During a hearing today on Capitol Hill held by the House Oversight Committee, many questions about what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 still remain unanswered. The hearing started just hours after the State Department denied linking the attack to a YouTube video insulting to Islam. Prior to today, the State Department repeatedly blamed the attack on the video with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N Ambassador Susan Rice blaming the video in public statements. The State Department and the White House have said there was no “actionable intelligence” prior to the attack that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. The hearing today revealed a request for an extension of backup security was made as early as March 2012 and Stevens received a death threat from al Qaeda in June. It was also revealed there were two attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi prior to the 9/11 attack and an assassination attempt on a British Ambassador occurred in the city.
“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 struggled to obtain additional personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with,” Lt. Col. Andrew Wood said in his opening statement. “While the sound of gunfire in and around Tripoli subsided from February to April the situation remained unstable. Libyans struggled with a Transitional government that hesitated to make decisions and was forced to rely upon local or tribal militias with varying degrees to loyalty. In late spring, Police were allowed to return to work to help with traffic but were limited to that. Fighting between militias was still common when I departed. Some militias appeared to be degenerating into organizations resembling free lance criminal operations. Targeted attacks against westerners were on the increase. In June the Ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public announcement that he liked to run around the Embassy compound in Tripoli.”
The hearing also revealed the security of weapons in Libya is non-existent. Lt. Col. Wood said weapons, including tanks and rocket propelled grenades, are available to “anyone” at “any time.” Since U.S. involvement in Libya, Al Qaeda has become more established.
REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH): “Does anybody else here know how many shoulder to air missiles that can shoot down civilian airliners are still loose in Libya? Does anyone know?”
LIEUTENANT COLONEL ANDREW WOOD: “The figures that we were provided were fluid, but the rough approximation was between ten and 20,000.”
REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): “The gentleman's time has expired. Did you want them to answer anything in response to al queda growth? If anyone has an answer on that one, they can answer and then we’ll go on.”
KUCINICH: “Is Al Qaeda more or less established in Libya since our involvement?”
WOOD: “Yes, sir their presence grows every day, they are certainly more established than we are.”
Despite intelligence showing within 24 hours the attack in Benghazi was carried out by terrorists, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb refused to say the word terrorism during her testimony.
“I am not making any judgments on my own,” Lamb said.
Ambassador and Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy continued the “this was a protest that got out of control” argument under oath, despite the fact there wasn’t a protest outside of the consulate before the attack.
The White House is doing their best to spin the situation and Press Secretary Jay Carney assured reporters during the daily briefing of President Obama’s dedication to finding out what happened in Libya.
“No one is more interested in exactly what happened in Benghazi than the President of the United States,” Carney said. “I think, as we’re hearing on Capitol Hill today, we have learned a great deal as this investigation has progressed, and we have been very clear about what we have known at different stages of this process over the last several weeks and what we have yet to learn and the fact that at each stage, the investigation continues, and more facts may be developed that change our understanding of what happened. State Department officials are on Capitol Hill today being very clear about what we know now based on the several weeks of investigation that have taken place. They are also making clear that the investigation continues and that the Accountability Review Board that is looking into the issues of diplomatic security is continuing its work. You know, I’m not prepared to preview the results of an investigation that — or a review that have — that are not yet complete or to second-guess what the experts in the field are going to conclude."