Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chris Stevens

Report: Benghazi Cables Warned “Guards” Were Photographing Consulate

Did the State Department receive warnings on September 11 that the Benghazi consulate was being cased for an attack? FNC’s Jennifer Griffin reports today that two cables sent from Ambassador Chris Stevens’s team to Washington the morning of the attack expressed concern that Libyan police had been seen photographing the compound earlier that day (h/t Hot Air):

Reports Griffin:

Read More

Did the State Department receive warnings on September 11 that the Benghazi consulate was being cased for an attack? FNC’s Jennifer Griffin reports today that two cables sent from Ambassador Chris Stevens’s team to Washington the morning of the attack expressed concern that Libyan police had been seen photographing the compound earlier that day (h/t Hot Air):

Reports Griffin:

“Two State Department cables show that Stevens’s team warned Washington that at 6:43 a.m. in the morning they had concerns that members of the Libyan police sent to guard them were photographing the compound. …

U.S. intelligence officials confirm to Fox that in fact there were reports from the ground in Benghazi three hours before the attack on the consulate that a Libyan militia was gathering weapons and gathering steam. That was three hours before the consulate was attacked at 9:47 p.m. on September 11.”

There is a lot here, but first, the cables. Max cited a Foreign Policy article earlier, which reported on draft letters from Stevens’ team to the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, warning that local police sent to guard the consulate had been photographing the building. But this is the first time we’ve heard that Foggy Bottom was actually sent cables about it. With the history of attacks on the consulate and other foreign missions in the area, the warnings from security officials, and the 9/11 anniversary, this evidence of local “guards” casing the compound should have been more than enough to raise alarms at the State Department.

Even if Washington officials didn’t see or receive the cables until after it was too late, that still raises more questions about why the administration would have assumed the attack was part of a “spontaneous demonstration” in response to the Cairo protests. The photographs were reportedly taken at 6:43 a.m., well before the protests erupted in Egypt. 

Then there’s Griffin’s report that U.S. intelligence officials had word of Libyan militias gathering arms three hours before the attack. If so, was anyone at the State Department informed? Where exactly was the communications breakdown?

The Obama administration’s foot-dragging on this has ensured we won’t know the full story until after the election. But their initial claims seem more implausible by the day.

Read Less

Libya Attack Still an Inexplicable Failure

All of the back and forth over whether the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi was or was not a “terrorist” attack (can there be any doubt that it was?) has obscured attention from the real issue: Why wasn’t the consulate in Benghazi afforded better protection? There was obviously a grave breach of security. The Washington Post reveals the depth of unpreparedness:

U.S. officials appear to have underestimated the threat facing both the ambassador and other Americans. They had not reinforced the U.S. diplomatic outpost there to meet strict safety standards for government buildings overseas. Nor had they posted a U.S. Marine detachment, as at other diplomatic sites in high-threat regions.

A U.S. military team assigned to establish security at the new embassy in Tripoli, in a previously undisclosed detail, was never instructed to fortify the temporary hub in the east. Instead, a small local guard force was hired by a British private security firm as part of a contract worth less than half of what it costs to deploy a single U.S. service member in a war zone for a year.

Read More

All of the back and forth over whether the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi was or was not a “terrorist” attack (can there be any doubt that it was?) has obscured attention from the real issue: Why wasn’t the consulate in Benghazi afforded better protection? There was obviously a grave breach of security. The Washington Post reveals the depth of unpreparedness:

U.S. officials appear to have underestimated the threat facing both the ambassador and other Americans. They had not reinforced the U.S. diplomatic outpost there to meet strict safety standards for government buildings overseas. Nor had they posted a U.S. Marine detachment, as at other diplomatic sites in high-threat regions.

A U.S. military team assigned to establish security at the new embassy in Tripoli, in a previously undisclosed detail, was never instructed to fortify the temporary hub in the east. Instead, a small local guard force was hired by a British private security firm as part of a contract worth less than half of what it costs to deploy a single U.S. service member in a war zone for a year.

