Benghazi consulate security didn’t meet minimum standards

posted at 12:41 pm on September 25, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Did the sacked diplomatic mission in Libya fail to meet basic security standards set by the State Department and US law?  Well, it’s not like the American consulate in Benghazi had any special security needs from its location in eastern Libya, where terrorist networks have mingled into militias, and where US intelligence had a vital need.  Oh, wait ….

The U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was operating under a lower security standard than a typical consulate when it was attacked this month, according to State Department officials.

The mission was a rented villa and considered a temporary facility by the agency, which allowed a waiver that permitted fewer guards and security measures than a standard embassy or consulate, according to the officials.

There was talk about constructing a permanent facility, which would require a building that met U.S. security and legal standards, the officials said.

Allowing a waiver would have been a decision made with input from Washington, Libyan officials and the ambassador, according to diplomatic security experts.

“Someone made the decision that the mission in Benghazi was so critical that they waived the standard security requirements, which presents unique challenges to the diplomatic security service as you can imagine,” said Fred Burton, vice president for Intelligence at STRATFOR, an intelligence analysis group.

The next question should be who approved the waiver.  After all, as noted above, this is perhaps one of themost challenging spots for an American diplomatic mission.  The collapse of the central government allowed the radical Islamist terror networks that had operated for years under cover to come out into the open.  They didn’t have any gratitude for American intervention against Moammar Qaddafi, which is why the CIA needed to have a diplomatic installation in order to keep tabs on those suddenly-emboldened terrorists.  That should have prompted better-than-minimal security at the very least, not less-than-minimal security for an American consulate.

Oh, and that protest-spun-out-of-control story?  Forget it:

The American, who spoke to CNN on Monday on the condition his name not be used, said he had been speaking with Stevens less than three hours before the deadly attack.

He said there was no indication during the conversation that anything was wrong, saying Stevens sounded upbeat and calm and he was very enthusiastic about the next day’s meeting with the American.

About 20 minutes after that conversation, the American spoke with a U.S. security officer to discuss logistics about the upcoming meeting. That call also revealed no signs of any pending trouble, he said.

The American had a second call with the security officer a little more than an hour later, around 9:30 p.m. local time, and the situation had dramatically changed. The security officer told the American “we’ve got a real problem here” and hung up.

The timing matches what CNN’s Arwa Damon, who has been reporting from Benghazi, said about the September 11 attack. Damon reported a group of armed individuals showed up outside the consulate around 9:30 and a firefight broke out within 30 minutes.

CNN has done more reporting on this incident than most other media outlets, much to the chagrin of the State Department.  State attacked CNN for their use of a journal left in the rubble that belonged to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, claiming that CNN promised the family that it wouldn’t be used at all, a claim CNN disputes.  Other journalists have also slammed CNN for its use of the journal, but as I argue in my column for The Week, this is what used to be known as reporting — something that seems to have disappeared at other media outlets after the Obama administration’s story fell apart:

Two days after State clammed up, the Obama administration sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to five different Sunday talk shows to push the official line at the time on the Benghazi attack, which is that it was a spontaneous protest that “spun out of control” and resulted in a violent riot. At that time and since, the Libyan government forcefully rejected that conclusion, insisting that the attack had been premeditated and conducted by one or more terrorist networks operating in eastern Libya. By week’s end, the White House was forced to change its story, admitting that it had been a terrorist attack. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both insisted that they would find those responsible for the murder of Stevens and three other Americans, more than a week after the anniversary of 9/11 when the terrorist attack occurred.

One might think that those same Sunday talk shows would want to revisit Ambassador Rice’s categorical denials from a week earlier — but one would be sorely disappointed. Only CNN’s State of the Union show included any guests with a foreign-policy portfolio, House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees. Fox News’ Chris Wallace grilled Obama adviser Robert Gibbs on Libya and foreign policy. The rest of the talk shows featured nothing but horse-race analysis and commentators on domestic policy. Amazingly, less than two weeks after a successful terrorist attack that claimed the life of an American ambassador, a week after another ambassador claimed that it was just a spontaneous protest gone bad, and less than a week after the U.S. government had to reverse its initial stance on whether it was a terrorist attack at all, only CNN and Fox News thought to cover foreign policy on their Sunday schedules.

