Via Mediaite, I won’t spoil the surprise of whether Geraldo is pro- or anti-O. Actually, the vid’s just candy to lure you into another post about the latest revelation of what State knew about security deteriorating in the city. Remember that meeting in mid-August where the consulate determined that there were Al Qaeda training camps in the city and that it probably couldn’t fend off a “coordinated attack”? Evidently, they decided at the same meeting that security was bad enough that they should consider moving to a different site entirely — specifically, the local CIA annex:
The cable marked “SECRET” also said, of the possibility of moving the consulate operations: “Mission personnel could co-locate to the Annex (CIA outpost) if the security environment degraded suddenly. … (There was agreement) to formal weekly meetings to discuss the security environment. … In the longer term, we believe formal collocation with the (Annex) will greatly improve our security situation.”
The warnings reflected a grave concern among officials on the ground that the Libyan militia charged with protecting the consulate [the 17 February Brigade] had been compromised, perhaps even infiltrated by extremists…
Days after the attack, an intelligence source on the ground in Libya told Fox News: “One thing for sure is that the 17 Brigade was nowhere to be found and the Americans were left on their own in the assault.” On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very bad, the intelligence source said the consulate security was “A 10 — total security failure. Benghazi was known to be a major area for extremist activities. Militias’ loyalty is easily bought and sold. Deals with militia leaders are worth nothing.”
So the “inside job” theory is coming together. One of the consulate’s Libyan guards — possibly a member of the February 17 Brigade — was seen taking photos of the compound on the morning of the attack, and then the Brigade conveniently failed to ride to the rescue when Ansar al-Sharia attacked that night. Because they worked with the consulate, the Brigade may also have known that the annex was a secret CIA base, which might explain how jihadis managed to pull together a separate attack at that site later in the evening. Now all we need to do is figure out who made the insane decision to trust a local militia with a key security role for a top U.S. diplomat when Al Qaeda had bases of its own in the same city.
Speaking of which, sources who may or may not be associated with the State Department want you to know that this is really kinda sorta the CIA’s fault:
The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation, according to officials briefed on the intelligence. Of the more than 30 American officials evacuated from Benghazi following the deadly assault, only seven worked for the State Department. Nearly all the rest worked for the CIA, under diplomatic cover, which was a principal purpose of the consulate, these officials said…
The CIA’s secret role helps explain why security appeared inadequate at the U.S. diplomatic facility. State Department officials believed that responsibility was set to be shouldered in part by CIA personnel in the city through a series of secret agreements that even some officials in Washington didn’t know about…
In Libya, the relationship between the State Department and CIA was secret and symbiotic: The consulate provided diplomatic cover for the classified CIA operations. The State Department believed it had a formal agreement with the CIA to provide backup security, although a congressional investigator said it now appears the CIA didn’t have the same understanding about its security responsibilities.
In other words, supposedly, the reason State didn’t ramp up security at the consulate despite repeated warnings about terrorist threats was because they thought they already had ramped it up. The security team at the CIA annex was their back-up — except, somehow, either somebody forgot to tell CIA that or CIA was told and then forgot. It’s too depressing to believe that that sort of negligence and miscommunication is going on at the top of the government, especially when it comes to protecting U.S. diplomats in the field, so I’m going to pretend that this is really just a half-assed cover story designed to shield State. In which case, two questions. One: How was the security team at the CIA annex an adequate substitute for stationing more guards — reliable guards — at the consulate itself? The guards on the premises when the attack began were Stevens’s only hope for survival; a team from the annex did in fact leave soon after the attack began to try to rescue him but it was already too late. Security professionals like Eric Nordstrom who were stationed in Libya repeatedly asked for more security notwithstanding the annex’s presence in Benghazi. Obviously a lot of people thought back-up from the CIA team wasn’t enough. The WSJ’s sources seem to want us to think that State couldn’t send more guards or troops to Libya because that would attract attention and maybe blow the CIA’s cover. If so, if the only choice here was between the local CIA being found out and the consulate being left so vulnerable that the ambassador was an easy target for murder, then I’m thinking someone somewhere should have done a much better job of plotting this security arrangement.
Two: What does any of this have to do with the burning question of why troops or gunships weren’t sent in once the attack had begun? Beware of misdirection, says David French:
What is missing from [the CIA timeline released yesterday]? Any details at all about the military or White House’s situational awareness and decision-making. As I detailed on Monday, the White House and Department of Defense no doubt already have a timeline that includes the following information: (a) when the military learned of the attack; (b) the military’s state of situational awareness hour-by-hour; (c) whether it received any requests for help; (d) what assets — if any — were available to render aid in time; (e) what recommendations were made; (f) whether any definitive orders were given; and (g) who gave them.
More than six hours passed between the arrival of the Predator drone overhead and the final, deadly attack on the annex. That is more than enough time to make a decision and bring military assets into the fight. Why were they not deployed? The Daily Beast says that the State Department “never requested military backup,” but that hardly answers the question. That’s typically the responsibility of the ambassador, who was at that very moment cut off, alone, and dying. Interestingly, in that same report the Daily Beast wasn’t able to confirm or deny whether CIA officers made requests for air support.
Yeah, the State/CIA security arrangement at the consulate is interesting but it’s only relevant to what happened before the attack. There’s a separate question of what the White House did, or didn’t do, during the attack to try to save Americans stranded at the annex after they’d been evacuated from the consulate. A Pentagon spokesman said today that rapid-response Marine teams in Sicily “were not in place until after the attacks were over.” But … why not? It was 9/11. Given the Al Qaeda presence and weak central government, there was arguably no place more dangerous for an American diplomat than Libya. According to Fox News, the consulate itself had been tipped hours before the attack that something was coming. How rapid are these rapid reaction teams if that’s not enough warning to get people on the ground during an attack that raged on and off for eight hours?