apparent backers of the "Innocence of Muslims" film, described as a Coptic Christian from Egypt living in America, says he is sorry for the deaths in attacks tied to the film, .
Morris Sadek, speaking by phone from the United States where he lives, also told Reuters that his objective in backing the film was to highlight discrimination against Christians who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people.
Asked if he felt sorry about the deaths, Sadek said: "Of course, of course, of course. Thought should be answered by thought," adding that he did not consider the film titled "Innocence of Muslims" as offensive to Islam.
Protesters in Egypt chanted Sadek's name because of his support for the film, which presented the Prophet as a bloodthirsty womanizer and religious fake, among other characterizations that deeply offended many Muslims who consider any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.
US sends 50 members of elite rapid-response team to Libya
The US military is sending members of an elite rapid deployment team trained to protect US diplomatic outposts to Libya, :
Some 50 U.S. Marines headed to Libya on Wednesday to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in the aftermath of an attack in the eastern city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, officials said.
The Marines are members of an elite group known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, or FAST, whose role is to respond on short notice to terrorism threats and to reinforce security at U.S. embassies. They operate worldwide. The contingent that was dispatched to Libya was based in Spain.
Here is a significant tidbit from lower in the report, repeating earlier reports that the Benghazi compound lacked security protection:
U.S. embassies, particularly in major countries and in unstable or less secure nations, usually have a resident contingent of Marine security guards. Early indications were that there were not at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. A consulate is a branch office in major cities outside the capital. These guards work under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at an embassy.
Former colleague: Stevens 'made friends on all sides'
My colleague Chris McGreal has spoken to Lara Friedman, a close friend of Ambassador Stevens and a former state department colleague who served in Jerusalem, Beirut and Tunis.
Friedman said: "He believed that the US, and he had a role in this, can have a role in the world and can do good in the world," Friedman said, sobbing as she spoke. "He believed very much in what he was doing as a foreign service officer. He served in difficult places. He didn't shy away from complicated issues. He made friends wherever he went on all sides of every issue. He was actually interested in the people he was talking to. He met everybody at eye level."
Friedman said she saw Stevens when he was appointed ambassador to Libya in May – after serving as the US envoy to the rebels during the revolution and following an earlier stint as a more junior diplomat in Tripoli in the Gaddafi years – and he was excited at the prospect.
"He'd been through the whole war. He knew how complicated the politics were and how complicated the future was going to be and he was excited to be going out there," she said. "I attended his confirmation hearing and he believed his service there could make a difference for the people and for America's role there. I don't think I would ever use the word cynical to describe Chris."
Friedman lamented that more Americans do not appreciate the work of diplomats in difficult situations.
"He represented the best face of our country. I don't know if Americans realise how lucky they are that they have people like Chris putting themselves out there," she said. "I think Americans tend to think ambassador is a very glamorous job with champagne every night, and it's not. People like Chris put themselves in danger because they believe in what they're doing. It's so incredibly tragic that this is how it ends."
A brief recap of the events so far:
• The US ambassador to Libya, a state department technician and two other Americans were killed in an attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi – and in a possible second attack at or near a US safe house.
• US officials suspect the attack in Libya was planned, in contrast to an attack the same day on the US embassy in Cairo. Both attacks occurred on Sept. 11. The Libyan ambassador, Christopher Stevens, may have been killed as he went to the scene of the attack on the compound, although the circumstances of his death are still unclear. several Libyan guards were killed in the attack.
• President Obama and Secretary Clinton condemned the attacks in Egypt and Libya and vowed to bring the Libyan attackers to justice. Obama said the United States was founded on the principle of religious tolerance and no supposed provocation justified the violence.
• Diplomats and colleagues paid tribute to Ambassador Stevens as a committed diplomat who loved North Africa and was inspired by what he saw as an efflorescence in Libya.
• GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney came under fire for using a press conference Wednesday morning to double down on an attack on the Obama administration's handling of the crisis overseas. Romney said the US must defend its constitutional values.
• The identity of the filmmaker behind "Innocence of Muslims," the purported trigger for the Egypt and Libya attacks, was thrown into doubt, as the name "Sam Bacile" was revealed to be a pseudonym for parties presently unknown.
