FBI Still Not Granted Access to Libya Attack Site

More than two weeks after attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, FBI agents have still not been granted access to investigate crime scene

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames

More than two weeks after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, FBI agents have still not been granted access to investigate the crime scene, sources said.

"They've gotten as far as Tripoli now, but they've never gotten to Benghazi," CNN National Security Analyst Fran Townsend said Wednesday, citing senior law enforcement officials.

Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that an FBI team had reached Libya earlier in the week.

"In fairness to the secretary, it may be that she wanted to be coy about where they were in Libya for security concerns. That's understandable. But the fact is, it's not clear they've been in Libya for very long," Townsend told CNN.

"They had difficulty, and we understand there was some bureaucratic infighting between the FBI and Justice Department on the one hand, and the State Department on the other, and so it took them longer than they would have liked to get into country. They've now gotten there. But they still are unable to get permission to go to Benghazi," she said.

FBI agents have requested for the crime scene to be secured, but that, too, has not yet occurred.

"The senior law enforcement official I spoke to said, 'If we get there now, it's not clear that it will be of any use to us,'" she told CNN.

While the FBI has conducted interviews with State Department and U.S. government personnel who were in Libya at the time of the attack, they have been denied their request to directly question individuals in the custody of Libyan authorities, she added.

Speaking to reporters last Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney clarified that the assault was, in fact, a "terrorist attack."

Addressing a special meeting at the U.N. on Wednesday, Clinton suggested there was a link between the Qaeda franchise in North Africa and the attack. She was the highest-ranking Obama administration official to publicly make the connection.

“Now with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions,” Clinton said. “And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions under way in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”

Officials later said the question would be officially settled only after the F.B.I. completed a criminal inquiry, which is expected to take months.

They said they had not ruled out the involvement of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an affiliate of the international terrorist group with origins in Algeria, in an attack the administration initially described as a spontaneous protest turned violent.