So what happens when a reporter does ask the State Department to discuss the Benghazi attack and the collapse of their narrative?  BuzzFeed’s Michael Hastings found out the hard way in an e-mail exchange with Hillary Clinton’s spokesman Philippe Reines (bad language ahead):

On Sunday morning, BuzzFeed correspondent Michael Hastings emailed Philippe Reines, Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide and personal spokesman at the State Department, asking a series of pointed questions about State’s handling of the Benghazi fiasco, and Reines’ over-the-top attack on CNN. The emails quickly got personal, with Reines calling Hastings an “unmitigated asshole” before an exchange of harsh words on both sides.

The email chain concluded with Reines writing that Hastings should “Fuck Off” and “Have a good life.”

To be fair, Hastings became hostile and somewhat unprofessional after a curt response from Reines, so there’s enough blame to go around on this exchange.  Still, we expect government officials to respond professionally, and we expect the State Department to offer a little more transparency on a major incident (and terrorist attack) than a transparently false cover story followed by stonewalling, especially when four Americans are dead at least arguably in part due to the security decisions made by State for Benghazi.  At least CNN (and BuzzFeed) seem interested in that story.

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Still, we expect government officials to respond professionally, and we expect the State Department to offer a little more transparency on a major incident

It turns out that a 3:00a.m. phone call to Hillary would have reached the same dummy as one to Obama.

I hope Egypt and Libya destroys Obama and Hillary.

Schadenfreude on September 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM

If this had happened on Bush and Rice’s Watch…

Oh, nevermind.

Del Dolemonte on September 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Not defending the DOS spokeshole, but Michael Hastings is a leftist d-bag. He’s been trying to undermine the war effort in Afghanistan for years, to which end he brought down General McChrystal on what a DOD investigation later determined were bogus charges. There are no good guys in this exchange; as Henry Kissinger once said vis-a-vis the Iran-Iraq war: “Pity both sides can’t lose.”

Hayabusa on September 25, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Incompetence that caused death of Americans. What is that called?

antisocial on September 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM

There are so many ways to hammer Obama for doing a terrible job.
Hope Romney has go some zingers read for the debates.
First one in about a week.

albill on September 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM

State attacked CNN for their use of a journal left in the rubble that belonged to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, claiming that CNN promised the family that it wouldn’t be used at all, a claim CNN disputes

Well then, maybe State should have secured the consulate after the attack. CNN walking around there 4 days after the assault and finding the diary? That’s incompetence on the part of the federal government, and since it involved an ambassador’s assassination, that goes straight to the top.

rbj on September 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM

At least CNN (and BuzzFeed) seem interested in that story.

Random acts of journalism.

Bitter Clinger on September 25, 2012 at 12:51 PM

didn’t meet minimum standards

…isn’t that the goal of this administration…just to meet minimum standards as far as personnel go?

KOOLAID2 on September 25, 2012 at 12:51 PM

It’s hard for democrats to obtain minimal standards, double standards are all they have.

Flange on September 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Nothing to see here. Why? Because of Romney’s gaaaaffes.
And, racism.

juliesa on September 25, 2012 at 12:54 PM

“unmitigated asshole”

A fitting description of so many in Barry’s gaggle.

Slainte on September 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM

It’s a simple question.

What was the Ambassador doing on September 11 in Jihadville Benghazi without security?

Don’t wait for the translation.

spiritof61 on September 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Well then, maybe State should have secured the consulate after the attack. CNN walking around there 4 days after the assault and finding the diary? That’s incompetence on the part of the federal government, and since it involved an ambassador’s assassination, that goes straight to the top.

rbj on September 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM

This.

Why wasn’t the consulate even secured after the attack? What happened to the Marines rapid response unit that Obama said he was sending over there? The place was open for just any yahoo to rummage around and remove evidence or documents?

cep on September 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM

So, no attempt was made to avoid this “bump in the road.” Who would’ve guessed?

TXUS on September 25, 2012 at 12:56 PM

The next question should be who approved the waiver.

Now you know why Hilary is hiding Stevens’ journal.

She knew that journal could not be read by the FBI, or Congress.

faraway on September 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM

unmitigated a$$hole

is a fitting description of many in Barry’s gaggle.

Slainte on September 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Incompetence that caused death of Americans. What is that called?

antisocial on September 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Fast and Furious 2.0.

CurtZHP on September 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM

only CNN and Fox News thought to cover foreign policy on their Sunday schedules.

This was the plan from the start, to have Susan Rice go on every show the first week blaming it on a video. Then, when the facts change only 6-7 days later, the news outlets will cover for O and bury the story.

The LIV’s are their base voters.

HellCat on September 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM

How many days has it been? I must have missed the news stories that talked about how we killed the terrorists that did this with missiles or drones. Don’t they have any aspirin factories over there?

