CBS: State Dept renewed lease on Benghazi consulate -- with security waiver

Just two months before the attack on our consulate in Benghazi killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, the State Department approved the renewal of its lease while once again waiving security requirements. CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson reports that the security waiver came just one month after an IED blew a hole in the wall of the compound:

The State Department renewed the lease for the U.S. compound in Benghazi two months before the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks without requiring the facility to meet normal security standards. That news comes from an interview Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., conducted with a survivor of the attacks.

The survivor, a State Department diplomatic security agent whose name isn’t being disclosed, spoke behind closed doors in late November to Senators Graham, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J. The previously-undisclosed existence of the year-long lease calls into question the State Department’s designation of the compound as “temporary” and therefore exempt from normal security requirements. …

The lease renewal came shortly after a June 2012 assault in which an improvised explosive device blew a giant hole in the exterior wall of the facility. Graham also says he learned that in addition to other denied requests, the State Department’s Regional Security Officer for Libya asked for stronger security for the compound in August 2012 but it was denied. The State Department told CBS News that the August 2012 request for more security was not submitted to headquarters, so there was no denial.

“Don’t you imagine that if Congress had known that someone renewed a formal lease for one year at the same time it called the facility ‘temporary’ and exempted it from security standards that we would have had a lot of questions about it?” Graham said in an interview with CBS News.

Attkisson cites the Accountability Review Board’s report in noting that the temporary designation on the facility led to the fatal weakness in security and preparedness on the night of the attack. However, the ARB report never mentions a lease renewal in the middle of 2012. Perhaps that’s because the ARB tried to limit its focus to lower-ranking officials at State, rather than political appointees — such as Patrick Kennedy, a key aide to then-Secretary Hillary Clinton, whose portfolio at State included responsibility for security arrangements.

While we’ve long known that State ignored rapidly-increasing signs of danger and refused to improve security despite a string of requests from Libya to do so, the lease part of the story is new — and needs investigation. Someone at State had to approve that lease with the security waiver in July 2012, and it’s not going to be the lower-ranking officials probed by the ARB. Who approved it, and why wasn’t security upgraded after that attack? This is yet another nail in the coffin for the credibility of the ARB, State Department, and the Obama administration on Benghazi.

Update: Updated the headline for better accuracy.