This lapse is all the more shocking given the fact that the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security is known for taking an ultra-cautious approach to protecting America’s representatives abroad. Heads should roll over this failure. (They should also roll over the Anglo-American military failure to protect Harrier jump jets at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.) And senior officials in the Obama administration, starting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, must explain how this inexplicable failure took place.

Read Less

The Unanswered Questions on Libya Attack

As Americans mourn the loss of our ambassador in Libya and three of his colleagues, the circumstances of their demise remain murky. Some accounts suggest there was a spontaneous demonstration at the Benghazi consulate followed by a well-executed ambush against consulate personnel while they were being evacuated; other accounts suggest that the initial assault was not the result of demonstrations but planned by a jihadist group in advance. Whatever the case, the situation raises an obvious question: Why didn’t the consulate have better protection, especially given the presence there of Ambassador Chris Stevens? Was there an intelligence failure, a failure of security, or simply a “perfect storm” that could not have reasonably been anticipated? These are all questions that both the State Department and Congress need to probe, and urgently, because of the continuing threat against American outposts in the Middle East.

In general, the State Department has done an excellent job of protecting its ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel–not a single senior diplomat has been killed so far in either Iraq or Afghanistan, notwithstanding numerous plots aimed at doing just that. Partly this is a matter of serendipity, but it’s also a tribute to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the private security contractors it has hired, including the now-notorious Blackwater. In my experience traveling around the Middle East, Regional Security Officers–the officials responsible for security in each embassy–tend to err on the side of caution, so much so that their desire to protect their charges often makes it hard to conduct the outreach with the local community needed for successful diplomatic initiatives. That makes it all the more surprising that Ambassador Stevens did not have more protection.

Read More

As Americans mourn the loss of our ambassador in Libya and three of his colleagues, the circumstances of their demise remain murky. Some accounts suggest there was a spontaneous demonstration at the Benghazi consulate followed by a well-executed ambush against consulate personnel while they were being evacuated; other accounts suggest that the initial assault was not the result of demonstrations but planned by a jihadist group in advance. Whatever the case, the situation raises an obvious question: Why didn’t the consulate have better protection, especially given the presence there of Ambassador Chris Stevens? Was there an intelligence failure, a failure of security, or simply a “perfect storm” that could not have reasonably been anticipated? These are all questions that both the State Department and Congress need to probe, and urgently, because of the continuing threat against American outposts in the Middle East.

In general, the State Department has done an excellent job of protecting its ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel–not a single senior diplomat has been killed so far in either Iraq or Afghanistan, notwithstanding numerous plots aimed at doing just that. Partly this is a matter of serendipity, but it’s also a tribute to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the private security contractors it has hired, including the now-notorious Blackwater. In my experience traveling around the Middle East, Regional Security Officers–the officials responsible for security in each embassy–tend to err on the side of caution, so much so that their desire to protect their charges often makes it hard to conduct the outreach with the local community needed for successful diplomatic initiatives. That makes it all the more surprising that Ambassador Stevens did not have more protection.

The decision to deploy some extra Marines to Yemen and Libya, among other places, is a good one but that’s only a temporary fix since, contrary to myth, Marines are seldom the main security force at a diplomatic installation and they seldom if ever provide personal security to the “principals,” such as Ambassadors. The Marine presence is important but in most cases symbolic since the bulk of exterior security is normally provided by local contractors and local security forces and personal security details for the ambassador and other senior figures are provided by diplomatic security agents and foreign contractors. Those are the areas that need examination, including examining the possibility that Libyan jihadists may have infiltrated either the consulate’s guard force or the local security establishment. Washington needs to figure out why the Benghazi security setup was so flawed and fix the shortcomings ASAP

Read Less

Libyans Remember Ambassador Stevens

As the United States mourns the horrific murders of four Americans at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, it’s also important to remember that the violent thugs who stormed the embassy do not represent all Libyans. Yesterday, a crowd of Libyans hit the streets to protest the attack, waving signs in broken English that read “Sorry People of America this is not the [b]ehavior of our [I]slam and pro[phe]t,” and “Chris Stevens Was a Friend to All Libyans.”

