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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Killed; Obama Releases Statement Condemning Attack; Marine Reinforcements Heading to Libya
Aired September 12, 2012 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Soledad O'Brien is off this week here on STARTING POINT beginning with some breaking news.
BERMAN: The latest on the stunning death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Anti-American sentiment on the rise in Benghazi where a rocket attack has taken the life of Ambassador Jay Christopher Stevens and three other members of the U.S. Embassy staff. The group was in their car, heading apparently to a safer location after protesters had raided the U.S. Consulate there.
BALDWIN: The anger against the U.S. stemming from this amateur online film produced in America that has offended millions of Muslims.
We're covering the story from all angles across the globe for you in the way that CNN can -- with Jamie Rubin, sitting in the studio, former secretary of state.
Roland Martin, CNN political analyst, Leslie J. Seymour, editor in chief of "More" magazine. Welcome to both of you.
And Will Cain, columnist for TheBlaze.com.
In addition to everyone sitting at the table, we have from Washington, D.C., Torie Clarke, a former secretary of defense of public affairs.
And, Torie, let's just begin with you. And if I may, we've just received the statement. Once the White House confirmed the death of Ambassador Stevens. We now have the statement from Hillary Clinton in which not only does she, of course, profess profound sadness over his death, but she mentions, this is the first time we've heard of this name, Sean Smith.
Can you tell us who Sean Smith is?
TORIE CLARKE, FMR. PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: I don't know Sean Smith personally but there are scores and scores of people, Jamie Rubin knows this, who work at our embassies, who work for us overseas, and do such an incredible job.
And I know there are so many things you want to talk about this morning but my heart is breaking for the families of these people, for the ambassador, for Sean Smith and others whose names we'll learn. They make so many sacrifices. They worked so hard. And I just can't imagine what their families are going through right now and I just give them my thoughts and prayers.
BALDWIN: Absolutely. And I can fill in the blanks here as I'm looking at this statement from your boss, from Secretary Clinton. She says Sean Smith, who is a Foreign Service management information officer -- this statement goes on to say they're still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals. Our hearts go out to all their individuals and colleagues, Sean Smith, a husband and a father of two.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Torie, it's John Berman here.
CLARKE: Hi, John.
BERMAN: You worked through so many difficult periods during the Bush administration. How does a White House, how does an administration have to react like a tragedy like this? What are the delicate matters they have to deal with now?
CLARKE: I think delicate is a really good word, John. And as much as you want to give people information, you want to tell them here's what's happened, here's what's going on, you have to try to be very careful.
You've heard it a thousand times, first reports are always wrong. I think as this day goes on, we'll learn more about what happened in these two different places.
The first thing you do is try to get as much information as possible. Try to make very sure that the rest of our people who are working around the world are safe. We have procedures in place. Are we aware of any other attacks under way?
I listen to Peter Brookes this morning and I just have to echo what I heard him say. It seems like such a coincidence that these two protests going on in two different places happened at the same time. We had a heads up they're happening. It happened on 9/11.
To me it sounds like there was more planning than just a random mob. So, you have to look at why does this happen.
And I think it is very, very important for our government, for our senior officials to make -- be making strong statements, condemning the violence, encouraging, urging the Libyan government and Egyptian government to get to the bottom of this and make sure that the people who did this are brought to justice.
BALDWIN: Speaking of condemning the violence, there has been a news conference going on in Libya. I want to play a little sound. We're going to hear from the head of the ruling party, condemning what's happened. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMED AL-MEGARYEF, LIBYA'S GENERAL NATIONAL CONGRESS (through translator): We also reject and condemn and strongly criticize the use of force and terrorizing civilians, killing innocents as a means of expression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So public condemnation from Libya as far as what's happened. We were talking to our reporter in Cairo. Some statements from the foreign ministry, yet nothing from Mohamed Morsi.
This truly, Torie, is a test for him and his new leadership over a good friend of ours, being Egypt.
CLARKE: I agree with you completely. And not that they're asking for my advice but I think he should be at that podium.
And not that President Obama is asking for my advice but Secretary Clinton has put out appropriate statements. I think it's time for President Obama to be at a podium saying we condemn this violence over a stupid movie.
Whatever the significance of that is, is minimal. Nobody should do what these people did in Libya and Egypt and the president should be saying that very forcefully as well.
BERMAN: Torie, give me a sense of how you think things are going in general, in Libya, in Cairo, in Syria. Where is the U.S. right now in terms of its foreign policy in the Arab region?
CLARKE: It's a great question, John. Even if this hadn't happened, in the last couple of days, if we were having a conversation about the election year, I would say one of the things that is really missing is a serious conversation about where are we in these incredibly dangerous parts of the world. What is the U.S. policy there? What are we trying to accomplish?
How are we on that road of progress? How are we doing? Are we on the right track?
I honestly don't know what it is we're trying to accomplish. I hear we're trying to help them set up democratic institutions. Great. How are we do that?
