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State Department: Stop asking us about the Benghazi attack

The State Department told reporters Friday afternoon that it won’t answer any more questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans until the investigation into the incident is complete. "I’m going to frustrate all of you, infinitely, by telling you that now that we have an open FBI ...

The State Department told reporters Friday afternoon that it won’t answer any more questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans until the investigation into the incident is complete.

"I’m going to frustrate all of you, infinitely, by telling you that now that we have an open FBI investigation on the death of these four Americans, we are not going to be in a position to talk at all about what the U.S. government may or may not be learning about how any of this this happened — not who they were, not how it happened, not what happened to Ambassador Stevens, not any of it — until the Justice Department is ready to talk about the investigation that’s its got," State Department spokeswoman Victorian Nuland told reporters late Friday afternoon.

"So I’m going to send to the FBI for those kinds of questions and they’re probably not going to talk to you about it," she said.

All aspects of the attack, including what led up to it, its causes, the identity of the perpetrators, and the circumstances surrounding the death of Amb. Chris Stevens and the other three Americans,are off limits for reporters.

The new policy leaves many questions about the Benghazi attack unanswered, potentially for a long time, such as the identity of the attackers, whether they were connected to protests earlier in the day in Cairo, what were the exact circumstances and cause of Stevens’s death, whether the administration had indications of the threat beforehand, and whether the consulate’s security was adequate or not.

Many of these questions are sure to be asked by lawmakers, beginning with the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, who called today for an investigation into the security procedures at the Benghazi consulate before and during the attack.

Two senior officials did speak extensively about the events of the night of the attack on the consulate Sept 12 in a background conference call with reporters, but that’s all the information the administration intends to give out, Nuland said.

Reporters at the briefing pointed out that the officials on that conference call noted that they were giving out preliminary information that might have been wrong and if the State Department doesn’t talk about the night’s events ever again, that wrong information would remain uncorrected in the public sphere.

"The U.S. government is going to be happy to let incorrect information stand?" one reporter asked.

"I will make a personal pledge to you that if I become aware that information we gave that first night is radically wrong in a way that you deserve to know, I will do my best to get that information to you," Nuland said. "But I have to respect the fact that this is now a crime scene."

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The State Department told reporters Friday afternoon that it won’t answer any more questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans until the investigation into the incident is complete.

"I’m going to frustrate all of you, infinitely, by telling you that now that we have an open FBI investigation on the death of these four Americans, we are not going to be in a position to talk at all about what the U.S. government may or may not be learning about how any of this this happened — not who they were, not how it happened, not what happened to Ambassador Stevens, not any of it — until the Justice Department is ready to talk about the investigation that’s its got," State Department spokeswoman Victorian Nuland told reporters late Friday afternoon.

"So I’m going to send to the FBI for those kinds of questions and they’re probably not going to talk to you about it," she said.

All aspects of the attack, including what led up to it, its causes, the identity of the perpetrators, and the circumstances surrounding the death of Amb. Chris Stevens and the other three Americans,are off limits for reporters.

The new policy leaves many questions about the Benghazi attack unanswered, potentially for a long time, such as the identity of the attackers, whether they were connected to protests earlier in the day in Cairo, what were the exact circumstances and cause of Stevens’s death, whether the administration had indications of the threat beforehand, and whether the consulate’s security was adequate or not.

Many of these questions are sure to be asked by lawmakers, beginning with the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, who called today for an investigation into the security procedures at the Benghazi consulate before and during the attack.

Two senior officials did speak extensively about the events of the night of the attack on the consulate Sept 12 in a background conference call with reporters, but that’s all the information the administration intends to give out, Nuland said.

Reporters at the briefing pointed out that the officials on that conference call noted that they were giving out preliminary information that might have been wrong and if the State Department doesn’t talk about the night’s events ever again, that wrong information would remain uncorrected in the public sphere.

"The U.S. government is going to be happy to let incorrect information stand?" one reporter asked.

"I will make a personal pledge to you that if I become aware that information we gave that first night is radically wrong in a way that you deserve to know, I will do my best to get that information to you," Nuland said. "But I have to respect the fact that this is now a crime scene."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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