U.S. officials issued alerts and ordered security precautions in neighboring Egypt ahead of protests and violence on Sept. 11, but largely overlooked the possibility of trouble at other diplomatic postings in the region.
The State Department chose to maintain only limited security in Benghazi, Libya, despite months of sporadic attacks there on U.S. and other Western missions. And while the U.S. said it would ask Libya to boost security there, it did so just once, for a one-week period in June, according to Libyan officials.
The U.S. didn’t seriously consider sending in the military during the attack. It summoned rapid-response teams of Marines only after the U.S. ambassador was dead. State Department officials said they doubted the Pentagon could have mobilized a rescue force quickly enough to make a difference during the fighting. The Pentagon waited for guidance from State, which is responsible for diplomatic security, a senior military official said…
The apparent lapses extended to firefighting equipment. Rescue attempts at the main building were thwarted in part by the absence of smoke-protection masks and fire extinguishers, said Libyan guards. Senior State Department officials said these wouldn’t have provided sufficient protection against the diesel-fueled inferno.