posted at 8:41 am on October 8, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
A number of media sources have fresh looks at the Obama administration’s handling of security in the weeks before the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi drove us out of eastern Libya and killed four Americans, including US Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens. First, Fox News reported yesterday that the State Department decided to stick to its schedule of rotating out a 16-man Special Ops team assigned to diplomatic security in Benghazi, just weeks before the attack in August. They were joined in their exit by a six-man security team from the State Department itself:
ABC News follows this up with a report this morning that Stevens himself wanted the special forces team to stay in Libya, but apparently were overruled:
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens wanted a Security Support Team, made up of 16 special operations soldiers, to stay with him in Libya after their deployment was scheduled to end in August, the commander of that security team told ABC News.
The embassy staff’s “first choice was for us to stay,” Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, 55, told ABC News in an interview. “That would have been the choice of the embassy people in Tripoli.” …
Asked for comment to the memo and Wood’s comments, a spokesman for the House Oversight Committee told ABC News: “Diplomats working in Libya viewed security provided by highly trained Americans as critical to their safety and mission. The Oversight Committee’s investigation continues to seek answers about why — even as threats against Americans increased — senior State Department officials erroneously decided such security was no longer needed.”
Investigators are exploring whether anyone at the State Department told the Embassy specifically not to request another extension.
The State Department responded this morning by claiming that Stevens had requested a specific level of security which matched what he already had. However, Eli Lake’s report from the Daily Beast today underscores just how fragile those security arrangements were. Thanks to Obama administration efforts in Libya, Stevens sent a cable the morning of the attack warning State that their support of a Libyan candidate for Prime Minister threatened to alienate the militias that protected the Benghazi consulate:
Just two days before the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two leaders of the Libyan militias responsible for keeping order in the city threatened to withdraw their men.
The brinksmanship is detailed in a cable approved by Ambassador Chris Stevens and sent on the day he died in the attack, the worst assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission since the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran. The dispatch, which was marked “sensitive” but not “classified,” contained a number of other updates on the chaotic situation on the ground in post-Gaddafi Libya.
Security for U.S. diplomats in Libya was cut in the weeks before the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi