Witnesses dispute White House’s account of consulate attack in Libya

There was not a peaceful protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi prior to the deadly attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, unidentified witnesses told CBS News, sowing doubt about the Obama administration's account.

“Witnesses of last week's deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya have told CBS News that the alleged anti-American protest that U.S. officials say morphed into the assault never actually took place,” CBS reported without providing any other details.

The Obama administration says initial evidence suggests armed Islamists infiltrated a protest sparked by a U.S.-made anti-Islam film. 

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, on Sunday told ABC's "This Week" that the initial protest in Benghazi was spontaneous but that it was "hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons."

Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing much the same thing on Wednesday.

“The best information we have now, the facts that we have now, indicates an opportunistic attack on our embassy,” he said. “The attack began and evolved and escalated. It appears that individuals who were certainly well-armed seized on the opportunity presented as the events unfolded.

“What we don’t have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack. We’re still looking for any indications of substantial advanced planning. We just haven’t seen that at this point.”

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have expressed disbelief at the administration's story. 

Rice “gave the American people false information, because she said this was a spontaneous demonstration,” Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “She's either not telling the truth or she's abysmally ignorant. One of the two.”

—Jordy Yager contributed.