WASHINGTON - A public clash in Congress on Wednesday over photographs depicting the location of a second, semi-secret US facility in Benghazi, Libya put the spotlight on a compound said to be more secure than the public American mission where US Ambassador Christopher Stevens died last month.
When State Department officials, describing the chain of events on the night Stevens and three others died in a terrorist attack, displayed commercial satellite images of the two US facilities, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, sharply accused them of divulging classified material.
"I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you're showing here today," Chaffetz said at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. A congressional aide confirmed he was referring to the second site.
The existence of the second compound has been widely reported in accounts of the Sept. 11 violence in Benghazi, often being referred to as a "safe house" or "annex" to the temporary US consulate. State Department officials at Wednesday's hearing said the photographs were not secret.
While the US officials gave a fleeting public glimpse into the compound, they divulged little of substance on its purpose prior to the Benghazi attack, which has became an issue in the US presidential campaign and the subject of multiple State Department and congressional probes.