I think there's bit of maybe there are plenty of things going on in the ground and things going on behind the scenes, but I think we need a very, very strong and clear discussion of what it is we're trying to accomplish there, and maybe we could better assess of how we're doing. Right now, it looks very uncertain, it looks very dangerous, it looks like there's a vacuum of leadership.
And I think vacuums of leadership from both sides can be very provocative.
BALDWIN: Let me jump in, Torie. This Libyan news conference is going on, that the Libyans have also gone on to apologize to the United States, to the Americans, to our government and to the rest of the world.
Let me just turn this to Jamie Rubin, because I'm curious, Jamie. These are words. While we appreciate these forceful words, condemning the attacks, is that enough?
JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: No, it isn't enough. Look, Ambassador Stevens was obviously a friend of the Libyan government. They saw him as a friend. He had worked in Benghazi during the rebellion. They had a special feeling for him.
They are feeling particularly bad right now, the Libyans, that the closest ally in the U.S. government system was killed by Libyans. So they've said the right things. But now they need to do the right things. By that I mean try to assess the facts here in a serious way by determining to what extent these events are connected, to what extent this was a planned assassination or the result of violence at the consulate.
To what extent this is all connected to a larger Islamist extremist to exploit the date, 9/11. Those are facts which none of us know right now and we'll know them quicker if the Libyan government starts to do the hard work of taking this event as seriously as they should, and frankly, I think they will. Because they really know this is their closest friend in the U.S. government, and they've needed help from the United States since they won their freedom.
BERMAN: Roland, I want to bring you in here, Roland Martin, because I can see your face when Torie Clarke was talking about U.S. foreign policy in the Arab region, as she used the word vacuum of leadership.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, because it's interesting. We've heard Senator John McCain and others say we need to be more aggressive when it comes to Syria. But this is exactly part of the problem, when we can be very active on the front end.
MARTIN: I remember the late Congressman Charlie Wilson talked about Afghanistan. Once we moved folks out the first time, he said now, what are we going to do? We, naturally, always want to pull out and say, well, it's somebody else's problem.
And I think it's important for the American consumer also to say, what more do you want to see us do? Then all of a sudden, we get upset when we see this happens. We have to recognize, it's a collective issue here. So, I take issue with her saying that.
BERMAN: All right, Roland.
I want to thank Torie Clarke, by the way, in Washington right now.
Thank you, Roland.
We want to bring you breaking news from the Pentagon. Marine reinforcements are heading to Benghazi right now.
So, let's bring in Barbara Starr who is at the Pentagon with this news -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, two U.S. officials are confirming that Marines are on the way to Benghazi. This will be an anti-terrorism security team, a FAST Team is what they are called. They are going there to reinforce the consulate there, to reinforce the U.S. diplomatic installation there.
You saw that Secretary of State Clinton has asked for additional security. The president has said there will be additional security at U.S. installations around the world. And after what happens happened at Benghazi, Marines now on the way.
These are the very specific Marine Corps embassy teams that are structured just for this job, to reinforce an embassy or diplomatic installation when violence breaks out. As you know, Marines guard embassies around the world. This is more people, more fire power, more security capability.
But, John, in Libya, Cairo, at installations around the world, one of the key issues is that U.S. jurisdiction, of course, only extends to the fence line. When the violence breaks out on the street, it is the responsibility of course of the host government to maintain security on behalf of the U.S. embassy. These Marines will be inside the installation. They will guard it. They will provide security for the U.S. personnel who work there.
We will begin to se them arriving on the ground. And I think there's every indication we will see more military security movements given the president and Secretary Clinton's orders for more security at diplomatic installations, John.
BERMAN: Barbara, in Cairo yesterday, and in Benghazi, it did seem as if the protesters did get over the wall of the consulate in Benghazi and the embassy in Cairo.
STARR: Absolutely, absolutely. That's why you are seeing this movement of more muscle power.
It's a very specific thing. On the street, it is the host country's responsibility. Once they climb the fence line, if you will, once they climb the embassy fence, then it is security inside the embassy, but it is still the responsibility of the host government to make sure it doesn't get to that point.
I think that you will see the U.S. administration is very concerned that these governments maintain their responsibility for security on the street and it does not get to that point. You know, this is why -- however, it is. So, this is why you're seeing this reinforcement of embassy security being ordered. You're going to see Marines moving in. You are going to see them taking a very assertive posture.
Look, they are not looking to shoot anybody. They are not looking to get into a shooting war, but they are under orders, it is very clear, to maintain security at diplomatic installations and they will have rules of engagement, if you will, to be able to do that. But it's only going to work, according to U.S. officials, if the host governments step up their responsibility as well.
Let me add one more thing, John. We are told that you should expect -- we should expect to see perhaps some U.S. military aircraft moving in to Libya to begin to take care of any medical evacuation or removal of remains of U.S. diplomatic personnel, perhaps including the ambassador, John.
