Time for your daily reminder that State didn’t merely stick Chris Stevens with “average” security despite him living and working in one of the jihadi-est places on earth. The security they provided him was actively, inexplicably, inexcusably bad. And before you read any further, let me remind you that the ominous chat-room message posted by Sean Smith the day he died about a Libyan guard taking photos of the compound still hasn’t been addressed by anyone in the government that I’ve seen. Did Stevens’s security break down to the point that his killers actually had someone on the inside?
More red flags from Reuters:
State Department officials suspected that two Libyan guards hired by its own security contractor were behind an April incident in which a homemade bomb was hurled over the wall of the special mission in Benghazi, according to official emails obtained by Reuters…
The April attack illustrated concerns among some U.S. officials in Libya that hiring local residents for embassy guard duties could in itself raise security issues.
The emails identified one of the suspects in that incident as a former employee of Blue Mountain Group who had been fired four days earlier for vandalism, and said the other was still working for the company. Both were unarmed guards who performed routine security tasks, such as screening visitors.
Both suspects were ultimately released after being interrogated by the local “police,” a.k.a. the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which was partly responsible for providing security for the consulate and whose members were last seen hiding on the roof during the attack because they weren’t ready for it. No word on whether either of them was still working for Blue Mountain on 9/11, but that brings us to another unanswered question. Why did State hire Blue Mountain, an inexperienced firm, in the first place?
Other firms in the security industry expressed surprise that Blue Mountain had won a large, high profile contract from the US government. One industry executive said the level of service Blue Mountain provided did not appear adequate to the risks presented by a lawless city.
“We have visited the consulate in Benghazi a number of times and have an excellent relationship with the Americans. Our assessment was the unarmed Libyan guards were extremely poor calibre,” said one security source. “The Libyan Ministry of Interior are generally not happy with Blue Mountain and had them on their close observation/target list.”
The New York Times last week reported that major security firms with a track record of guarding US premises elsewhere had made approaches to undertake work in Libya but were rebuffed.
“We went in to make a pitch, and nothing happened,” a security firm official told the newspaper.
Blue Mountain had six employees on the scene, five Libyans and one British supervisor recruited from “the celebrity bodyguard circuit.” Security was sufficiently weak that BM’s local affiliate, Blue Mountain Libya, complained to its parent company this past summer that the resources they were being given weren’t enough. State was asked to intervene in the dispute between the two — but chose to do nothing. So it came to be that the U.S. ambassador ended up on 9/11 at a consulate that was vulnerable even according to its own security detail, and which State had had ample opportunity to fortify. Meanwhile, on the same day, the U.S. embassy in Barbados enjoyed protection from a detail of Marines. “Smart power,” 2012.
Just as O’s interest in an “easy” intervention in Libya made a difficult intervention in Syria more difficult, State’s decision to half-ass security for the Benghazi consulate has created a new, bigger security headache for the White House in Libya. Namely, how hard do they hit the local jihadis in reprisal? The Libyan government doesn’t want to approve an attack lest it be seen as a U.S. stooge at a moment when it’s trying to build legitimacy, and the U.S. doesn’t want to raise the profile of a group like Ansar al-Sharia by making it the Great Satan’s new enemy number one. There is a compromise solution, but of course it’s not ready yet. If only State had thought of this before letting a smile be Chris Steven’s umbrella against the mujahedeen.