On September 11, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked by militant Islamic extremists. The incident resulted in the death of four American Citizens: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods.
Today three whistleblowers, Mark Thompson, Gregory Hicks, and Eric Nordstrom, testified in front of the House of Representatives today about the inadequacies of security arrangements and the mismanagement of the attack’s aftermath.
It was clear from the hearing that despite being labeled a critical and high threat/high risk level facility, waivers for some of the statutory security requirements were signed off on by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. These requirements are delineated by Secure Embassy Construction and counterterrorism Act of 1999, which was developed in response to the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya.
Despite official and repeated requests for additional security, the amount of security personnel was actually lowered in August. In response to a carjacking incident, Colonel Gibson’s team was drawn down from 14 to 4 personnel. The remainder of security was provided by Libyan militia. Testimony today showed that some of the militia was complicit in the attacks.
At the time of the attack, the facility was “normalizing” from a temporary consulate to a permanent embassy. “Secretary Clinton wanted the post to be made permanent,” Hicks said. The Secretary had plans to visit Tripoli later in the year and wanted to announce the permanent Benghazi embassy.
During the attack, Thompson notified the White House that he wanted to activate the Foreign Emergency Support team, but was told that this was not “in the menu of options.” Colonel Gibson’s team was told to stand down. “People who are a normal part of that team were shocked and amazed that they were not being called on their beepers, cell phones, to go,” Thompson said.
In the aftermath, Ambassador Susan Rice contradicted the newly elected President of Libya, Mohammad al-Magarief, in saying that the attack was spurred by a protest over an internet video.
“I was stunned,” Hicks said. “There was no report from the U.S. mission in Libya that there was a demonstration.” He went on to say that this directly hurt U.S. relations with Libya, and caused delays in the FBI investigation of the event. After the interview, it took “17-18 days” before the FBI could gain access to the consulate, during which time the crime scene was never secured.
House of Representatives Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, Benghazi: http://oversight.house.gov/hearing/benghazi-exposing-failure-and-recognizing-courage/
The Wall Street Journal, Clash Erupts at Benghazi Hearing: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324244304578470880723398290.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
Cornell University Law School, Security Requirements for United States Diplomatic Facilities: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/4865