Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday she was forming a panel to investigate the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials.
The panel, whose creation is generally required by law when someone is killed or seriously injured at a U.S. mission abroad, will be chaired by Thomas Pickering, a retired diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, Nigeria, El Salvador, Jordan and at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
Such panels, made up of four people chosen by the secretary of state and one by the U.S. intelligence community, are charged with writing a report on whether security systems and procedures were adequate and may make recommendations for improvements.
Clinton is scheduled to give a classified briefing to members of the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday to discuss the assault on the U.S. consulate, which took place last week, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
A series of other U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East and North Africa have been attacked or been the target of protests against a film that depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a womanizer and a fool.
Speaking at a news conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Clinton also suggested that she would stress the importance of U.S. relations with such countries. There have been questions among lawmakers about whether the United States should continue aid following the protests.
"I will also talk about the importance of the broader relationships with these countries in light of the events of the past days," Clinton said. "There are obviously very real challenges in these new democracies, these fragile societies.
"We are concerned, first and foremost, with our own people and facilities but we are concerned about the internal security in these countries because ultimately that puts at risk the men, women and children of these societies on a daily, ongoing basis if actions are not taken to try to restore security," she added.
A congressional committee wrote to Clinton on Thursday demanding information about the attack in Benghazi, including all U.S. security analyses and threat assessments ahead of the violence and any documents that clarify whether the attack was spontaneous or premeditated.
"The American people have a right to know the facts about this egregious attack on U.S. sovereign territory," Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, wrote to Clinton. He set a deadline of Oct. 4 for Clinton to provide the information.