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“The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there,” testified Col. Wood, whose last men were pulled out a month before the attack. “The situation remained uncertain, and reports from some Libyans indicated it was getting worse. Diplomatic security remained weak.”

Eric Nordstrom, the top diplomatic security officer in Libya that summer, recalled asking his supervisor for 12 officers for Benghazi. He was rebuffed.

In the phone conservation with a superior in Washington, he said, “It’s dealing and fighting against the people, programs and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. And I added [to] it by saying, for me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

The administration also asserted it had no intelligence that foretold the attack. That may be true, if intelligence means an intercepted phone call or human source.

But if the mounting number of attacks on Western targets before Sept. 11 was deemed as a sign, then the attack on the consulate was predictable.

Militants repeatedly attacked the International Red Cross building. Terrorists planted a bomb at the U.S. Consulate that blew a hole in one wall. Islamists ambushed the British ambassador’s convoy, prompting London to pull all its diplomats out of Benghazi.

“When that occurred, it was apparent to me that we were the last flag flying in Benghazi,” Col. Wood testified. “We were the last thing on their target list to remove from Benghazi.”

Delays all around

There also were conflicting statements from the Pentagon on why U.S. forces never showed up in Benghazi, especially during the long siege on the CIA annex, where the two former SEALs were killed by mortar fire early Sept. 12.

At first, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said no forces were used because he did not have a good picture of conditions on the ground.

He said Sept. 27 that he operated under a “basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place. And, as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

But it turns out there were no forces, based on a Pentagon timeline released last week.

Mr. Panetta ordered two special-operations units, one in the U.S., one in Croatia, to position themselves in Sicily, across the Mediterranean from Benghazi. He did not give the order until two to four hours after the attack had begun. The troops did not arrive in Sicily until the night of Sept. 12, more than 12 hours after the last Americans had left the mission and flown to Tripoli.

The Washington Times has reported that U.S. Africa Command, which has military jurisdiction over North Africa, has no quick- reaction force. One is being set up, but is not ready.

Also late in arriving was the FBI. Headquarters in Washington said agents did not show up in Benghazi until Oct. 4 because of security concerns.

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