US suspects attack in Benghazi was planned, not spontaneous
The United States believes the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, may have been planned, and not a spontaneous reaction to a film disseminated on the Internet, :
The protesters in Cairo appeared to be a genuinely spontaneous unarmed mob angered by an anti-Islam video produced in the United States. By contrast, it appeared the attackers in Benghazi were armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Intelligence reports are inconclusive at this point, officials said, but indications suggest the possibility that an organized group had either been waiting for an opportunity to exploit like the protests over the video or perhaps even generated the protests as a cover for their attack.
Goldberg: 'Sam Bacile' is pseudonym
An update to our last post: the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has spoken with Steven Klein, a "consultant" on the "Innocence of Muslims" film quoted in an Associated Press report as saying of the project, "We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen."
Klein tells Goldberg that "Bacile" is a pseudonym, the man in question is not Israeli, as previously reported elsewhere – and "likely not Jewish," also as previously reported elsewhere.
As part of my search for more information about Sam Bacile, the alleged producer of the now-infamous anti-Muhammad film trailer "The Innocence of Muslims," I just called a man named Steve Klein -- a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, California (whose actual business, he said, is in selling "hard-to-place home insurance"), who has been described in multiple media accounts as a consultant to the film.
Klein told me that Bacile, the producer of the film, is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is, in fact, a pseudonym. He said he did not know "Bacile"'s real name. He said Bacile contacted him because he leads anti-Islam protests outside of mosques and schools, and because, he said, he is a Vietnam veteran and an expert on uncovering al Qaeda cells in California. "After 9/11 I went out to look for terror cells in California and found them, piece of cake. Sam found out about me. The Middle East Christian and Jewish communities trust me."
Initial public records search yields no trace of filmmaker
Who is Sam Bacile, the reported California real estate operator / filmmaker behind "Innocence of Muslims"?
Al-Monitor's there's no one in California real estate licensing records named Bacile. And: "Found 1 poor guy w/ same last name in N. California who is not filmmaker & who laughingly told me I'm 10th person to call today."
points out, 'AP reported Bacile's "solemn voice" was "thickly accented." What sort of accent? Was it really him?'
Morsi issues statement: Sue the filmmaker
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has called on the Egyptian embassy in Washington to take legal action against the producers of the “Innocence of Muslims” film, the official news agency MENA reported.
Morsi's statement came nearly a full day after the attack took place. His message was being closely watched for signs of how Egypt's first post-Mubarak president would act in a crisis involving the United States, and for how Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, would react to violence involving Islamic extremists in Egypt.
The film, which was produced in July, was the pretext for the Sept. 11 attack on the embassy.
My colleague Sarah Sirgany reports from Cairo:
Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali condemned “the people behind this extremist production.” He said Egypt is committed to protecting diplomatic missions and embassies.
Egypt respects freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest, “but within the law,” Ali said.
Romney faces backlash from left and right
Republican and Democratic foreign policy leaders are criticizing Mitt Romney for his attack on the White House in the middle of an unfolding crisis outside two foreign embassies that culminated in the killing of a US ambassador.
Asked at a press conference in Florida whether his attack on the Obama administration had been out of turn, Romney doubled down, amplifying his criticism and implying that the president had failed to defend the values of the US Constitution.
Now Romney is facing a backlash from right and left.
, Scott Galupo sees an "unmistakeable sign of panic":
Before yesterday, I had assumed that the Romney campaign was perhaps mildly spooked by President Obama’s post-convention polling bounce, but nonetheless confident that the bounce would recede and that the race would return to the status quo ante September.
Now: not so much.
The Romney campaign’s reaction to the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya was, as , “hasty and stupid.”
I think Daniel is being charitable.
My colleague Alexander Hotz has been looking at the reaction to Romney's statements:
called Romney's comments "disgraceful." Jonathan Capeheart at The Washington Post was scathing, dubbing Romney and saying he "seems to have a shoot (from the mouth) first policy." Foreign Policy's Editor and CEO David Rothkopf went as far as to call the remarks
Buzzfeed's Ben Smith said were struggling to understand his latest move:
Time's Mark Halperin saw a new low for the Romney camp:
MSNBC's Jonathan Alter saw desperation:
But not everyone found Romney's remarks distasteful. Daniel Foster of the National Review implied the media had pounced on Romney:
The reaction from media members was indeed pronounced:
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