Libya consulate security was too weak, says former military team chief (+video)
Lt. Col, Andrew Wood, the head of a 16-member military team in Libya, said that diplomatic security was unusually weak at the US consulate in Benghazi, where the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed in a September terrorist attack.
(Page 2 of 2)
In statements immediately after the attack, neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned terrorism. And both gave credence to the notion that the attack was related to protests about the anti-Islam video.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Libya: Daily life after Qaddafi
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet," Clinton said on the night of the attack. "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
Wood said, "The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there."
"The situation remained uncertain and reports from some Libyans indicated it was getting worse. Diplomatic security remained weak. In April there was only one U.S. diplomatic security agent stationed there," he said in his prepared, written testimony. "The RSO (regional security officer) struggled to obtain additional personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with," Wood added.
The committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, has alleged that the State Department turned aside pleas from its diplomats in Libya to increase security in the months and weeks before the attack in Benghazi. One scheduled witness Wednesday, Eric Nordstrom, is the former chief security officer for U.S. diplomats in Libya, who told the committee his pleas for more security were ignored.
Nordstrom addressed the diplomatic security issue in an Oct. 1 email to a congressional investigator. He said his requests for more security were blocked by a department policy to "normalize operations and reduce security resources."
A memo Tuesday by the Oversight Committee's Democratic staff provided details of Nordstrom's interview with the panel's investigators. In that interview, Nordstrom said he sent two cables to State Department headquarters in March 2012 and July 2012 requesting additional diplomatic security agents for Benghazi, but he received no responses.
He stated that Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary for international programs, wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi artificially low. He said Lamb believed the Benghazi facilities did not need any diplomatic security special agents because there was a residential safe haven to fall back to in an emergency.