The magnitude of this, if it’s actually true, is impossible to fully describe.
Charlie Foxtrot is not a sufficient term.
The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal.
American officials believe the attack was planned, but Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential.
The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed “safe”.
Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and “lockdown”, under which movement is severely restricted.
According to this piece, Stevens wasn’t killed in a car as the original reports coming out of Benghazi indicated…
According to security sources the consulate had been given a “health check” in preparation for any violence connected to the 9/11 anniversary. In the event, the perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: “The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”
Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya’s Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post. “There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet.”
Mr Stevens, it is believed, was left in the building by the rest of the staff after they failed to find him in dense smoke caused by a blaze which had engulfed the building. He was discovered lying unconscious by local people and taken to a hospital, the Benghazi Medical Centre, where, according to a doctor, Ziad Abu Ziad, he died from smoke inhalation.
An eight-strong American rescue team was sent from Tripoli and taken by troops under Captain Fathi al- Obeidi, of the February 17 Brigade, to the secret safe house to extract around 40 US staff. The building then came under fire from heavy weapons. “I don’t know how they found the place to carry out the attack. It was planned, the accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any ordinary revolutionaries,” said Captain Obeidi. “It began to rain down on us, about six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa.”
Libyan reinforcements eventually arrived, and the attack ended. News had arrived of Mr Stevens, and his body was picked up from the hospital and taken back to Tripoli with the other dead and the survivors.
Not sure whether that part is accurate or not, since it doesn’t explain how the other three Americans were killed.
But the point is that Stevens only had, at most, two Americans for security at a consulate in one of the most Al Qaeda-friendly cities in the world, right after we announced we’d killed Al Qaeda’s Number 2 man who it just so happens was from there. And on September 11, we depended on Libyans to provide us with security.
Maybe this was Stevens’ call, and if so it pains us to say it but he was a damn fool who got himself and three of his employees killed. But what about the State Department? Don’t they have adults at Foggy Bottom who would look at those arrangements and tell Stevens “No way, pal. You’re going to get some real security, because we’re not putting U.S. assets at this kind of risk and that includes you?”
There were 48 hours to make sure the security was there to protect that consulate. Particularly if Stevens was going to be there.
On the other hand, another UK paper, The Guardian, has a different take on the Benghazi massacre…
The bullet holes, smashed masonry and blood on the walls of the burned-out consulate on the southern outskirts of Benghazi are testament to the gun battle that raged through the building, claiming four lives including that of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens.
As the owners of the damaged building and the accommodation block a mile down the road took the Guardian on a tour of the sites on Thursday, reports that the attack was the work of an isolated group seemed to be at odds with the physical evidence and what their staff had told them.
“Better security would not have stopped this,” said Adel Ibrahim, the owner of the accommodation building where blood is now spattered beneath a hole smashed in a wall by a heavy projectile. “A security unit is fine if you are facing 10 persons, but there were 400 attackers. [The Americans] would have needed an army to stop them.”
It is clear the US staff and their Libyan guards were subjected to a terrifying, night-long ordeal, which began with protests outside the consulate in the al-Fawahat residential district. Demonstrators gathered in the narrow Venice Street outside the main gated entrance, voicing protests against the reported release in the US of a film that ridiculed Islam.
The protest quickly turned violent, the landlords said. Who fired first is a matter of dispute, with some claiming the Libyan security guards hired by the Americans shot in the air, panicking the crowd.
There is no doubt about what happened next. The compound is bound by a breeze-block wall topped by barbed wire, but it was not enough to stop the attackers. “They jumped in from everywhere,” said Ahmed Busheri, owner of the consulate.
In the melee, a single rocket-propelled grenade appears to have been fired from within the compound, detonating on one of the heavy concrete barriers set up outside to deter car bombs.
Several of the consulate’s Libyan guards were injured during the fighting and others melted away, the landlords said, leaving the diplomats to fend for themselves.
Embassy staff had prepared for such an eventuality, having built themselves two positions with sandbags on either side of a villa to the left of the main gate. Three of the Americans – including Stevens – were forced to retreat from these positions towards the small terrace in the centre of the villa. This, according to Busheri, is where two of Stevens’ security guards died. Stevens himself ran inside the villa, the landlords said, where he suffocated in the smoke from the blaze that has left the interior of guest rooms and a kitchen charred, blackened and heavy with the stench of putrefying food.
A third account comes from Wired.com, but we’re not sure it’s as reliable as the Independent’s report…
Beginning at 4 p.m. Washington time on Tuesday, unknown Libyans began an assault on the group of buildings used by the State Department as a Benghazi consulate. That apparently took the consulate by surprise: The diplomats there received no indication of an attack brewing when it reviewed its security posture ahead of Tuesday’s 9/11 anniversary. The compound lacked a Marine guard force, as is present at U.S. embassies in foreign capitals. Nor did it have other typical diplomatic security features, such as bulletproof glass and reinforced doors. Libyan guards were said to be outside the walls providing an outer layer of security, with a State Department security detail of undisclosed size within.
The attack, with small arms fire, set the main building aflame with three people inside, including Amb. Christopher Stevens. A consular official responsible for securing the complex, who initially left the building to escape the flames and thick smoke, found information-management officer and gamer Sean Smith dead inside.
