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Mourners sign a condolence book for Ambassador Stevens at the U.S. Capitol.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Mourners sign a condolence book for Ambassador Stevens at the U.S. Capitol.

Late on Libya

News | And more news briefs

Issue: "Inside Election 2012," Oct. 20, 2012

The deadly Sept. 11 attack that killed four U.S. officers at a U.S. consulate in Libya was “deliberate and organized,” the Director of National Intelligence announced on Sept. 29. It was the most detailed assessment of what caused the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others in Benghazi—and came nearly three weeks after the Obama administration insisted the attack was the result of an anti-Islam video made in the United States.

On Sept. 16 U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, “What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video.”

DNI spokesman Shawn Turner said in the Sept. 29 briefing that intelligence officials provided public officials with “evolving” information about the attacks. But Libyan officials say they had evidence it was “a pre-calculated, pre-planned attack” (Sept. 15), according to Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif. Turner said the DNI still does not know who led or planned the attack, but “some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al Qaeda.”

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Other questions for U.S. officials include why an FBI team sent to investigate the deaths and burning of the U.S. consulate took one week to arrive on the scene. During that time reporters and others toured the burned buildings, with a CNN reporter even retrieving Stevens’ diary. Questions also remain pending an autopsy report on Stevens, whose cause of death has not been confirmed, and who may have been raped, according to some reports. 

Eight Republicans who chair committees in the U.S. House wrote Obama Sept. 25 to demand further answers on the Benghazi assault. Two Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have asked the State Department for all communication surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, including cables from Stevens. —Mindy Belz

Christian activists arrested at White House

Police arrested dozens of pro-life activists in front of the White House for protesting the Health and Human Services mandate that forces people of faith to cover abortion services in health insurance plans. Patrick Mahoney, an organizer and Christian Defense Coalition director, said the new rule has taken Christians by surprise, so “the church is playing catch-up” to let its voices be heard. 

The arrests were part of a project called Acts Five 29, named for the Bible verse reading, “We must obey God rather than men.” The four-day series of events kicked off at 5 p.m. on Sept. 29 to coincide with the reference—and by Oct. 1 police had arrested 66 protesters for “failure to obey lawful commands.” 

Kristina Garza, one of the group’s leaders, said the HHS requirement is forcing them “to pay for things that violate our religious convictions. We believe that is absolutely wrong.”

China shuffle

China’s Communist Party announced Sept. 29 it was expelling popular party leader Bo Xilai. The party chief of Chongqing, along with his wife, has been embroiled in a scandal many observers say presents the biggest threat to the party’s power since the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989. Party leaders took unusual steps to upend Bo and present him for prosecution ahead of a November party congress scheduled to hand power over to new leadership.

Court date

A Christian teenager in Pakistan faces an Oct. 17 hearing to determine whether an Islamabad court will drop blasphemy charges against her that carry a sentence of life in prison.

Pakistani police arrested Rimsha Masih in August after a neighbor accused her of burning pages of the Quran for cooking fuel. The 14-year-old girl denied the accusations, but officials jailed her on blasphemy charges.

The case shifted after four witnesses said a local Muslim cleric planted the Quran pages to frame Masih. A local police investigation determined the cleric set up the young girl to appear guilty.

 The case turned again when three of the witnesses recanted their statements on Oct. 1. A fourth witness upheld his original testimony. An Islamabad judge said he would hear a petition by Masih’s attorney on Oct. 17 to drop the blasphemy charges. Already the judge has transferred her case to a juvenile court—a move human-rights groups called encouraging because it cannot hand down a death penalty.

Masih, released on bail in September, remains in hiding with her parents at a secret location.

Sign of life

Convincing evidence that a fast-moving stream once flowed near the landing site of NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, emerged only weeks after the space robot began exploring. NASA dispatched Curiosity to learn if the solar system’s most Earth-like planet was suitable for microbial life. Rounded gravel cemented in a \slab of rock near the rover’s landing base indicate the area once was awash in water, a key ingredient for life, scientists announced Sept. 27. The roving laser laboratory, about the size of a small car, touched down on Mars Aug. 6.

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