Testimony: Denied requests for security in Benghazi left US Consulate 'weak'
WASHINGTON — Top security officers testified before a House oversight committee that repeated requests for extra security agents for the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi were denied in the months leading to the Sept. 11 attack that killed ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Eric Nordstrom, the State Department’s regional security officer in Libya until July, testified that he’d requested 12 security agents be stationed at the Benghazi mission, with a backup of six others trained from the Libyan governmental forces.
State Department officials, he said, discouraged that request.
“How I interpreted that was there was too much political costs to doing that,” he said.
In an Oct. 1 interview with committee members, Nordstrom also said that Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy issued a memo last December requiring five agents be assigned to Benghazi. Nordstrom said he’d requested two additional security agents to reinforce an existing three security personnel at the site, but that request also was denied.
Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary for international programs for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, maintained that only three security agents were needed at the site.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said that new information had come to light that five security agents were on site the day of the attack, though only three were stationed there, while the others were on site for other reasons that were not explained.
The Benghazi mission had endured two previous bombing attacks, on April 6, in which two former Libyan security guards for the consulate in Benghazi threw homemade explosives over the consulate fence, but resulted in no casualties, and a June 6 attack, in which militants detonated an explosive at the perimeter gate of the consulate, blowing a hole through the barrier, again causing no casualties.
“The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there,” testified Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who commanded a Special Forces Site Security Team in Libya from February to August.
“Diplomatic security remained weak,” he said. “The [regional security officer] struggled to obtain additional personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with.”