The Independent is reporting that the State Department had intelligence that American diplomatic facilities in the Middle East were being targeted, but did nothing to enhance security:
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and “lockdown”, under which movement is severely restricted.
It is difficult to get a clear understanding of what happened in Benghazi. Chris Stevens had been traveling in other countries and only recently returned to Libya. There has been no explanation of why he was in Benghazi (as opposed to the capital, Tripoli) or how many other Americans were also there. Apparently the terrorists first attacked the consulate, which was virtually undefended:
According to security sources the consulate had been given a “health check” in preparation for any violence connected to the 9/11 anniversary. In the event, the perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: “The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”
So where were the Marines? Stevens and others went to a supposed “safe house,” but the location of the house apparently had been betrayed to the terrorists. The explanation of how Stevens died from smoke inhalation is curious at best:
Mr Stevens, it is believed, was left in the building by the rest of the staff after they failed to find him in dense smoke caused by a blaze which had engulfed the building.
So they fled the building without the Ambassador? And where were the terrorists at that point? They had attacked the building with RPGs, as I understand it, and the building evidently was on fire. Did the terrorists just evaporate and allow the other staff members to leave?
Supposedly, a group of friendly Libyans found Ambassador Stevens lying unconscious in the burned-out safe house and took him to a hospital. This apparently is when the photos we have seen were taken. The crowd doesn’t look particularly friendly to me. But where were the terrorists while that was going on?
Some hours later, apparently, a large group of Americans was rescued from the “safe house.” How can that be? The safe house was on fire. Did they arrive after an earlier group had departed from the safe house, and the friendly Libyans had removed Ambassador Stevens’s body? Apparently, but that makes no sense. In any event, a force was sent from Tripoli to rescue them:
An eight-strong American rescue team was sent from Tripoli and taken by troops under Captain Fathi al- Obeidi, of the February 17 Brigade, to the secret safe house to extract around 40 US staff. The building then came under fire from heavy weapons. “I don’t know how they found the place to carry out the attack. It was planned, the accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any ordinary revolutionaries,” said Captain Obeidi. “It began to rain down on us, about six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa.”
So now apparently the terrorists are back, this time with mortars! This isn’t a mob, it’s a military force. Despite the mortar attack, the eight Americans were able to resuce the 40 US staff from the supposedly burned-out safe house. It was somewhere in this time period when they learned what had happened to Stevens, apparently some hours earlier:
Libyan reinforcements eventually arrived, and the attack ended. News had arrived of Mr Stevens, and his body was picked up from the hospital and taken back to Tripoli with the other dead and the survivors.
This narrative does not make a lot of sense; the time sequence is confused, to say the least, and the story of what happened to Stevens doesn’t appear to add up. A Congressional investigation should be undertaken to find out what happened and why adequate security precautions were not taken. A Congressional committee will also want to inquire into how secret documents fell into the terrorists’ hands, compromising American intelligence assets in Libya:
The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed “safe”.
Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.
There is a great deal more to be learned about what happened in Libya, and why. The Obama administration will carry out its usual cover-up, so it is up to Congress to try to dig out the real story.
UPDATE: Steve posted on this at almost the same time I did; check his post out, too.