NEWS

U.S. Security Weak Before Libyan Embassy Attack: Military Official

By Laura Spadanuta

The American embassy in Benghazi, Libya did not have the security capabilities to defend itself against last month's attack that killed an ambassador and three other Americans. That is according to prepared testimony from Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday. Wood is the former head of a U.S. military team in Libya. The September 11 attack on the embassy left Ambassador Chris Stevens dead, among others.

Wood was the Site Security Team (SST) commander in Libya until August 2012. According to Wood's testimony:

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 [regional security officer] struggled to obtain additional personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with.

According to the Chicago Tribune, "The State Department has defended security procedures in Libya and convened its own review board."

The hearing comes on the heels of criticism of the State Department's reaction to the attacks.

According to The Christian Science Monitor:

The committee hearing followed assertions Tuesday night by the State Department that it never concluded that the Sept. 11 attack stemmed from protests over an American-made video ridiculing Islam. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in what the administration now says was a terrorist attack.

Asked about the administration's initial — and since retracted — explanation linking the violence to protests over the anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet, one official said, "That was not our conclusion."

However, the article also reports that United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice gave inteviews days after the attack stating that the administration believed the violence was unplanned and the attackers latched onto a protest against the video. However, as Politico reports, the administration has now concluded that there were no protests prior to the attacks.

Also scheduled to testify on Wednesday was Eric Nordstrom, the former chief security officer for U.S. diplomats in Libya, who had earlier told the committee that his requests for increased security at the embassy were ignored.


Photo: The caskets of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, and security officers Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty are escorted through an honor cordon during a dignified transfer ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Sept. 14, 2012. DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

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