Libyan pol: It was obvious that the consulate in Benghazi needed much better security

Via Ace, maybe we can get the media interested in the administration’s negligence here if we start referring to it as a “gaffe.”

As gaffes go, this one’s a biggie:

[A]lthough the scene in the American consulate’s canteen in Benghazi on Tuesday morning looked serene, under the surface there were signs of potential trouble, according to the Libyan politician who had breakfast with Stevens the morning before the ambassador and three other Americans died in a violent assault by armed Islamic militants. “I told him the security was not enough,” Fathi Baja, a political science professor and one of the leaders of Libya’s rebel government during last year’s revolution, told TIME on Thursday. “I said, ‘Chris, this is a U.S. consulate. You have to add to the number of people, bring Americans here to guard it, because the Libyans are not trained.”…

U.S. officials told reporters on Wednesday that the Benghazi consulate had “a robust American security presence, including a strong component of regional security officers.” And indeed, one of the four Americans killed was a former Navy SEAL, Glen Doherty, who was “on security detail” and “protecting the ambassador,” his sister Katie Quigly told the Boston Globe. Also killed was an information management officer, Sean Smith. The fourth American who died has not yet been identified. Yet Baja described a very different picture from his visit on Tuesday morning, even remarking at how relaxed the scene was when he returned to the consulate building a short while after leaving Stevens, in order to collect the mobile phone he had accidentally left behind. “The consulate was very calm, with video [surveillance] cameras outside,” Baja said. “But inside there were only four security guards, all Libyans—four!—and with only Kalshnikovs on their backs. I said, ‘Chris, this is the most powerful country in the world. Other countries all have more guards than the U.S.,’” he said, naming as two examples Jordan and Morocco.

Again, this was the anniversary of 9/11 and a consulate that had been targeted before in a country where armed militias still patrol the streets. In a way, I could understand if the White House had taken a chance with less security at the embassy in Cairo: The Egyptian military and police still have a monopoly on force, more or less, so the State Department powers that be might have concluded that the threat of a full-on attack was relatively small. Not so in Libya. You have a fledgling national army there and a culture that’s still transitioning to something resembling civil society after decades of Qaddafi. Jihadis didn’t need state complicity to carry out their plan to hit the consulate (on the contrary, the Libyan government has been contrite over what happened), so it was essential that the U.S. provide its own security. It didn’t. How come, Foreign-Policy President?

Speaking of taking a chance on less security in Egypt, lots of people are e-mailing about a story at the Washington Free Beacon noting a report that Marines at the Cairo embassy weren’t allowed by Ambassador Anne Patterson to carry live ammo. The original report cites “USMC blogs” for that claim, but Time reporter Mark Thompson says he can’t find any blogs alleging that. In a statement to Time, a Pentagon spokesman said, “With or without a weapon, Marines are always armed. I’ve heard nothing to suggest they don’t have ammunition.” I’ll update with more info as I hear of it. Needless to say, if the administration is disarming its own security, that’s a story “gaffe” worth covering. The good news? At least there were Marines on the scene in Cairo, armed or not. If only that had been true in Benghazi.

Exit question: What did the Foreign-Policy President have to do yesterday that was so important that he decided to skip his daily intel briefing — the day after an American ambassador was murdered? Ah, right.

Update: According to Mother Jones, a memo from the Corps’ congressional liaison says that the Marines at the Cairo embassy did indeed have live ammo:

The Ambassador did not impose restrictions on weapons or weapons status on the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) detachment. The MCESG Marines in Cairo were allowed to have live ammunition in their weapons. The Ambassador and Regional Security Officer have been completely and appropriately engaged with the security situation. Reports of Marines not being able to have their weapons loaded per direction from the Ambassador are not accurate.

Jake Tapper’s being told the same thing by an Obama administration official.