A still-unknown number of American security personnel, dodging small arms fire and flame, attempted unsuccessfully to regain control of the main building 45 minutes after the attack began, retreating to an adjacent building annex. By 5:20 p.m. Washington time, Libyan security forces, assisted by what was described as a sympathetic local militia, regained control of the main building, and assisted an evacuation of the staff of approximately 25 to 30 to the annex. But by 6 p.m., the assailants began to attack the annex with small arms fire. It was there that two other, as-yet-unidentified U.S. nationals died.
It was not until 8:30 p.m. D.C. time that the attack was suppressed. But the security forces had lost track of Stevens.
One reason we find the Wired’s summary a little shaky is that it says small arms fire set the main building afire. Bullets aren’t all that likely to do that. RPG’s are, though, and the other reports talk about RPG’s being used. But that having been said, one is tempted to ask if Wired and the Independent are both correct and whether the State Department had fair warning of the attack and it wasn’t passed down to Stevens and his team. That seems hard to believe, but then again it’s also hard to believe that we would leave our diplomats as wide open to attack as it appears they were on Tuesday – so maybe it’s not a good idea to make too many assumptions about Washington’s performance.
And then there’s this…
[A]lthough the scene in the American consulate’s canteen in Benghazi on Tuesday morning looked serene, under the surface there were signs of potential trouble, according to the Libyan politician who had breakfast with Stevens the morning before the ambassador and three other Americans died in a violent assault by armed Islamic militants. “I told him the security was not enough,” Fathi Baja, a political science professor and one of the leaders of Libya’s rebel government during last year’s revolution, told TIME on Thursday. “I said, ‘Chris, this is a U.S. consulate.You have to add to the number of people, bring Americans here to guard it, because the Libyans are not trained.”…
Does it get worse? Well, this might flesh the situation out a little. One of the dead was Sean Smith, who was the IT specialist for the consulate. It seems that Smith’s big hobby was online video games, and he had lots of friends in that community. Wired reports he was talking online with one of them that night…
On Tuesday, Sean Smith, a Foreign Service Information Management Officer assigned to the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, typed a message to the director of his online gaming guild: ”Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.” The consulate was under siege, and within hours, a mob would attack, killing Smith along with three others, including the U.S. ambassador.
According to his friends, Smith had emerged as a key leader for the community, and was known as a senior guild diplomat who helped engineer the destruction of Goonswarm’s chief rival, the Band of Brothers. He let his guildmates design his tattoo. On Wednesday, Gianturco posted an obituary for his friend of more than six years. “He was on jabber when it happened, that’s the most fucked up thing,” Gianturco wrote. “In Baghdad the same kind of thing happened – incoming sirens, he’d vanish, we’d freak out and he’d come back ok after a bit. This time he said ‘F*CK’ and ‘GUNFIRE’ and then disconnected and never returned.”
It looks like amateur hour. The Independent report, which by reading it appears to have the best information on this, says the State Department had fair warning that there was going to be a problem in Libya, and yet the ambassador was at the consulate in Benghazi rather than the embassy in Tripoli – with either less security than he should have had or else no sane justification for being there, depending on how many attackers there actually were. Let’s remember that the Obama administration had, just a couple of days before, loudly announced that it had hit Al Qaeda’s Number 2 man – who was from Benghazi – with a drone strike in Pakistan. That alone should have been enough to indicate that if we were going to have diplomats in Benghazi they would have needed the maximum amount of security possible, instead of just a door with a working lock.
The landlord might have been right that no security would have been enough to hold off 400 Al Qaeda attackers – but on the other hand, a Marine detachment or at least an armed ex-military security team certainly would have been able to put that to the test by wasting a whole bunch of them and seeing if those who didn’t get to meet Allah were still willing to fight. Two security officers and a gaggle of Libyan bodyguards who it appears were less than enthusiastic about doing their job definitely didn’t cut it.
Of course, there are the rumors in a couple of places on the web which have it that Stevens, Smith and Glen Doherty, the ex-Navy SEAL who was one of the two security officers killed Tuesday night, were sexually molested by the mob. We’re praying that’s not true – but it wouldn’t be inconsistent with other stories that have circulated about Tahrir Square in next-door Egypt and also in Libya during the revolution.
Meanwhile, back in the States, the media which isn’t busy trying to pin this whole thing on Mitt Romney is uncovering some rather peculiar information about the aftermath of the mess in North Africa.
For example, we have NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who departed from that network’s Obama plantation when he heard that the president wouldn’t characterize Egypt as an ally…
How do you like this for a money line?
For the President to come out and say, well, he’s not exactly sure if Egypt is an ally any more but it’s not an enemy, that is a significant change in the perspective of Washington toward this country, the biggest country in the Arab world. It makes one wonder, well, was it worth it? Was it worth supporting the Arab Spring, supporting the demonstrations here in Tahrir Square, when now in Tahrir Square there are clashes going on behind me right in front of the US embassy?
