Two AP Stories With the Same URL

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_US_LIBYA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-10-09-18-50-07

Accessed 20121009, 1636 CDT

Oct 10, 3:18 PM EDT

State Dept: Security adequate in Benghazi

By LARRY MARGASAK and MATTHEW LEE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — State Department officials said Wednesday that security levels at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were adequate for the threat level on the anniversary of 9/11 but that the compound was overrun by an “unprecedented attack” by dozens of heavily armed extremists.

The officials testified before an election-season congressional hearing on accusations of security failures at the consulate that led or contributed to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.  The officials said the number of U.S. and local security guards at the compound was consistent with what had been requested by the post.

“We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11,” said Charlene Lamb, the deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security in charge of protecting Ameri­can embassies and consulates around the world.

But White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that in hindsight “there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from hap­pening.”

“There were four Americans killed,” he said.

Lamb noted that there were five diplomatic security agents at the consulate at the time of the attack, along with additional Libyan guards and a rapid response team at a nearby annex.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has criticized the administration’s early response to the attack and has made it a campaign issue, saying Monday that President Barack Obama has led a weak foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer in Libya, said he had requested more security but that request was blocked by a department policy to “normalize opera­tions and reduce security resources.”  Under questioning, though, he said he had sought mainly to prevent any reduction in staff, rather than have a big increase.

“I’m confident that the committee will conclude that Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service and Mission Libya officers conducted themselves professionally and with careful attention to managing people and budgets in a way that reflects the gravity of their task,” Nordstrom said.

Lamb rejected allegations from Republican lawmakers, supported by Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, former head of a 16-member U.S. military team that helped protect the embassy in Tripoli, that an extension of Wood’s mission could have made a difference during the attack.

“It would not have made any difference in Benghazi,” Lamb said, pointing out that Wood’s team was based in Tripoli and spent nearly all of its time there.

Wood, a member of the Utah National Guard who left Libya in August, told the committee that the security in Benghazi “was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there.”

In testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he said that U.S. security was so weak that in April, only one diplomatic security agent was stationed in Benghazi.

However, Lamb and Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy stress­ed that the regional security officer’s requests for personnel had been met.

“The Department of State regularly assesses risk and allocation of resources for securi­ty, a process which involves the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington, using the best information available,” said Kennedy, a four-decade veteran of the foreign service.

“The assault that occurred on the evening of Sept. 11, however, was an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men,” he said.

The attack on the consulate and the Obama administration’s evolving explanations of what happened have become a political football in the run-up to November’s presidential election with Democrats saying that Republicans are trying to use a tragedy to score partisan points.

In statements immediately after the attack, neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned terrorism.  And both gave credence to the notion that the attack was related to protests about an anti-Islam video.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory ma­terial posted on the Internet,” Clinton said on the night of the attack.  “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  Our commit­ment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.  But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The hearing opened with a blunt partisan exchange between the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland who accused Republican members of withholding documents and witnesses and keeping Democrats out of the loop on a fact-finding trip to Libya last week.

Issa denied any wrongdoing.

Republican committee members sought to take the witnesses to task for a shifting explanation of what happened in Benghazi

The committee hearing followed assertions late Tuesday by the State Department that it never concluded that the Sept. 11 attack stemmed from protests over a privately made video ridiculing Islam.  That had been the initial explanation offered by some in the ad­ministration, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, before officials said it had been a planned terrorist attack.

Some Republicans have focused on the shift, suggesting that the administration was try­ing to cover up that it was unprepared for the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In Wednesday’s hearing, Kennedy said officials, including Rice, relied on the assess­ments of intelligence officials in offering public explanations for the attack.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Note that the following URL is the same as the above

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_US_LIBYA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-10-09-18-50-07

Accessed 20121009, approx. 1658 CDT

Oct 10, 7:29 PM EDT

Republicans hammer State witnesses on Libya attack

By LARRY MARGASAK and MATTHEW LEE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four weeks before the election, Republicans used a politically charged House hearing to confront State Department officials about security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya and assail the Obama administration’s early response to the killing of the ambassador and three other Americans there.

GOP lawmakers refused to accept the department’s explanation Wednesday that protec­tion judged adequate for the threat was overwhelmed by an unprecedented assault in Ben­ghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

They also rejected Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy’s explanation that officials were relying on the best intelligence available in characterizing the attack afterward as stem­ming from a protest over an anti-Islam Internet video rather than a deliberate, planned act of terrorism.

A top State official acknowledged she had declined to approve more U.S. security as vio­lence in Benghazi spiked, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate.

“I made the best decisions I could with the information I had,” said Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security.

Regardless of allegations of blame, there is no dispute over the tragic result.  U.S. Am­bassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans – including two former Navy SEALs – were killed in what administration officials now describe as an act of terrorism.

In statements immediately after the attack, neither President Barack Obama nor Sec­retary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned terrorism.  And both gave credence to the notion that the attack was related to protests about the privately made anti-Islam video.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory materi­al posted on the Internet,” Clinton said on the night of the attack.  “The United States de­plores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.  But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Five days later, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said her best information at the time was that the attack stemmed from a protest that became violent.

President Barack Obama, asked on ABC about the changing accounts of what instigat­ed the attack, said the information was evolving.

“As information came in, information was put out, the information may not have always been right the first time,” he said.  “These are people I know, and if there is something to be fixed, it will get fixed.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that in hindsight “there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from happening. There were four Americans killed.”

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee tried to blame Republicans for cutting more than $300 million in diplomatic security funds worldwide.

“The fact is that, since 2011, the House has cut embassy security by hundreds of mil­lions of dollars below the amounts requested by the president,” said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s senior Democrat.

