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House: Washington turned down request for more security at Libya consulate

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 6:21 a.m. MDT

This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows a man walking through a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. (Associated Press) This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows a man walking through a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — American diplomats in Libya made repeated requests for increased security for the consulate in Benghazi and were turned down by officials in Washington, leaders of a House committee said Tuesday.

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

Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi 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 the months before Sept. 11.

The lawmakers said they plan a hearing on Oct. 10. They asked Clinton whether the State Department was aware of the previous incidents, and 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.

In this June 27, 2012 file photo, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Associated Press) In this June 27, 2012 file photo, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Associated Press)

Referring to the Sept. 11 attacks, the letter said, "It was clearly never, as administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest."

The State Department has declined to answer questions about whether extra security was sought by officials in Benghazi ahead of the Sept. 11 attack. Clinton did, however, discuss security on Sept. 18, when asked whether measures were appropriate.

"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," she said.

"In addition to the security outside the compound, we relied on a wall and a robust security presence inside the compound. 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."

In this July 19, 2011 file photo, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Associated Press) In this July 19, 2011 file photo, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Associated Press)

She added that diplomats "engage in dangerous work, and it's the nature of diplomacy in fragile societies and conflict zones to be aware of the necessity for security but to also continue the important diplomatic work that has to go on.

"There is risk inherent in what we do and what these brave men and women representing the United States are up against every single day," Clinton said, "and we do our very best to limit that risk by ensuring that our security protocols reflect the environments in which diplomats work and the threats that they are presented with."

The committee letter listed a dozen incidents prior to Sept. 11 that Issa and Chaffetz said were indications of deteriorating security. The incidents included:

—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 this April 11, 2011 file photo, Ambassador Chris Stevens is seen in Benghazi, Libya. (Associated Press) In this April 11, 2011 file photo, Ambassador Chris Stevens is seen in Benghazi, Libya. (Associated Press)

—In April, a gun battle erupted about two miles 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 stock 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.

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