All is well on the not-an-ally front, says Obama’s spokesman Tommy Vietor…
“I think folks are reading way too much into this,” Vietor said. “‘Ally’ is a legal term of art. We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is longstanding and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government.”
Vietor, our readers might remember, was the spox who threw a fit when the Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen asked why Obama attends less than half of his daily intel briefings and instead just reads the writeup they send him.
When I asked National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor if the president had attended any meetings to discuss the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) since Sept. 5, he repeatedly refused to answer. He noted that Obama had attended a principals meeting of the National Security Council on Sept. 10 and reiterated that he reads the PDB. “As I’ve told you every time you ask, the President gets his PDB every day,” Vietor told me by e-mail, adding this swipe at Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush: “Unlike your former boss, he has it delivered to his residence in the morning and not briefed to him.” (This new line of defense was echoed this morning by my Post colleague, Dana Milbank, who writes thatBush was briefed every day by his intelligence advisers because he “decided he would prefer to read less.”)
Vietor’s reply is quite revealing. It is apparently a point of pride in the White House that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him.” In the eyes of this administration, it is a virtue that the president does not meet every day with senior intelligence officials. This president, you see, does not needbriefers. He can forgo his daily intelligence meeting because he is, in Vietor’s words, “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.”
Truly sophisticated consumers of intelligence don’t see it as a sign of weakness to “be briefed” by the experts. Most of us, if we subscribed to a daily report on, say, astrophysics, would probably need some help interpreting it. But when it comes to intelligence, Obama is apparently so brilliant he can absorb the most complicated topics by himself in his study. He does not need to sit down for up to an hour a day with top intelligence officials, or hold more than 100 “deep dives” in which he invites CIA analysts into the Oval Office and gives them direct access to the commander in chief to discuss their areas of expertise. Such meetings are crutches this president does not need. Written briefings, questions and comments are enough. Obama has more important things to do — such as attend Las Vegas fundraisers.
So now we have a State Department which appears to be hanging our diplomats out to dry in the most dangerous part of the world and a president who thinks he’s smart enough to get an “A” in a doctorate-level national security course by reading the textbook rather than actually showing up to class.
And tomorrow, in places like Cairo and Benghazi and Amman and Sana’a and Tunis and Algiers and Baghdad and Islamabad, Salafist Imams will be whipping up the hooples in Friday prayers and turning them out in the streets with a fresh infusion of the Koran According To Al-Qaeda. There is no limit to how bad this can get – after all, the mob outside our embassy in Cairo is still there and still throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails – and based on what we see there is no particular reason for confidence that the people at the top of the food chain have the first clue what they’re doing.
If State couldn’t make arrangements for proper security at its Arab Spring embassies in this, of all weeks, then the Secretary of State needs firing. And if the appearances are true that the President isn’t even paying attention to national security and intelligence while he traipses around the country raising money with Jay-Z and Beyonce and doing radio interviews with the Pimp With A Limp (go ahead and Google that one), then we deserve everything we have coming if we agree to put up with four more years of this dangerous, disastrous clown show.
UPDATE: Predictably, the administration denies it to POLITICO…
The Obama administration is flatly denying a blaring British newspaper report that the U.S. diplomats in Libya were killed as a result of a “continuing security breach,” and that “credible information” about possible attacks had been ignored.
A U.S. official told POLITICO: “There’s no intelligence indicating that the attack in Benghazi was premeditated.”
Other than that they had RPG’s, you mean? Or that they followed the ambassador to the annex building where he was supposed to be safe? Or that they found the safe house where the rest of the staff had escaped to and attacked it with mortars? Or that they obviously got to the Libyans who were supposed to protect our people?
None of that would indicate premeditation at all, right? Just a Tuesday night in Benghazi?
If this doesn’t represent a full-on lie and a coverup then it has to be one of the worst-worded denials in memory. Of course Benghazi was premeditated. If you’re going to say you didn’t know it was coming in advance, then why didn’t you know? How many indications did you need?
Was this maybe something to consider at the time?
The Egyptian General Intelligence Service warned that a radical jihadi group is planning to launch terrorist attacks against the US and Israeli embassies in Cairo, the Egypt Independent reported.
Israel has accused the group, dubbed Global Jihad, of being responsible for the August 5 attack in Sinai against Egyptian border guards, which left 16 dead.
The Egyptian Al-Masry Al-Youmnewspaper reportedly obtained a copy of a top secret letter addressed to Major General Samy Sedhom, first assistant Interior Minister for Social Security, on September 4, which stated that intelligence services notified the ministry’s nationalsecurity body that elements from the organization in Egypt and Gaza were planning attacks on the two embassies.
Security sources said the letter was forwarded to Egyptian security officials, informing them to undertake the necessary measures. The sources added that Military Intelligence informed the Interior Ministry one week ago that 22 terrorists in Sinai are planning to attack vital facilities and police checkpoints, according to the Egypt Independent.
It wouldn’t have made sense to insure the consulate in Benghazi, next door to Egypt, was covered? Or was that too much trouble?
If the media was interested in doing its job rather than giving these incompetent liars another four years, we would see a full-on feeding frenzy that nobody could recover from. Let’s pray the American people start becoming curious about what’s going on in the world over the next seven weeks.