Fiasco: 15 days later, FBI still can't gain access to Benghazi consulate

I know you’ve already read a bunch of Libya posts today but you’re going to have to read a few more because this is indeed now a “major scandal,” from the lack of security at the consulate before the attack to the White House lies afterward about a “spontaneous” reaction to the Mohammed movie to the baffling failure of the FBI to get access to the consulate afterward. Two possibilities, neither one good for the administration. Either the FBI’s been frozen out by bureaucratic infighting or they can’t get access due to the Libyan government’s inability — or unwillingness — to secure the building for a few days of investigation. Whatever the answer, as veteran Robert Caruso said today on Twitter, it’s hard to have a law-enforcement approach to terrorism without law enforcement.

Former Bush advisor Fran Townsend says her sources are pointing to both explanations:

“They had difficulty, and we understand there was some bureaucratic infighting between the FBI and Justice Department on the one hand, and the State Department on the other, and so it took them longer than they would have liked to get into country. They’ve now gotten there. But they still are unable to get permission to go to Benghazi.”

FBI agents have made a request through the U.S. State Department for the crime scene to be secured, Townsend said, but that has not happened.

“The senior law enforcement official I spoke to said, ‘If we get there now, it’s not clear that it will be of any use to us,'” Townsend said.

The FBI team has conducted interviews of State Department and U.S. government personnel who were in Libya at the time of the attack, Townsend said, but the FBI’s request to directly question individuals who Libyan authorities have in custody was denied.

Former CIA analyst Bob Baer also thinks the Libyans are being uncooperative, and says he can’t remember a case where the FBI’s been barred from the scene of an attack since Iran 1979. Why the Libyan government would refuse to let the feds in to look around, I have no idea, but it’s highly suspicious given that they’re potentially risking U.S. foreign aid by refusing the request. The alternative explanation, that they want to let the feds in but simply can’t reliably secure the area with so many militias running around, is actually worse because it underscores just how perilous the situation was for Chris Stevens and the consulate without a serious American security detail. That’s what ABC says is happening: Benghazi’s just too dangerous for a U.S. government agency to be picking through the rubble, even though CNN and other media have found ways to gain access to the site. And yet, apparently, Stevens’s superiors decided he’d be better off with less security, not more. Huh.

I’ll leave you with this, from today’s Journal editorial: “Imagine the uproar if, barely a month before Election Day, the Bush Administration had responded to a terrorist strike—on Sept. 11 no less—in this fashion.”

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