Washington refused to boost Libyan embassy security before attack, say GOP reps

Washington refused to boost Libyan embassy security before attack, say GOP reps

State Department ducks questions on diplomats' requests for beefed-up measures, later says it will respond to lawmakers' request for information

US envoy Chris Stevens speaking to local media in Benghazi in 2011. (photo credit: AP/Ben Curtis)
US envoy Chris Stevens speaking to local media in Benghazi in 2011. (photo credit: AP/Ben Curtis)

WASHINGTON — U.S. diplomats in Libya made repeated requests for increased security for the consulate in Benghazi before it was attacked last month, but they were turned down by officials in Washington, leaders of a Congressional committee said Tuesday.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Reps. Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz said their information came from “individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya.”

The two Republicans said the Sept. 11 attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in recent months.

Stevens was the first sitting U.S. ambassador to be killed in more than 30 years.

The lawmakers asked Clinton whether the State Department was aware of the previous incidents, whether the level of security that was provided to the U.S. mission met the security threat and how the department responded to requests for more security. The lawmakers plan a hearing of their House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Oct. 10.

The Obama administration has called the attack a terrorist attack. It came amid violent protests across the Muslim world over an amateur anti-Islam video produced in the U.S.

The State Department has declined to answer questions about whether extra security was sought by officials in Benghazi ahead of the Sept. 11 attack.

“Let me assure you that our security in Benghazi included a unit of host government security forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world,” Clinton said on Sept. 18 when asked whether security measures were appropriate.

“In addition to the security outside the compound, we relied on a wall and a robust security presence inside the compound,” Clinton added. “And with all of our missions overseas, in advance of September 11th, as is done every year, we did an evaluation on threat streams. And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”

Later Tuesday, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton would respond to the lawmakers who requested information on the attack. She added that Clinton is ready to cooperate “closely” with Congress in the Benghazi investigation, Reuters reported.

The lawmakers’ letter listed a dozen incidents prior to Sept. 11 that they said were indications of deteriorating security:

—Just weeks before the attacks, the unarmed Libyan guards at the consulate, employed by British contractor Blue Mountain Group, were warned by family members to quit their jobs because there were rumors of an impending attack.

—In April, a gun battle erupted about two miles (3 kilometers) from the consulate between an unidentified armed group and forces loyal to the transitional government.

—Also in April, two Libyans fired from a contractor providing security at the consulate threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence. There were no casualties.

—In June, a posting on a Facebook page mentioned Stevens’ early-morning runs around Tripoli along with members of his security detail. The page contained a threat against Stevens and a photo of him. Stevens stopped the runs for about a week but then resumed.

—Also in June, assailants placed an explosive device on a gate of the U.S. consulate, which blew a hole in the security perimeter. That month, there was a daylight attack on a two-car convoy carrying the British ambassador to Libya.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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