Lamb, the official in charge of protecting U.S. embassies and consulates, told the com­mittee, “We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11.”

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., asked Lamb if she turned down requests for more security in Benghazi.

“Yes sir, I said personally I would not support it,” she replied.  “We were training local Libyans and army men” to provide security, a policy in force at U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., retorted there was “as much as 30 percent turnover in the people you were training.”

Eric Nordstrom, who was the top security official in Libya earlier this year, testified he was criticized for seeking more security.  “There was no plan and it was hoped it would get better,” he said.

Nordstrom told the committee that conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was “abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the af­termath of an incident.  How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?”

He said he was so exasperated at one point he told a colleague that “for me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who headed a 16-member military force in Libya, disputed State Department officials who said the special operations troops were replaced by people with the same skill sets.

The skills of his troops were “way above the skill level of local (forces) armed with a pis­tol,” Wood said, adding he was he was frustrated that pleas for more security were not met.

“We were fighting a losing battle, we weren’t even allowed to keep what we had,” he tes­tified.

Nordstrom acknowledged in response to a question from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, that while the State Department was refusing more security, his and others’ pay was in­creased because he was serving in such a dangerous area.

Kennedy defended Rice for her comments indicating the attack was a protest gone a­wry.

“If any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sun­day, Sept. 16, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said,” he said.  “The informa­tion she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point.  As time went on, additional information became available.  Clearly, we know more today than we did on the Sunday after the attack.”

Kennedy, a four-decade veteran of the Foreign Service, said the department uses the best information from people on the ground at diplomatic posts around the world as well as experts in Washington in assessing risk and allocating security resources.

“The assault that occurred on the evening of Sept. 11, however, was an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men,” he said.

Meanwhile, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, met Wednesday with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf and other officials in Tripoli on ways Libya can better help the U.S. track down those responsible for the deaths at the consulate.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/u-s-security-official-in-libya-tells-congressional-investigators-about-inappropriately-low-security-at-benghazi-post/

Accessed 20121010, 1841 CDT

by Jake Tapper

Oct 10, 2012 6:55am

U.S. Security Official in Libya Tells Congressional Investigators About ‘Inappropriately Low’ Security at Benghazi Post

{Consulate attack in Libya: original source’s popup when moused-over}

ABC News has learned that Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, has told congressional investigators that security at the U.S. di­plomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was “inappropriately low” — and believed that State Department officials stood in the way of his attempts to change that.

Nordstrom and the commander of a 16-member Security Support Team, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, heard that foreign fighters were flowing across the Egyptian bor­der and were making their way across the border to the Libyan city of Derna — which is to the east of Benghazi — and from there were making their way to Benghazi.  But State De­partment officials seemed oblivious to their Benghazi post’s vulnerability.

Nordstrom was worried — he did not know how much the Americans could rely on mem­bers of a local Libyan militia in Benghazi that provided security — the “17th of February Martyrs Brigade.”  Mostly merchants and shopkeepers before the war, they seemed eager, but they hadn’t much experience and other than a daily $30 stipend for food from the U.S. Embassy, they hadn’t been paid in months.

Nordstrom had “no idea if they would respond to an attack,” he told investigators.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will hold hearings on what went wrong today at noon ET.  Nordstrom will testify at that hearing.

Nordstrom twice wrote to the State Department — in March and July 2012 — to beef up the presence of American security officers in Benghazi, but neither time was there a response.  At no point from December 2011 through July 2012, when he left Libya, were more than three Diplomatic Security Service agents permanently and simultaneously stationed at the Benghazi post.

Nordstrom wanted at least five personnel to be stationed at Benghazi, but the State Department would not allow it.  There were American security officers, however, at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, including three Mobile Security Detachments, which were part of the DSS, and a 16-member Security Support Team detailed from Special Operations Command AFRICOM, commanded by Wood.  But the State Department would not give him permission to deploy them to be stationed at Benghazi.  Deputy Assistant Secretary for international programs Charlene Lamb, in Nordstrom’s view, wanted to keep the num­ber of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi “artificially low,” according to a memo for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.

Wood, a former Green Beret, told ABC News that he and other members of the Secur­ity Support Team wanted to remain in Libya past their deployment was scheduled to end in August, and that Ambassador Stevens wanted them to remain as well.  Nordstrom has said that Lamb told him not to request for the Security Support Team to be extended again. (Its deployment had been previously extended in February 2012.)

Lamb will testify before the House committee later today.

“I do recall one conversation with her where she (Lamb) said that since we now had a residential safe haven in Benghazi that she didn’t seem to have a problem with having no agents on the compound because if something happened then personnel could simply go to that residential safe haven,” Nordstrom told investigators.

That safe haven proved a deathtrap.  Situated inside the main residence in Benghazi, consisting of three bedrooms and a bathroom set aside from the rest of the building by metal grillwork and several locks, the safe haven is where Stevens and information officer Sean Smith suffered severe smoke inhalation after the attackers set the house on fire.

On Tuesday afternoon, State Department officials acknowledged that despite earlier explanations from the Obama administration, there was no protest outside the Benghazi compound at all.  Only an hour before gunmen methodically and deliberately stormed the post, the streets were empty and everything seemed calm.  Obama administration of­ficials originally claimed the trouble began with demonstrations against an anti-Muslim video, a protest that, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told ABC News’ THIS WEEK on the Sunday after the attack, “seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists.”

Rice and White House officials now say those initial accounts were based on early intelli­gence, since corrected.  State Department officials now call the attack unprecedented giv­en the number of gunman, weapons and lethal force used.

-Jake Tapper

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