Obama: Benghazi may have been ‘big breakdown’

Olivier Knox

President Barack Obama said in an interview that if the investigation into the Sept. 11 attack on the American compound in Libya finds that "there was a big breakdown, and somebody didn't do their job, they'll be held accountable."

Speaking with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on Monday, the president said that "ultimately, as commander in chief, I'm responsible and I don't shy away from that responsibility. My No. 1 responsibility is to go after the folks who did this, and we're going to make sure we get them. I've got a pretty good track record of doing that."

Republicans have hammered the Obama administration over its evolving public explanation for the causes of the attack, which claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.  Stevens was the first American ambassador since 1979 to be killed in the line of duty.

Obama called the attack an act of terror in his first public remarks on the issue on Sept. 12. But in subsequent days, top aides repeatedly pointed the finger at Muslim rage over an Internet video that mocks Islam and described the strike as emerging from a "spontaneous" demonstration. The State Department ultimately said there had been no such protest. (Intelligence officials branded the attack terrorism on Day One.)

Asked whether the intelligence community provided poor information, Obama replied: "That's what we're going to find out from the investigation."

"But the truth is that across the board, when this happened, my No. 1 priority was secure Americans, figure out what happened, bring those folks to justice. We are in the process of doing that right now," he added. "Congress has been getting the flow of information continuously from Day One."

Obama also said there were "all kinds of legitimate questions" about what happened in the eastern Libyan city.

"But I do take offense, as I've said at one of the debates, with some suggestion that in any way we haven't tried to make sure that the American people knew, as information was coming in, what we believed happened," he said.