BERMAN: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
Lot of news right there, U.S. military aircraft perhaps patrolling Libya to help with medical personnel, U.S. Marines headed to help with the embassy security.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- thanks very much.
BALDWIN: So, there's more firepower is headed to Libya. I want to stay in Libya because we're going to talk to Jomana Karadsheh. She is on the phone with us live from Tripoli.
And, Jomana, tell us a little bit more about what was said in that Libyan news conference perhaps still going on, as the head of the ruling party in Libya is basically apologizing to the American people.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN REPORTER (via telephone): Yes, indeed, the Libyan prime minister and the speaker of the Libyan parliament, the National Congress, extending their condolences to the United States, its people, and to the family of those killed. According to the speaker of the parliament, it was Ambassador Stevens who was killed, along with three other people in the consulate.
Now it is not clear what happened. Officials said that the investigation is under way and they refused to go into details of this attack and how it happened. They are blaming the attacks -- at one point it was blamed on Gadhafi loyalists. And another instance, they hinted that it was Islamist extremists, groups that we know are operating in eastern Libya.
The speaker of the parliament saying that there was a clear indication here that this coincided with September 11th and saying that they completely reject the use of Libya and its lands for any sort of revenge attacks. They have promised to secure all foreign nationals here, foreign missions. But they said they were already doing everything they can to secure it.
And in this instance, as we've seen, they have failed to do so, underscoring the fragility of the security situation here. Libya being a country that is awash with weapon -- with hundreds of military operatives here, including those in the eastern parts of the country, as we've heard from Western intelligence agencies in recent months as groups affiliated with al Qaeda who have been operating in that area.
We have seen these groups, an umbrella group known as Ansar al-Sharia, in the past claiming responsibility for attacks against Western targets, including the U.S. consulate back in June when a bomb exploded outside this very building.
BALDWIN: Jomana Karadsheh on the phone with us from the capital of Libya -- Jomana, thank you very much here.
And as we continue to cover the story, I just wanted to open this up to the panel. We have Jamie Rubin on the table. Our panel -- Will Cain, jump in.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I want to ask Jamie a question, return to something, both you and Torie Clarke mentioned. We know a couple of things. We know this took place on 9/11. Offensive movie supposedly is the catalyst for these protests that came out months ago I believe on YouTube, sometime in June and July.
Torie Clarke mentioned that she sees it as an incredible coincidence. You said we should look into how planned this is. That's a surprise to me.
Does this look like something to you that is not a natural kind of grassroots protests, but it's actually planned and coordinated behind the scenes?
RUBIN: Well, it looks a little bit that way. The last time this terrible pastor in Florida, seems to enjoy burning Korans and stirring up trouble got involved -- thank for the name -- it was Afghanistan and Pakistan that had had the connection.
And so, clearly, there were people in those two countries who reacted to just the idea of the burning of the Koran. And what I'm guessing happened is that behind the scenes, Islamist extremists probably heard about this event and are looking to create a name for themselves, looking to create an event.
RUBIN: And so, clearly, there were people in those two countries who reacted to just the idea of the burning of the Koran. And what I'm guessing happened is that behind the scenes, Islamist extremists probably heard about this event and are looking to create a name for themselves, looking to create an event.
And so, they find what they can. They distribute information that now this film has been, you know, broadcast on parts of Egyptian television and stir it up by disseminating the fact of this film. And so then, that is still -- we don't know that that's violent yet. That is public protest at stage one.
And we're -- this is particularly unusual, and why this investigation is so crucial is the attack on the American ambassador with an RPG looks like an assassination --
RUBIN: -- from the embassy. And so, what the connection between those two things I just described is the essence of whether these are larger forces at work, whether these are just the fact that Libya and Egypt are no longer under control of security apparatuses the way they were under Mubarak and Gadhafi or whether there is some larger goal and some group and conspiracy, essentially.
LESLEY JANE SEYMOUR, EDITOR IN CHIEF, MORE MAGAZINE: So, I have a question for you, too. Is this just a clash between people who are very comfortable with open news systems being completely connected and people who don't know how to do that? We can't put a stop on that. I mean, the whole world is connected. These things get out there. How do you prevent that?
RUBIN: You can se it's already causing some political problems at home. Finding a balance between defending free speech and condemning particularly hateful speech, you know, we know there are limits to free speech, the classic being you can't yell "fire" in a movie theater.
So, figuring out how hateful speech is treated by our government so that people around the world don't see, in an unsophisticated way, something coming out in America and thinking, well, the U.S. government could have stopped that when we can't stop that.
And so, therefore, the only antidote is to make clear that we condemn hateful speech while recognizing the right of free speech. We can defend somebody's right to speak and still hate what he says and that subtly is tricky in the modern world.
MARTIN: I have to ask you about retaliation.
