Lieberman, Blumenthal split on Middle East attacks

Washington — Sen. Joe Lieberman on Wednesday echoed the chorus of Republican leaders saying that the violent protests against the United States that started in the Middle East last week were planned.

“This to me looked very organized,” Lieberman said after the Homeland Security Committee meeting. “I supposed accidents happen but to have this occur on 9/11, it stretches my belief that it was all accidental.”

The protests, which have spread to more than 20 countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, were touched off by a YouTube clip of the trailer for “Innocence of Muslims,” an unreleased movie made in the United States that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a gay child abuser.

The violence began in Egypt when a peaceful protest against the film turned violent. The chaos spread to Libya, where an attack on the U.S. Embassy resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Splitting from Lieberman, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said there is not enough evidence to determine if the attacks were planned or coordinated.

“I don’t believe there’s enough evidence to reach a conclusion one way or another,” Blumenthal said. “I’m going to wait for the evidence.”

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday the attacks were spontaneous and prompted by the video and not a result of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

An FBI team is on the ground investigating in Libya, and the State Department is also conducting an investigation.

A number of Republicans said they believe the protests were choreographed, some saying that the Obama administration failed to detect and stop a planned assault on Americans and U.S. interests overseas.

“A planned and coordinated assault points loudly to a security lapse,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, has not accused the administration of a security lapse.

And, although Lieberman said he is certain the attacks were planned, he said he did not know if they were coordinated.

“I have no evidence it was coordinated, but it might be,” Lieberman said.