By WILLIAM MAYER
October 11, 2012 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Yesterday the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by Darell Issa [R-CA] conducted extensive public hearings regarding the national security disaster which befell the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
The take away from this session is that there was little regard given to securing the embassy compound against a terrorist attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Four witnesses were called to testify under oath.
Ms. Charlene R. Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State
Mr. Eric Nordstrom, Regional Security Officer, U.S. Department of State
Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, Utah National Guard , U.S. Army
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management, U.S. Department of State
There is one common thread which connects the testimony of these individuals, three of which are high ranking State Dept. officials.
All four of them testified that security at Benghazi was almost nonexistent, in the face of a constant threat posed by the political instability in Libya, post the overthrow and subsequent death of Muammar Gaddafi, the country's long-time dictator.
As the gavel fell commencing the hearings the security posture at Benghazi was characterized by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood - an active duty Army officer with 24 years of service in the Special Forces as follows:
Regarding constant threats, the Heritage Foundation Foundry Blog assembled a revealing time-line demonstrating that before the September 11 deadly attack there were at least 12 serious security incidents relating to the embassy.
For example, a partial listing:
" April 6: IED thrown over the fence of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi...May 1: British Embassy in Tripoli is attacked by a violent mob and set on fire. Other NATO embassies attacked as well... June 6: A large IED destroys part of the security perimeter of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Creates hole "big enough for 40 men to go through..."
None of these attacks resulted in increased security.
"... I served as the Site Security Team (SST) Commander in Libya from 12 February to 14 August of this year, 2012... The SSTs mission was to support and answer to Chief of Mission in Libya. I worked directly for the Regional Security Officer. We provided Security Support, Medical Support, Communications Support for every facet of security that concerned the Embassy. ...In late spring, Police were allowed to return to work to help with traffic but were limited to that. Fighting between militias was still common when I departed. Some militias appeared to be degenerating into organizations resembling free lance criminal operations. Targeted attacks against westerners were on the increase. In June the Ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public announcement that he liked to run around the Embassy compound in Tripoli... State Department's decision not to extend SST's security work beyond August 5th terminated our work in this capacity..."
Thus Colonel Wood made it clear that as a result of a State Dept. directive, the Embassy was left essentially defenseless, barely 30 days before the 9/11 anniversary. Because of the State Department's actions, the facility was actually made less, rather than more secure as September 11 approached.
"...The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there. The situation remained uncertain and reports from some Libyans indicated it was getting worse. Diplomatic security remained weak. In April there was only one US diplomatic security agent stationed there. The RSO struggled to obtain additional personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with..."
The testimony of Ms. Lamb was equally damaging.
She noted that primary security duty was provided by post-revolutionary troops housed within the Embassy compound, "...The fourth building on the compound, the one closest to the gate, served as the barracks for members of the Libyan 17th February Brigade who were on the compound round the clock.."
Total site security thus fell to five Diplomatic Security agents and the Libyan 17th February Brigade, which at the time of the attack was comprised of three troops.
Thus in the face of a constant and increasing threat, on September 11, 2011 the U.S. Embassy was defended by a skeleton crew.
Lamb was on the telephone with embassy staff at the time of the attack, thus she was able to provide a running, real-time account - the State Dept. knew from the get go exactly what happened as it took place, casting great doubt on the propriety of Secretary Clinton pointing to an amateurish, poorly watched video as the cause of the deadly affair.
In the first minutes of the attack [9:40 pm, local time] the minimal fortification enhancements were quickly breached by the first wave of the assault.
"...The attack began at approximately 9:40 pm local time. Diplomatic Security agents inside the compound heard loud voices outside the walls, followed by gunfire and an explosion. Dozens of attackers then launched a full-scale assault that was unprecedented in its size and intensity. They forced their way through the pedestrian gate, and used diesel fuel to set fire to the Libyan 17th February Brigade members' barracks, and then proceeded towards the main building..."