MARTIN: Because was America was sitting out there and saying, how do we respond? And so, I want you to speak to that, but also as a former state department official, how do you also deal with the balance of trying to support a very fragile government and folks who we said we have your back when it comes to Democracy as well? That's very fragile.
RUBIN: Right. I don't think -- unless we find the individual cell responsible for assassinating the ambassador -- if we do find them, they should either be brought to justice in a criminal sense, or you know, there should be military action of some kind, perhaps, special forces tracking them down.
They've killed the representative, individual of our country. This is a serious thing. It hasn't happened. I think we were talking earlier, since the late 1970s where a U.S. ambassador has been killed in the line of duty.
BERMAN: This is a very hostile act.
RUBIN: This is a very hostile act. So, some response of a significant nature is absolutely required. But you were talking earlier, and I think we all know the truth, and I think you were talking. Libya was a big deal in this country. We all spent a lot of time talking about it. It was non-stop coverage.
We were all very proud of the end of the Gadhafi regime, a hateful dictator who had killed Americans in the Lockerbie bombing, who was about to slaughter his own people and United States, along with Britain and France, helped the Libyan rebels overthrow him. We didn't do it for them, but we helped them.
And then, as it is in this country, we turned the channel. We switched the lens. We stopped paying attention. And when we engage ourselves militarily and there are fundamental changes in regimes around the world, I believe we have a responsibility to see it through. And that costs money and it costs time --
BALDWIN: -- Ambassador Stevens was there Tripoli --
RUBIN: Exactly. But I can assure you that he was having a tough time getting the attention of our political system for providing the funds, the energy, the focus, and the attention that they needed, because it really wasn't so much money. Libya is an oil rich country, but they needed help at a fundamental level --
RUBIN: They had no government system other than the dictatorship of Gadhafi. And suddenly, they were free. And that is why they're so unstable that people can run around targeting the American ambassador even though the government apologizes.
BALDWIN: And let me just brought in this conversation. I want to bring in Elise Labotte who has incredible sources with the state department. And Elise, as we continue to talk about Ambassador Stevens, let's also remember that there were three other workers with him, in this car -- right, who were killed.
We have the statement. I know you have the statement from secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Tell me a little bit more about -- we have another name. Sean Smith. Who was Sean Smith?
ELISE LABOTTE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sean Smith was a foreign service officer at the state department. I didn't know him as well as I knew Chris Stevens, but, Brooke, I mean, Secretary Clinton often says that diplomats are on the front lines of U.S. foreign diplomacy.
And in this case, really, this type of people, these people that go to Libya, that go to Iraq, Afghanistan, these are people that, you know, a lot of people now in today's foreign service don't necessarily want to be pinstripe diplomats as Jamie well knows. They want to go out in the field.
They want to be working with the people, trying to -- even if it means putting themselves in harm's way, it means getting their hands dirty and working on doing the hard slog of trying to build these institutions, trying to work with people on the ground. And these diplomats were not just people that sat in their ivory tower or their embassy or the consulate.
They were out on the field working with various groups, working tribes, working with all of the people in the Libyan government and in the U.S. government to try and get this country back on its feet and start anew.
BALDWIN: Do we know, Elise -- and forgive me for bit of a morbid question this early hour, but I mean, from what we know, Ambassador Stevens and these three other workers are still in Libya, correct? I mean, how does the U.S. then remove them so we can bring them home and honor them amidst the violence there?
LABOTTE: Well, we understand from one of our contractors on the ground that the bodies are being brought to the airport in Benghazi. Ultimately, they'll be flown home for proper burial by their families, and certainly, there'll be ceremonies and memorials to mark their work at the state department. There's a wall on the headquarters of the state department here in Washington.
It's called "foggy bottom headquarters." There's a wall of all the Foreign Service officers killed in action. And, unfortunately, in the last several years, particularly since 9/11, that has grown considerably, that wall. Those names will be on there.
There'll be some kind of ceremony, but getting the bodies home, getting the remains to their families and their personal affects to their families, and really helping the families to this time will be a priority. And as we've been talking about also, trying to secure other U.S. personnel, not just in Libya, but in the region.
BALDWIN: Right. As we learned from Barbara Starr, more reinforcements moving in.
BERMAN: We're covering the death, the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya by a rocket attack, apparently, along with four other members of the U.S. mission there. We will have more details on this on CNN as only we can cover it. Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. We are following breaking news this morning. The latest in the death of U.S. ambassador to Libya, rather, Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staffers. They were killed in a rocket attack in Benghazi, Libya.
We have learned the identity of one of the staffers, Sean Smith. The state is notifying the families of the other two whose names we do not yet know.
BALDWIN: Also, moments ago, the head of Libya's ruling party, Mohammed al-Megaryef apologized for their deaths.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMED AL-MEGARYEF, LIBYA'S GENERAL NATIONAL CONGRESS (through translator): We apologize to the U.S. and to the American people and to the government and also to the rest of the world for what happened yesterday. And at the same time, we expect the word to cooperate with us in order to confront to what is meant out of this kind of cowardliness criminal act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That news conference is happening in Libya moments ago. Now, President Obama releasing a statement on the attack in Benghazi, and he has ordered higher security here to protect other U.S. diplomats all around the world.
