As you read this, I want you to remember that what really annoyed President Spock last night and had him showing uncharacteristic flashes of anger wasn’t the fact that Chris Stevens was operating essentially without security in a jihadi playground. It was the fact that Romney put him on the spot by accusing him of playing politics. That’s what was “offensive,” not half-assing the thin blue line surrounding an American ambassador. Get back to me when he shows the same degree of irritation at the State apparatchiks responsible for this as he showed Romney.
The twisted irony of the “spontaneous protest” spin is that, with security this poor, a truly spontaneous protest probably could have gotten to Stevens too.
Some of the guards sustained injuries and said they were ill-prepared to protect themselves or others when heavily armed militants last month stormed the rented villa that was serving as the mission.
They also described being hired by Blue Mountain after a casual recruiting and screening process…
“I was never a revolutionary or a fighter, I have never picked up a weapon during the war or after it,” said Abdelaziz al-Majbiri, 28, who was shot in the legs during the September 11 assault.
The Libyan commander in charge of the local guards at the mission was a former English teacher who said he heard about Blue Mountain from a neighbor. “I don’t have a background in security, I’ve never held a gun in my life,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety…
“We used to tell the Americans who spoke to us on many occasions that we needed more support in security, because it felt thin on the ground. But they didn’t seem to be so worried, and (were) confident that no one will dare to come close to the consulate,” one guard said.
Why would Stevens need security when every radical outfit in town was bound to steer clear of the consulate, just because?
According to Reuters, the guards patrolled with flashlights and batons, not guns; multiple British government sources told the authors of the story that they’d never heard of Blue Mountain, even though it’s based in the UK. Supposedly, State skimped on hiring a more established firm because they didn’t know how long they’d have a presence in Benghazi and didn’t want to hire full-timers who they might then have to find a position for later. That’s how you end up with your “guards” hiding on the roof — or maybe even lending the bad guys a hand — instead of defending vulnerable Americans inside.
That’s who Chris Stevens had in his corner. Let’s see who was in the other corner:
The founder of Libya’s Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia was at the U.S. consulate compound during the deadly attack here, Libyan officials say, but he remains free a week after those allegations were disclosed to Libyan political leaders and U.S. investigators in Tripoli.
Ahmed Abu Khattalah—who current Libyan officials and former Islamic militants describe as propagating an al Qaeda-style ideology—was seen during the Sept. 11 attack at the diplomatic mission where two of the four Americans died, said two senior Libyan security officials familiar with the investigation…
“There’s no doubt the sheik was there,” said one of these officials, referring to the religious title Mr. Abu Khattalah’s followers use for him. “If the sheik was there, then the sheik was giving commands. That’s how the group operates.”
Some Libyan witnesses have traveled to Tripoli at their own expense to talk to the FBI, but “three of these witnesses say the Americans have offered them no protection in exchange for their cooperation, prompting two of them to say they are trying to dissuade other Libyans from talking to the bureau.” So there’s your “spontaneous protest” update of the day, replete with added irony: According to the Journal, Ansar al-Sharia, while denying any involvement, has itself been busy using the “spontaneous protest” defense to claim that the attack on the consulate was some sort of grassroots reaction to the Mohammed film. The White House’s lame, discarded spin is now the de facto alibi of the likely culprits.
As a further gloss on this, the NYT says “Abu Khattala and Ansar al-Sharia share Al Qaeda’s puritanism and militancy, but operate independently and focus only on Libya rather than on a global jihad against the West.” Maybe, but I advise reading Tom Joscelyn’s post on the Library of Congress report on jihadism in Libya that came out in August, weeks before Stevens was killed. Relationships between local militias and international terror groups are obviously hazy right now, but Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan does appear to be trying to coopt the local groups and expand their influence in Libya. One of the “brand names” that Al Qaeda is suspected of using: “Ansar al-Sharia,” which is also being used by AQ affiliates in Yemen and Tunisia. There are multiple Ansar al-Sharias in Libya so it’s unclear which one(s) might be linked to Al Qaeda or even if they’re linked to each other, but that’s something to keep an eye on as we find out more about Khatallah — especially since we already know that Ansar was in contact with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group’s north African chapter, both during and after the attack.