This is at least the third separate warning that State got from people in the field about security disintegrating in Benghazi in the last month or so before the assault. Fox News already reported that Stevens sent a cable on August 8 about a “security vacuum” in the city that freed jihadists to attack western targets like the Red Cross “with impunity.” On September 11, the day he was killed, he sent a separate message describing “growing problems with security” due to the weakness of Libyan government forces. What I hadn’t read anywhere until now is that there was a third warning, issued on August 16, focused specifically on the consulate’s defenses to a potential “coordinated attack.” The assessment: Grim. That was the state of play three weeks out from the anniversary of 9/11.
But wait. Why was the consulate suddenly so worried about being the target of a coordinated attack? Because:
“RSO (Regional Security Officer) expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound,” the cable said.
According to a review of the cable addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Emergency Action Committee was also briefed “on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi … these groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs.’” Each U.S. mission has a so-called Emergency Action Committee that is responsible for security measures and emergency planning…
In addition to describing the security situation in Benghazi as “trending negatively,” the cable said explicitly that the mission would ask for more help. “In light of the uncertain security environment, US Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to US Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover.”…
While the administration’s public statements have suggested that the attack came without warning, the Aug. 16 cable seems to undercut those claims.
Eric Nordstrom had already asked for more security, more than once, before that meeting but got nothing. Evidently the knowledge that Al Qaeda was training in the same city as the consulate wasn’t enough to get State to spring into action either. The Department had no comment when Fox asked what they did during the three weeks in the interim between the emergency meeting and the attack to boost security. No comment either from the White House when four GOP senators sent them a letter today formally requesting more information about the attack. Quoth Kelly Ayotte: “We’ve written already half a dozen letters. … They’ve not answered us. They’re stonewalling us and I think they’re trying to run out the clock until this election.” Certainly, but there’s no reason to think they won’t keep stonewalling afterward even if they win the election. The media’s not going to go to red alert on this, even if they continue to cover it in dribs and drabs. It’s not just the amount of coverage, it’s the tone: Under a Republican president, this rolling clusterfark — before, during, and after — would be treated by press with all the contempt and fury it deserves. As it is, it’s more an occasion for chin-pulling over how curious the administration’s behavior seems. It can’t be that the Foreign Policy President was negligent in his most basic security responsibilities and has now gone quiet to cover his own ass before election day, so there must be another explanation. There must be. Any day now.
Here’s former Bush AG Michael Mukasey wondering why Obama needs an investigation before he reveals what he personally knew about the attack and whether he took any action to stop it.