President Barack Obama admitted Sunday that a probe into the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya had uncovered a “huge problem” in security procedures at the mission.
“We’re not going to be defensive about it,” Obama said in an interview recorded on Saturday for NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We’re not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem,” the president said, referring to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens.
Republicans have long lambasted the Obama administration’s handling of security prior to the attack as well as public statements afterwards.
During the interview Obama said all of the recommendations of a critical report into the State Department’s operation in Benghazi would be implemented, and said U.S. agents were hunting down those responsible for the killings.
“With respect to who carried it out, that’s an ongoing investigation. The FBI has sent individuals to Libya repeatedly,” the president said.
“We have some very good leads, but this is not something that I’m going to be at liberty to talk about right now.”
Obama also defended United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, who was accused by Republican lawmakers of misleading the public when she said the attack was a spontaneous protest against an amateur anti-Muslim film produced in the United States.
Rice had been considered the frontrunner to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as America’s top diplomat in Obama’s second term, but dropped out of the running after becoming the focus of Republican attacks.
“She appeared on a number of television shows reporting what she and we understood to be the best information at the time,” Obama said, accusing opponents of making a scapegoat of Rice.
“This was a politically motivated attack on her. I mean, of all the people in my national security team, she probably had the least to do with anything that happened in Benghazi.”