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is live with us this morning with a little bit more on the president's reaction. Brianna, good morning.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Brooke. And we found out from a senior administration official that President Obama was alerted that something had happened at the Libyan consulate last night. The time sort of unclear. And as you know it first, we understood that it was one diplomatic officer.
Over time, we realized, of course, it involved the U.S. ambassador. And it's unclear exactly when President Obama learned that, but he was updated overnight by one of his top advisers. The president put out a statement this morning.
It says, "I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi which took the lives of four American, including Ambassador Chris Stevens." It's a quite lengthy statement. He goes on to say, "I have directed my administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the world."
He also said, Brooke, "That when the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants."
And of course, we'll be watching throughout the day to see if there's any further reaction from President Obama. He'll continue to get updates, of course, from his top advisers -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Remind us where the president is today.
KEILAR: The president is out traveling today. He's on a bit of a campaign swing, and the interesting thing is we're thinking this may become -- actually where it has become a bit of a political issue.
As you know, last night, when the details were that it was one diplomatic officer involved, the Romney campaign put out a statement saying, "I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi."
He said, and this is the barb here, Brooke, "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions but to sympathize with those who wage the attacks." The Obama campaign firing back right away, Ben Labolt, a spokesperson, saying that he's shocked, essentially, that Mitt Romney is playing politics.
So, this sort of plays in. Obviously, we've heard some criticism from Mitt Romney of the president's foreign policy. We heard this at the convention in Tampa where you were, certainly, from former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. And we're looking to see if this plays as well on the campaign trail here today and in the coming days.
KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, thank you very much.
And if we can continue the ping pong-ing back and forth between candidates, this has become politicized. I'm looking at my e-mail, noticing that Reince Priebus. He tweeted just about -- eight hours ago, he, of course, with the Mitt Romney camp tweeting, "Obama sympathizes with the attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic."
So, certainly, the reverberation politically will be felt today. As we are hitting the bottom of the hour, we just want to reset for you what exactly has happened over the course of the last 24 hours. You're looking at a picture of the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
This is Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He has been killed, presumably, targeted in his car, along with three other U.S. workers as they were leaving this embassy, rather the consulate in Benghazi, which as we pointed out, you know, just last year, this was really the nucleus of the rebel movement in Libya.
And here he is. This is a place where he is targeted and killed. This also happening after there were protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where both walls were breached and one worker in Benghazi in addition to these were killed.
BALDWIN: This is ambassador Chris Stevens. He has been killed, presumably targeted in his car, along with three other U.S. workers, as they were leaving this embassy, the consulate in Benghazi. Just last year this was the nucleus of the rebel movement in Libya. And here he is, this is a place where he is targeted and killed. This also happening after there were protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where both walls were breached and one worker in Benghazi in addition to these were killed.
JOHN BERMAN: It is important to note this did happen on September 11. This has led everyone from former Speaker Newt Gingrich who was with us before to former assistant secretary of state Jamie Rubin here to say it is as an awfully big coincidence that this all did happen on the same day. A lot of people wondering this morning, were they somehow connected? At this point we just don't know. We are looking into find out more facts.
BERMAN: The motivation behind the people that did it. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon reporting that more marines are heading to Benghazi now to help with security in Benghazi and, I'm imagine, across the region.
BALDWIN: We'll take a quick break. Are we taking a quick break? Sure, we'll take a quick break. We'll continue this conversation right after this.
BERMAN: Welcome back to breaking news everyone. We are covering the death of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. He was killed yesterday in an apparent rocket attack as he left the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. There has been a great deal of violence across the region over the last 24 hours, demonstrations in Cairo and Benghazi apparently in response to an anti-Muslim video that had been circulating in the region.
BALDWIN: We have Jamie Rubin sitting with us. Jump in.
SEYMOUR: Jamie, I have a question for you. How do you keep Americans focused on something like this when it doesn't turn out the way they thought it was? We went in. We're helpers. Everything is going to be better. It's not better. How do you keep us from changing the channel, as everybody says, because we get bored when it doesn't work the way we want it to?
RUBIN: It's the responsibility of the government, I believe, in large part, and responsible members of Congress of both parties, those who have a claim, cabinet interest in national affairs, that's their job, to keep forcing those who should be paying attention to pay attention. That means having high-level officials go visit. That means allocating enough funds for security, for foreign assistance programs. That means asking the treasury department. All the departments of the U.S. government to see what we can do.
That means getting the United Nations to make sure that its officials -- the British government, French government. This is the essence of foreign policy, to prevent the sort of inertia that will naturally occur and redirect resources and focus and energy. And it's hard. And I would be -- wouldn't be candid if I didn't say it was hard.