Oh right, it was a spontaneous attack. /

cep on September 25, 2012 at 1:00 PM

OT: In response to Ugh!

This is too funny!

jazzmo on September 25, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Incompetence that caused death of Americans. What is that called?

antisocial on September 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Blood on their hands, Obama and Hillary

Schadenfreude on September 25, 2012 at 1:01 PM

If this had happened on Bush and Rice’s Watch…

Oh, nevermind.

Del Dolemonte on September 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM

I have a hard time believing that anybody who worked for Condi Rice would end an e-mail “Fuck Off” and “Have a good life.” Or if they did it they’d be shown the door.

Keep in mind this wasn’t a personal exchange this was a reporter asking a government official pointed questions. Even if Reines meant every word it was inappropriate.

Happy Nomad on September 25, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Romney’s bad week.

faraway on September 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM

“Damon reported a group of armed individuals showed up outside the consulate around 9:30 and a firefight broke out within 30 minutes.”

Let me get this straight. There was a 30 minute gap between armed militia showing up and firefight start and yet somehow Libyan government had no idea and could not help nor provide protection? I understand Benghazi is a huge metropolitan center with 2 traffic lights and 6 stop signs, traffic there at this time of night is horrendous what with all the donkeys making their way to the nightly pasture, but can anyone take anything Libya says at this point seriously?

Bomb the government into stone age. Lying muslim sacks of crap…

And we voted to keep sending them money this past weekend?

riddick on September 25, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Let them attack CNN, we may see a revolt among the MSM if these guys let their arrogance make their fundamental decisions.
Arrogance and pride destroy the caution and image building that brought them to power. That is a fatal flaw among far too many undeserving power-meisters that, sooner or later, takes them down.

Don L on September 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Oh right, it was a spontaneous attack. /

cep on September 25, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Sure it was. It took ver 2 months to plan, a few hours to all to gather and check arms and munitions and proceed to the consulate location.

But the attack did start “spontaneously”, don’t you see. That first shot fired signifies “spontaneous” attack and not a second before.

riddick on September 25, 2012 at 1:11 PM

A word to rioting Muslims

SWalker on September 25, 2012 at 1:16 PM

stevens should have been at the embassy that night, he’d still be alive.
 
sesquipedalian on September 14, 2012 at 1:53 PM

rogerb on September 25, 2012 at 1:19 PM

September 11th.

Who could have known ?

/

FlaMurph on September 25, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Swillary’s in deep doo-doo… deep and well over her kankles.

She’s in full CYA mode. Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire.

petefrt on September 25, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Time for Hillary’s boy toy to make another reset button.

MNHawk on September 25, 2012 at 1:59 PM

The good news is, I think someone at CNN is realizing they’re doing so poorly that they better get their sh!t together, and soon, or they’ll be history. I don’t know if they can turn themselves around at this point, but it’s a good sign.

The Rogue Tomato on September 25, 2012 at 2:46 PM

The next question should be who approved the waiver.

My wife works for State, Overseas Building Operations (OBO). The waiver would have been asked for by OBO because it wasn’t a permanent building which is owned by the USG. Waivers are asked for for a number of reasons. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have had extra security personnel on the ground instead, or built up the external security for the building on their own. This should never have happend. Period. If DS sees the embassy in Paris as a High Threat needing the highest level of security, one would think that Benghazi would. Having served with Glen at ST-3, it pisses me off even more. Either the president or State needs to start talking about WTF happened, and soon. This is UNSAT.

Patriot Vet on September 25, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Back in the day, a State Department employee would have been packing up his office the minute he hit “send” on an expletive laced email to the press, no matter what the excuse, or what member of the press it was sent to. I know that’s what my employer would ask me to do if I used state email to conduct myself in that manner. Just another manner in which this administration reminds me of a bunch of goons and bullies.

scalleywag on September 25, 2012 at 3:47 PM

Hillary to fire Raines for professional misconduct …

Oh wait, they’re progressives, never mind.

Condi would have canned anybody working for State who responded this way, no matter how heavily provoked by a tool like Hastings. And Bush would have ordered her to do so if she hesitated.

The double standards never end.

Freelancer on September 25, 2012 at 4:27 PM

Maybe some other reporters will feel twinges of envy towards CNN and break ranks into the world of true journalism. Hey, if you can smell the stink of fear emananting from the WH, you know Barry isn’t going to be POTUS much longer. People will need someone to blame, and his entire administration is corrupt.

Who wants to be the next Bob Woodward?

disa on September 25, 2012 at 5:22 PM