GOP Senators demand declassification of Libya surveillance

"It is vitally important that the American people know all of the facts surrounding the attack in Benghazi last month, and this surveillance video can shed important light on the nature of the attack and what kind of response could have been effective while it was ongoing," Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wrote in a letter to the heads of the DOD, CIA and Justice Department on Friday. 

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They are requesting the "immediate declassification of all surveillance video" as recent reports have surfaced that American unmanned drones and other U.S. intelligence assets were in the vicinity of Benghazi during the time of the strike. 

FBI investigators are reviewing the tapes while U.S. military and intelligence officials continue to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the violent raid.

Libyan officials reportedly have used surveillance footage from the consulate to identify a number of suspects who were present at the time of the assault. 

Ali ani al-Harzi, a Tunisian national suspected of participating in the Benghazi attack, and Ahmed Abu Khattala, head of the Islamic Libyan militia Ansar al-Sharia, were both singled out by Libyan authorities after being spotted by consulate surveillance. 

Friday's letter is the latest in a string of attacks by congressional Republicans on the Obama administration's handing of the attack and its aftermath. 

The White House has come under intense scrutiny for its shifting accounts of the incident, initially claiming the strike was the result of a protest against an anti-Islam video that escalated.

U.S. intelligence and defense officials later characterized the strike as a terrorist attack but maintained the raid was an opportunistic assault and not a coordinated attack by Islamic terror groups in the country. 

Despite the surveillance tapes and other pieces of information, DOD still lacked critical "actionable intelligence needed to coordinate a military operation to deter the Benghazi strike, Lt. Col. Steve Warren told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.  

U.S. forces would have put the lives of more Americans in danger if DOD officials ordered a military operation without that vital intelligence, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little added during the same Friday briefing. 

"The compulsion is that we should have intervened," Little said. "But if you just swoop in ... you risk doing more harm than good." 

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta characterized GOP-led criticisms of the White House as "Monday-morning quarterbacking" that has hindered DOD efforts to find out what happened that night in Benghazi. 

"Clearly the American people deserve to understand what happened in Benghazi,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said at the same briefing. 

“As you know, there are reviews under way both here and in the Department of State, so we'll better understand what happened," Dempsey said. “It's not helpful, in my view, to provide partial answers."