I remember in a small piece of land called Kosovo, a tiny place, couple million people. The secretary of state, national security adviser and secretary of defense on this tiny place had to really have a -- at the time two or three times a week speak to go through all the issues to keep our attention focused on it, to keep their at the present time's attention focused on it. That was a small place where Americans were welcomed.
So, you know, whether it was Afghanistan after that or Iraq or now Libya, these problems are bigger and bigger and more and more complicated. But that's the job of the administration and the responsible members of the Congress. I would like to think that the news media would keep some interest involved. But they tend, like everyone, to turn the channel to what's the latest development.
BERMAN: A lot of people this morning are talk talking about how an apparent film or video, amateur video made in the United States can reverberate around the world to Benghazi and around the world and back here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: We're a country that believes in religious liberty, freedom of speech. How can the U.S. government apologize for a film no one has seen, which is what the embassy in Cairo did yesterday? This is part of a much longer struggle. I think you have to connect these larger dots. It's not just about an event in Libya but a longer war, part of which we were being reminded of yesterday on 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Brooke talked earlier about the politics, the ping pong of politics. I want to set that aside. This is an important conversation to have outside the realm of a political race. You brought this up earlier, Jamie, the fact that this has shed light on trouble at home with how we handle the free speech issues. You worked for the State Department under Bill Clinton. Were these the right responses? We talked about this, John. This came out before the protests rally on the ground at the embassy in Egypt. But was this statement the appropriate statement to hear from our government?
RUBIN: I've read parts of it that you kindly shared with me. I don't know that I read it all. But I still think we can have the conversation.
Look, my guess is what happened is that information started being passed around that an Islamic extremist group inside Egypt was circulating this video, was stirring the pot, was showing it to TV stations, was asking the U.S. embassy for comment. What's your view of this video? How come you, be the U.S. government, didn't stop them from making this, the way they imagined we could, because they're not sophisticated?
And so an embassy official said we've got to figure out a way to disassociate the United States from this video. This wasn't the first time. We had, as we mentioned earlier, the Terry Jones, as the Koran was used to start trouble. There's two sets of warriors. Terry Jones is a warrior. He is trying to create a civilizational war. Just as much as the preacher in Libya or the preacher in Egypt who is shouting at his mob on the street. He's a warrior. But Terry Jones is a warrior, too. When you take -- burn a Koran or make a movie that is designed and intended to offend, you're a warrior.
So how do we deal with these warriors? I don't suspect they got the nuances right. They could have made it clearer that while we do support free speech, but we weren't involved in this.
BERMAN: To read in part "We respect religious beliefs as the cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions of those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others," talking about the maker of this film.
RUBIN: They're trying to find a way to disassociate the American government on this film.
CAIN: Is the embassy being soft or placating potential responsibility?
RUBIN: It has been seen that way. It's become a football. I'm not sure -- I think it's correct to try to disassociate the United States from these kinds of films, from the book burning. Remember the president of the United States had to get on, I believe, make a public statement when U.S. soldier accidentally burned Korans. So you have to find the right level and the right way to do it.
BALDWIN: Gentlemen, let me interject. Quick time-out. I want to go to Elise Labott. She knew ambassador Stevens for ten years. What are you learning?
LABOTT: Just about the fact that the State Department after hours and hours of reporting on Chris Stevens and other U.S. diplomatic officers, the State Department and president and secretary Clinton now confirming that they're dead. Another name that Secretary Clinton put out is Sam Smith, an officer at the State Department. We don't know a lot of information is coming out about them right now.
But right now, Brooke, the all hands on deck to try to make sure that U.S. diplomatic facilities are secure in the wake of what's happened overnight in Libya and also what happened yesterday in Cairo and everything we've been talking about. One of the main tenets of the U.S. working in these countries is that these countries have a responsibility as host government to make sure those diplomatic facilities are secure.
So right now what the State Department is doing is dealing with the immediate matters at hand. There will be plenty of times over the coming hours, days and weeks to talk about how the U.S. policy will be affected. I think it will be dramatically affected many ways on how the U.S. approaches the region. Right now it's making sure that the families of these men and women are notified, that the remains are on the way back, making sure that all U.S. diplomats and personnel specifically are protected.
BERMAN: Elise, yesterday we had heard there was a death at the U.S. consulate of an embassy official.
LABOTT: In Benghazi.
BERMAN: In Benghazi. Is this the same incident then? Is that death Christopher Stevens or were there two separate incidents here?
LABOTT: It sounds to me -- again, I -- even my sources who normally are very good about picking up the phone, everyone is really hunkered down right now. It sounds to me -- because when I left last night I was -- the State Department, I was specifically told that it was not Chris Stevens. I specifically said it's not Chris Stevens, is it? Because it was someone I knew very well and obviously I wasn't even sure he was in Benghazi. And I was told, no, no, it's not Chris Stevens. It sounds that there were two incidents from what we were able to piece together t sounds like there was a U.S. officer, U.S. foreign officer killed, they were notifying the family. As they were trying to get these other diplomatic personnel, including Chris Stevens, to safety, it sounds like there was another attack.
