White House and State Department officials continue to take severe criticism for overestimating compound security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya – with one email exchange between a reporter and a State Department aide deteriorating into expletives after the reporter continued to poke holes in the administration's story.
Even after administration officials were forced to change their story about the origin of the outbreak in Libya from one of happenstance to admitting the attacks were planned, some reporters continued to press the issue of how secure the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was, or if there was any at all.
One Sunday morning email conversation between BuzzFeed correspondent Michael Hastings and Philippe Reines, a longtime personal aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have brought the tension on this issue between the media and Obama administration to head.
The reporter wanted to know why the State Department didn't search the compound and find items such as deceased U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens' personal effects, including a diary later discovered by CNN. The reporter also began to press Reines by asking if security was adequate and why the department didn't help secure the compound after the attack.
Reines' response focused on the journalistic responsibility CNN had after discovering Stevens' diary and should they have used the information prior to contacting the family and seeking permission. BuzzFeed pressed back, accusing the State Department of not taking responsibility for the attack and blaming CNN for airing the contents of the diary.
That's when the conversation got testy.
Reines replied: "I now understand why the official investigation by the Department of the Defense as reported by The Army Times The Washington Post concluded beyond a doubt that you're an unmitigated asshole. How's that for a non-bullshit response? Now that we've gotten that out of our systems, have a good day. And by good day, I mean F*** Off."
Yet this "unofficial" response from the administration may only be a deeper sign that President Obama is struggling with vote confidence on his ability to handle the complex and growing unrest in the Middle East, even after the much touted Arab Spring that led to a government overthrow in Libya.
In his address to the United Nations on Tuesday, Obama began his speech by talking about Stevens and his dedication to his country and helping the region. But he also referenced the anti-Muslim video produced by a man using the name of Sam Bacile and shown by controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones as being a cause of the attacks.
"That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity," Obama said to the U.N. "I know there are some who ask why we don't just ban such a video. And the answer is enshrined in our laws: Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech."
"If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common."
Immediately after the attacks President Obama ordered an increase in security at all U.S. embassies following the 9/11 attacks but critics still remain.
Several Congressmen sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday expressing concern for State Department employees and property in the Middle East.
"Clearly, the threat from Al Qaeda and affiliated groups has metastasized; yet we do not appear to be learning from the past," the letter states. "We place significant weight on our constitutional responsibility to conduct appropriate oversight even when Congress is not in session and stand ready to return to Washington."
The lawmakers who signed the letter include House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Rogers, (R-Ky.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. McKeon, (R-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Fla.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Smith, (R-Texas), among others.