Pentagon and State Department officials are considering using the Marine Corps counterterrorism units currently in Libya to provide security for the FBI team investigating the U.S. Consulate attack there.
The notion of the Marines units, which are part of the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams (FAST), running security for FBI investigators "is being discussed" within both departments, DOD spokesman Maj. Robert Firman said Monday.
The Marine Corps teams have been on the ground in Libya since the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11 that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Shortly after the attack, the Department of Justice sent the FBI team to Libya to investigate the circumstances that led up to the strike, which administration officials now admit was a coordinated, terrorist attack against the American diplomatic post.
However, the FBI team has been stranded in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, unable to visit the site of the attack due to the dangerous security situation in Benghazi.
The FBI team has conducted interviews with the State Department and other U.S. officials who were in Libya during the attack, but was denied access to those in Libyan custody, according to recent news reports.
The White House has come under heavy criticism for its changing accounts of the Benghazi strike, as well as the lack of security at the Consulate at the time of the attack.
Initially senior-level officials from the State Department claimed the attack was the result of a violent protest against the Consulate that spiraled out of control.
Days after the strike, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice argued on NBC's "Meet The Press" that the protest scenario was the official White House account of what happened that night in Benghazi.
But in recent days, Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton under microscope at inauguration The story of the Trump transition, as told in 57 @RealDonaldTrump tweets The Trump era begins MORE, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper all admitted the Benghazi attack was a planned terrorist action.
U.S. military and intelligence officials also reportedly received intelligence that the Benghazi strike was a coordinated act of terrorism 24 hours after the attack, according to news reports.
Top GOP lawmakers have been quick to jump on the administration's shifting explanation, issuing a flurry of correspondence to the State Department and White House demanding more information on the attack.
On Saturday, Democrats on Capitol Hill jumped into the fray.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, headed by panel Chairman John KerryJohn KerryHillary Clinton under microscope at inauguration Overnight Tech: Meet the key players for Trump on tech | Patent chief staying on | Kerry aide goes to Snapchat | Uber's M settlement Tillerson met with top State official: report MORE (D-Mass.), sent their own letter requesting more details from the State Department on the Consulate attack.
Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerHaley ready for UN role despite dearth of foreign policy experience Top Dem: Don’t bring Tillerson floor vote if he doesn’t pass committee Trump’s UN pick threads needle on Russia, NATO MORE (R-Tenn.), a vocal opponent of the administration's handling of the situation, claimed the letter was proof the furor coming from Capitol Hill over the issue was not limited to Republicans.
But on Sunday, Kerry argued that congressional Republicans were exploiting the letter as a way to bludgeon the White House over the growing fiasco.
"Let me be crystal clear as chairman of that committee ... the Republicans are working overtime to try to exploit a very normal, run-of-the-course administrative letter that we agreed to on a bipartisan basis in our committee," said Kerry on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."
"All the Republicans can do or see is politics. All they can see is exploiting it," Kerry said.