BALDWIN: Elise Labott, thank you. Stand by. We'll come back to you.
But I want to bring in Jomana Karadsheh. She's on the phone from Tripoli. We've been reporting on this one death, Jomana, in Benghazi. We learned of that late last night. Now we're learning about ambassador Stevens' death, and these three others, who according to your sources saw their bodies there in Benghazi. Do you know, are these two separate incidents or not?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are conflicting reports. We're hearing from the foreign minister for the eastern region, where Benghazi is, that there were two separate incidents that took place. That seemed to be dismissed by the Libyan prime minister when he was asked about it in a news conference a little earlier. He said that the details of the attack and what happened will come out as soon as the investigation is done. They refused to go into the details of what happened. But we do know that the consulate was struck by rocket-propelled grenades, according to eyewitnesses and what we're hearing from security forces. So it is a matter of waiting to see if the Libyan government does release more information about how this happened.
BALDWIN: OK, Jomana, thank you very much, for us in Tripoli this morning.
Again, we have learned of the deaths of ambassador Stevens. Also according to the state from Secretary Clinton, Sean Smith, who worked with, husband and father of two. Much more on the breaking news after this quick break.
BERMAN: All right. This just in from the Pentagon. Marine reinforcements are headed to Libya right now. Let's bring in Barbara Starr, one of the first people to report this, live at the Pentagon. Give us some of the details here, Barbara.
STARR: Well we are just learning that these Marines headed to Libya are most likely now to go to the U.S. Embassy into Tripoli. That is where they are headed. They are going to come out road to Spain out of southern Spain. This is a specially configured Marine Corps, anti- terrorism security team.
The Marines maintain these teams around the world just for these circumstances, to go in for embassy reinforcement and protection when these types of violence breaks out.
John and Brooke, we were told that there were no Marines at Benghazi. That is not a place where Marine Corps security is provided. Security, of course, happens three ways. U.S. Marines, contractors or State Department diplomatic security personnel. But the Marines were not at Benghazi. Now on their way to Tripoli to reinforce the embassy there. And John, as you said, the big question now that everyone is asking, was there enough security? Is there enough security? Are U.S. installations around the world getting the kind of security protection that they need -- John, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Barbara here is my follow-up to that. Because I know in a lot of these instances you know the real security comes from the local -- the local folks, the local government security officers.
And by the fact that we are sending in Marines, does that then infer -- and it's just a question -- that we don't trust their security forces?
STARR: Well look, you're absolutely right. The U.S. negotiates security agreements when it puts an embassy or installation in around the world. The host country, the country where we are is the one that's responsible for security outside the fence line.
U.S. Marines don't operate, you know, on the streets of Benghazi or Tripoli. It is the responsibility of the Libyans, the Egyptians, any country, to maintain enough security so that these mob violence situations don't break out to the point that they threaten the U.S. embassy -- this dates all the way back to the days in Iran.
But if this kind of violence breaks out, where were the Libyan security forces? What were they doing? Were they on the scene? The U.S. maintains security but nobody is putting an armored division at every embassy around the world. I mean, this does happen but there will be plenty of questions asked.
Did they know there was a threat out there? What was the intelligence? Could it have been prevented?
A terrible, terrible tragedy -- there's going to be a lot of second guessing about all of it. But it looks like the President and Secretary Clinton are now calling for more security at diplomatic installations around the world.
BALDWIN: Barbara Starr, thank you, of course from the Pentagon.
BERMAN: We've been reporting all morning that Christopher Stevens was a beloved figure in the diplomatic community and played a key role in the development in Libya over the last 18 months. He was a representative there for -- from the U.S. to the rebel uprising that began in Benghazi, and he's been spending a lot of time there as Ambassador of course recently.
"The New York Times" is reporting this morning that a couple of months ago in a catch up e-mail to family and friends, he was describing his first six weeks back in Libya and he described it as this. "The whole atmosphere has changed for the better", he wrote. "People smile more and are much more open with foreigners -- Americans, French and British are enjoying unusual popularity. Let's hope that lasts."
He acknowledged the situation -- the security situation there was still uncertain but he said we move around town in armored SUVs with security teams that are watching out for us.
Of course, that's not enough last night when apparently it was a rocket attack that killed him and three other Americans in Benghazi after the protests outside the consulate there.
BALDWIN: More breaking news after this quick break.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone.
We are following breaking news this morning. The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens and three other embassy staffers including one that has been named, Shawn Smith, they've been killed. A rocket attack hit their car in Benghazi in Libya after protesters had stormed the consulate there.
BALDWIN: Also earlier this morning the head of Libya's ruling party apologized for the death. They also said this.
