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Congressional Hearing Over Benghazi Attack

US officials: security levels at the consulate in Benghazi were adequate for 9/11 anniversary, attacks displayed an unprecedented veracity.
By Scott Krane
First Publish: 10/11/2012, 4:46 AM

Fire near U.S. consulate in Benghazi
Fire near U.S. consulate in Benghazi
AFP/File

U.S. State Department officials testified on Wednesday before an election-season congressional hearing (a Republican-led committee) that security levels at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi Libya were adequate for the 9/11 anniversary, but the attacks displayed an unprecedented veracity.

"We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11," said deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security, Charlene Lamb. However, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa contested this saying her testimony didn’t “ring true”. White House spokesman Jay Carney also told reporters "there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from happening."

Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer in Libya, earlier told congressional investigators that the request for more security was blocked by a department policy to "normalize operations and reduce security resources."

"I'm confident that the committee will conclude that Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service and Mission Libya officers conducted themselves professionally and with careful attention to managing people and budgets in a way that reflects the gravity of their task," said Nordstrom.

He said in a prepared statement that 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."

Nordstrom stated that Lamb wished to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi artificially low.

Mr. Nordstrom's Octobster 1 memo to the congressional investigator read:

"You will note that there were a number of incidents that targeted diplomatic missions and underscored the GoL's (government of Libya) inability to secure and protect diplomatic missions.

"This was a significant part of (the diplomatic) post's and my argument for maintaining continued DS (diplomatic security) and DOD (Department of Defense) security assets into Sept/Oct. 2012; the GoL was overwhelmed and could not guarantee our protection.

"Sadly, that point was reaffirmed on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi."

CNN reported:

Speaking before the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee, Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy responded to insinuations that the State Department was responsible for a lack of preparedness ahead of the Benghazi consulate attack.

“We regularly assess risk and resource allocation, a process involving the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington, using the best available information,” Kennedy said.

The assault on the U.S. compound was “an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men,” Kennedy said.

In rebuke to Charlene Lamb, Darrell Issa said, “To start off by saying you had the correct number, and our ambassador and three other individuals are dead, and people are in the hospital recovering because it only took moments to breach that facility somehow doesn’t seem to ring true to the American people,” Mr. Issa said.

The Obama administration originally tried to say that the violent attacks were spurred by the “Innocence of Muslims” film, but a week later admitted that evidence points to the fact that they were a closely orchestrated 9/11 anniversary attack. The missiles used in the attack indicate an al Qaeda connection.