Belmont Club

Sappers in the Wire

CNN reports the testimony of the State Department’s former security man Libya. He “told a congressional hearing Wednesday that his superiors worked against him as he tried to get more help for the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi in the months before it was overrun in a deadly terror attack.”

Eric Nordstrom, the one-time regional security officer, told the House Oversight Committee that he had a disheartening conversation with the regional director of the agency’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs when he requested additional manpower for the facility.

“I said, ‘Jim, you know what makes it most frustrating about this assignment? It’s not the hardships. It’s not the gunfire. It’s not the threats. It’s dealing and fighting against the people, programs, and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me,” Nordstrom said. He also told the State Department officer, “‘For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

The obvious counter to this criticism was that the evil Paul Ryan slashed the budget to the point where no further defense could be afforded. The BBC says “a memo prepared by the committee’s Democratic staff noted that House Republicans had voted for an embassy security funding package that was $459m (£286m) lower than what the Obama administration had requested.” That slightly more than PBS and NPR get and about the same amount as the White House’s cash infusion to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood dominated government. Half a billion here, half a billion there are pretty soon you’re talking real money.

But even if more security had been available it would not have made a material difference. “In his prepared statement, Nordstrom said the “ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service. Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra-half dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault.””

“We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11,” said Charlene Lamb, the deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security in charge of protecting American embassies and consulates around the world….

A memo Tuesday by the Oversight Committee’s Democratic staff provided details of Nordstrom’s interview with the panel’s investigators. In that interview, Nordstrom said he sent two cables to State Department headquarters in March 2012 and July 2012 requesting additional diplomatic security agents for Benghazi, but he received no responses.

He stated that Lamb wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi artificially low. He said Lamb believed the Benghazi facilities did not need any diplomatic security special agents because there was a residential safe haven to fall back to in an emergency.

However the attackers knew about the “safe haven” too and it’s promised safety proved false. Apparently the Taliban was in the building in more ways than one. The question now being asked in Congress was how the State Department could confuse an organize assault on this scale for a spontaneous demonstration arising from an amateurish video produced in California.

One of the requests made by the security team that was denied was for a DC-3. “ABC News has obtained an internal State Department email from May 3, 2012, indicating that the State Department denied a request from the security team at the Embassy of Libya to retain a DC-3 airplane in the country to better conduct their duties.” Why a DC-3? Who can say? Maybe they thought it would be handy dealing with overrun embassies.

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