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MOHAMMED AL-MEGARYEF, LIBYA'S GENERAL NATIONAL CONGRESS (through translator): That it is not victory -- to God, religion or to his prophet in anything -- if one to resort to this kind of cowardice and dirty criminal acts that took place yesterday in Benghazi.
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BERMAN: I want to bring in our panel here who's with us -- including assistant secretary of state -- former assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin. We've talking all morning about the number of things that were going on yesterday. It was September 11th. There were protests in Cairo and in Benghazi and this rocket attack on the U.S. Ambassador there.
We don't know if there's a connection. But it seems an awfully big coincidence. If there is a connection then, what's the significance of that? That 11 years after September 11th we still have this going on?
RUBIN: Well, I think the significance -- I was at the -- the 9/11 ceremony yesterday -- is that America has really started to put to a degree 9/11 behind it. We're worried about our economy. We're worried about many, many domestic issues. With bin Laden dead, with so long since 9/11 happening America is a country it's -- I wouldn't say fully moved on but close to moving on.
Meanwhile, the world has changed and it's changed across the Middle East and Islamic extremism and those who would commit terrorism are still out there. They've come in different forms. They're not in Afghanistan the way they were before 9/11, but they're out there in small groups, small numbers spread out across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
And it's a problem we're going to live with for a long, long time both the political problems of extremist and the military problem of al Qaeda.
MARTIN: Jamie, I want to -- this picks up on what Leslie said earlier and when you read those words from Ambassador Stevens, he's talking about the hope and people are smiling and how folks are treated. At some point there is a reality that sets in that this is going to be a long slog, a very difficult path in order to actually advance freedom. Because sure, you can have -- gain your freedom. But then you have to really build a country, build an infrastructure. And that takes time.
RUBIN: That's exactly right. I mean, let's face it. Libya has not received a lot of attention from the West. Some -- but not very much. Remember, part of that, the French government change, Nicolas Sarkozy was the big advocate --
RUBIN: -- of the war in Libya. He's been voted out of office. His successor probably doesn't care much about Libya or focus much about it at all.
The British government has run into some trouble domestically since their advocacy. President Obama was never the leader, he was very consciously deciding to -- to support Britain and France.
So no one country, no one group, no one alliance had the lead in the post-Gadhafi Libya. And this is what happens.
BALDWIN: But has it really -- but has it really been the lack of attention or to your point the lack of infrastructure or has it been to your point that these radical groups that have been you know sort of been lurking in the shadows, if you will, through these -- you know, through the Gadhafis and the Mubaraks.
And now that they are gone, this vacuum -- it's sort of like we go back to how we talk about the devil you know versus the devil you don't. They're there.
RUBIN: You know it's all the things you said, in a post Gadhafi Libya with no system of civic governance, there were bound to be places in which Islamic extremists could jump and exploit. That's one point, definitely.
Would there be less such places if the international community was involved more in trying to help them build? Yes, there would be less. So that -- so that's -- it's both things.
CAIN: But doesn't -- I've had the pleasure of knowing you now for a year, Jamie. We had conversations when the Libya -- when Libya was in transition, at the very beginning. Doesn't this simply highlight -- I think what Roland is asking, what Brooke is pointing out -- that we need to ask these questions such as what comes after the bad guy before we take actions? We can't wait to these moments to be at discussing these items. These need to happen before we send in military action. RUBIN: Well at the time you may remember I was much more of an advocate of the United States playing a leading role in Libya. I felt we had an opportunity here. It was a limited involvement momentarily that we should have played a leading role. And in that case, America would be in a stronger position to insist on actions from the rebels inside Libya, would be in a stronger position to insist on action from our allies, if we had borne a larger share of the burden and would have been more likely to stay focused.
But one of the problems of being a defused multi-national, multi- headed operation is nobody feel sin charge. And when Sarkozy left office particularly, there's been no individual who's been in charge worldwide. That's why I believe we would have had more leverage, more involvement and less likely to have this sort of problem, had we led in Libya.
BERMAN: We're going to pause here for a second. We're covering the death, right now, of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya by rocket attack.
Stay with us. We'll have more coverage is coming up.
BERMAN: Welcome back everyone.
We are covering breaking news, the death of the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, in Libya, killed apparently by a rocket attack in his car, along with three other Americans, one of whom has been identified as State Department official, Shawn Smith, along with two other Americans in that rocket attack in Benghazi.
BALDWIN: We know that the White House has confirmed his death this morning. We've also heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We now know it is Ambassador Stevens and also Shawn Smith, another one of these workers who was killed. Two others as well.
We are waiting for information and identification once they notify the families. Just glancing at my e-mails from our embed with the Romney camp; we also know Mitt Romney will be addressing Libya in his remarks on the trail today from Jacksonville in just about 35 minutes. So they will be carrying that for you live on "CNN NEWSROOM".
And with that, let's go to Carol Costello. "CNN NEWSROOM" continues right now -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. Thank you for being with us. I'm Carol Costello.