State Department downplays failure to secure Benghazi crime scene

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Thursday dismissed concerns that sensitive information may have been jeopardized because the consulate where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died on Sept. 11 still hasn't been secured more than three weeks later.

The comments were in response to a Washington Post report that “sensitive” documents – including U.S. efforts to collect weapons, Stevens's full itinerary and personal information about dozens of Libyan contractors  – could still be found among the charred rubble as of Wednesday. The tone was in sharp contrast to the State Department's strong criticism against CNN after the network found Stevens' diary and reported that he'd felt targeted by al Qaeda.

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“This was not, based on what we've seen, any kind of breach of classified information,” Nuland told reporters. “If you take a look at those things that were found, they were all unclassified documents. Some of them were, for example, the evacuation instructions for personnel. So clearly these were things that were in use at the time of the attack and frankly, none of us was surprised to –  to see them at the site.”

The comments come as the Department of Defense on Thursday revealed that an FBI investigative team had finally made it to Benghazi late Wednesday before heading back out less than a day later. Nuland repeatedly referred to the slow pace of the investigation as “challenges” during her briefing. 

Separately, Nuland said that the State Department has agreed to make available two State Department officials that House oversight panel chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had requested for a hearing next Wednesday. They are Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary for international programs, who Nuland said was in the “direct chain of command on the night of the events”; and Eric Nordstrom, a regional security officer who was also involved.

“It has been our practice to date to work fully cooperatively with the Congress to meet all of the requests that they have to the best of our ability. We plan to do that. We will make those two individuals available to the Congress,” Nuland said. '”With regard to the precise hearing on the 10th and how that's going to work, we will make them available, but we'll have to see how the whole thing works out. We're still talking to them about it.”