Stevens, 52, had devoted himself to helping liberate the country he died in. ABC News reports on his daring entrance into Libya during the first days of the civil war:

Read More

As the United States mourns the horrific murders of four Americans at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, it’s also important to remember that the violent thugs who stormed the embassy do not represent all Libyans. Yesterday, a crowd of Libyans hit the streets to protest the attack, waving signs in broken English that read “Sorry People of America this is not the [b]ehavior of our [I]slam and pro[phe]t,” and “Chris Stevens Was a Friend to All Libyans.”

Stevens, 52, had devoted himself to helping liberate the country he died in. ABC News reports on his daring entrance into Libya during the first days of the civil war:

During the early days of the Libyans’ fight to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi, Christopher Stevens wrangled a ride on a Greek cargo ship and sailed into the rebels’ stronghold city of Benghazi. He arrived at a time when the crackle of gunfire could be heard each night.

Stevens and his team didn’t even have a place to stay, but found space in a hotel briefly, moving out after a car bomb went off in the parking lot, according to his own account in State Magazine last year.

Stevens, whose diplomatic foothold were a couple of battered tables, was on literally on the rebels’ side while the revolution was at its most vulnerable and in danger of being crushed by Gadhafi’s troops who were moving on the city. The threat was pushed back at the last minute by the intervention of NATO planes which began bombing Gadhafi’s tanks and troops.

It’s impossible to thank the late Ambassador Stevens — and many of the other American diplomats abroad — enough for the sacrifices they make daily to try to build a better future for volatile and dangerous countries that are not even their own. Without them, much of the good that America does in the world would not be possible.

Read Less

Ambassador Killed, Embassy Attacked: A Time of Testing

If reports are true, Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was one of four diplomats killed yesterday in a rocket strike in Benghazi. This is awful, calamitous, horrible news in a hundred different ways, not only for his family and for the Foreign Service in which he served so honorably, but when it comes to the most fundamental rule of relations between countries from time immemorial—which is that their emissaries are guaranteed safe passage and safe conduct when they travel on behalf of their own governments. We can presume Stevens and his colleagues were not killed by the Libyan government, because if that were the case, this would be nothing less than an act of war that required a response.

As we saw yesterday in Cairo, with the assault on the U.S. embassy there on the pretext of a cinematic offense against the Prophet, the United States has entered a new time of testing in the long war against Islamism—with assaults on official U.S. property and U.S. personnel. Such tests have always been highly problematic for us; before this becomes an occasion to blame Barack Obama’s weakness and vascillation, it’s worth remembering that the United States has never handled it well. In the 1960s, radicals attacking U.S. embassies became a kind of running joke. The joke ended in 1979 with the taking of the hostages in Iran, which was a state action in the guise of a radical private action.

But after yesterday, the test is Obama’s.

Read More

If reports are true, Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was one of four diplomats killed yesterday in a rocket strike in Benghazi. This is awful, calamitous, horrible news in a hundred different ways, not only for his family and for the Foreign Service in which he served so honorably, but when it comes to the most fundamental rule of relations between countries from time immemorial—which is that their emissaries are guaranteed safe passage and safe conduct when they travel on behalf of their own governments. We can presume Stevens and his colleagues were not killed by the Libyan government, because if that were the case, this would be nothing less than an act of war that required a response.

As we saw yesterday in Cairo, with the assault on the U.S. embassy there on the pretext of a cinematic offense against the Prophet, the United States has entered a new time of testing in the long war against Islamism—with assaults on official U.S. property and U.S. personnel. Such tests have always been highly problematic for us; before this becomes an occasion to blame Barack Obama’s weakness and vascillation, it’s worth remembering that the United States has never handled it well. In the 1960s, radicals attacking U.S. embassies became a kind of running joke. The joke ended in 1979 with the taking of the hostages in Iran, which was a state action in the guise of a radical private action.

But after yesterday, the test is Obama’s.

The strange spectacle of the dreadful initial response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo—apologizing for an offense that the United States did not offer and that under any circumstances would not justify an attack—followed by a White House disavowal six hours later (“we didn’t clear it”) can be ascribed to the initial daze of a two-pronged attack that must have left everyone in shock. That lack of clarity must end today, or there will be more of this. Much more.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.