Hey, maybe 12 hours is all the FBI needed for their crime-scene probe. After all, it’s been almost four weeks — so what could be left to check?
A team of FBI agents arrived in Benghazi, Libya, to investigate the assault against the U.S. Consulate and left after about 12 hours on the ground as the hunt for those possibly connected to the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans narrowed to one or two people in an extremist group, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Agents arrived in Benghazi before dawn on Thursday and departed after sunset, after weeks of waiting for access to the crime scene to investigate the Sept. 11 attack.
The agents and several dozen U.S. special operations forces were there for about 12 hours, said a senior Defense Department official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. The FBI agents went to “all the relevant locations” in the city, FBI spokeswoman Kathy Wright said. The FBI would not say what, if anything, they found.
U.S. officials separately confirmed that Turkish authorities are holding two Tunisian men, reportedly suspects in the attacks. The pair were arrested as they tried to enter Turkey using fake passports at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, Turkey’s Kanal D television reported.
“The arrest is real,” said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The connection is unclear.”
What took so long for the FBI to get on the case? The Associated Press reports that a dispute arose between the State Department and the FBI over the security situation on the ground in Benghazi:
The request to the Pentagon to transport the FBI to Benghazi came several days ago and it took a few days to get authorization from the Libyan government and to make other necessary arrangements to get the team there, the senior Defense Department official said.
U.S. officials also suggested that there may have been some disagreement between the State Department and the FBI over whether or not the FBI team would use Libyan security or seek approval for the U.S. military to handle the mission. The U.S. Army Delta Force troops flew into Benghazi with the FBI team on three C-130 transport aircraft.
That brings up two points, if the State Department was reluctant to have the FBI in Benghazi for security reasons (it could have been the FBI who showed understandable reluctance after what happened). One, the insistence that security in Benghazi was so bad that the FBI couldn’t get within 400 miles to investigate the terrorist attack stands in pretty stark contrast to their hand-washing on security in the months prior to the attack. Second, State has a vested interest now in obfuscation in this attack, thanks to what we know now about their approach to security and the well-founded fears of the now-deceased US Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens.
We should have had a military contingent in Benghazi immediately to secure that location, which was a legitimate diplomatic outpost of the United States. We can’t even show our face outside of daylight hours now. No matter who made those decisions and why, that’s a tremendously weak showing in a part of the world where weakness costs lives.