The attackers easily cut through the Embassy's flimsy defenses. Did it not occur to State Dept. security officials, such as Ms. Lamb that such a high profile site should have been hardened enough to be able to withstand a military assault instead of being designed to resist simple civil unrest.
The 17th February Brigade was quickly brushed aside, leaving two dead, all doubts of their loyalty instantly erased.
According to Lamb's timeline, the fight lasted less than 90 minutes. The Embassy's defenders simply had no chance of resisting the much larger well armed, al-Qaeda directed, military force. Demonstrating the mismatch in firepower, the attackers employed, mortars, RPGs and various other weapons. They also had containers filled with diesel fuel with which the compound was quickly set ablaze.
The mortar fire was unusually accurate, scoring three direct hits. Perhaps the attackers possessed sophisticated GPS targeting systems, again indicative of a professional military assault, not a spontaneous mob action.
It's clear according to Ms. Lamb's testimony that there were no demonstrations previous to the attack. The State Dept. was then entirely and in real-time aware that the attack was military not unorganized civilian or street violence.
We now come to Mr. Nordstrom's statement which indicates a hidebound, cavalier attitude regarding the provision of Embassy security in a war-zone.
"...While I'd love to have had a large secured building and tons of security personnel in Benghazi, the fact is that the system we had in place was regularly tested and appeared to work as planned despite high turnover of DS agents on the ground..."
Unbelievably Nordstrom concludes that the level of force which would be required to reasonably secure the Embassy was simply not going to be considered, "It is critical that we balance the risk-mitigation with the needs of our diplomats to do their job, in dangerous and uncertain places. The answer cannot be to operate from a bunker..."
Even from this limited information it's apparent that adequate precautions to repel a military style terror attack were entirely lacking. Expecting 8 armed security personnel to defend this large an installation against al-Qaeda fighters is completely unrealistic.
It's a cruel joke - pretend security.
The defenders, who were unbelievably heroic, had no heavy weapons - no RPGs, no heavy machine guns, no crew manned weapons - and were expected to defend the entire compound with the United States' normal GI issue battle rifle, the M4 which though a fine weapon is overmatched in the role it was expected to fill.
There is a larger lesson to draw here, and it is one that this publication has made since the first days of the Obama administration. Team Obama is locked into a defeatist mindset. It is unwilling to provide for the adequate defense of American personnel and turf.
One might think that this is simply a case of an inexperienced team operating under a pre 9/11 mentality, but a more severe judgment is called for.
This administration's official policy is to deny that we are at war with an Islamist enemy. These attacks are not man-caused disasters or random acts of extremist violence. The administration is in denial of reality, that there is a sizable portion of the Islamic world which adheres to a triumphalist view that Islam has been preordained to become dominant, through whatever means...including violent jihad.
Consequently, the United States flounders about because our national security apparatues havn't been permitted - because of base ideological considerations - to develop a reasonable, fact based overall threat doctrine.
They are completely unwilling to even think along these lines. The Islamic factor, because of the multiculturalist Obama worldview, is simply off limits in such calculations.
Andy McCarthy, the former NY Federal Prosecutor, has succinctly called it, Willful Blindness.
The Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Shabaab and the and dozens of other terrorist entities find their inspiration within the Qur'an. While some might posit that this interpretation is not authentically Muslim, even if that judgment is correct, the fact remains that these people believe that they are soldiers of Allah.
As we have and continue to see, this fervor is a supremely powerful motivating force.
PipeLineNew.org has always adhered to the approach that Islam is what it is. We leave the theological debates to the imams. Technical religious argumentation is completely irrelevant in such matters, self-censorship of this nature ultimately engenders a self-defeating and deadly attitude.
The enemy believes what it believes and it acts accordingly. We will not stop them by ignoring who they really are and what their ideology consists of.
Until these very large dots are connected, future Benghazis - or worse - will be impossible to avoid.
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