State Department changes account of Benghazi attack

Now denies any link to anti-Islam film

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Then on Sept. 19, Matthew Olson, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, told a Senate hearing that Mr. Stevens and the others had died “in the course of a terrorist attack” on the consulate, although he added that there was no intelligence the assault was pre-planned.

The following day, President Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney for the first time used the word “terrorist” to describe the attack, but in his address to the United Nations Sept. 25, President Obama avoided the term, although he discussed the attack at some length.

Instead he referred to “attacks on the civilians in Benghazi,” pledging “we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.”

In the heated atmosphere of a presidential election campaign, Republicans are likely to seize on the administration’s changing narrative at Wednesday’s hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

According to committee staffers, Mr. Nordstrom likely will testify that his requests were ignored despite there having been several attacks in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya in the previous months.

Those attacks “targeted diplomatic missions and underscored the [government of Libya’s] inability to secure and protect diplomatic missions,” Mr. Nordstrom wrote in an email last week. The email was provided by committee’s Republican staff.

The State Department official pushed back against the suggestion that there was too little security in Benghazi.

“The lethality and the numbers of armed people was unprecedented … in recent diplomatic history,” the official said. ”There had been no attacks like it in Libya.”

Several former State Department officials have told The Washington Times that any reasonable security presence in Benghazi would have been overwhelmed by the attack by dozens of extremists, armed with heavy weapons who stormed the consulate compound in SUVs.

In his email, Mr. Nordstrom wrote that he and the embassy had told Washington they needed more security personnel and wanted a 16-member special forces unit assigned to the U.S. Embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli to stay until the fall. But the team was withdrawn over the summer.

The government of Libya “was overwhelmed and could not guarantee our protection,” Mr. Nordstrom added.
Libya was “certainly not an environment where [the diplomatic] post should be directed to ‘normalize’ operations and reduce security resources in accordance with an artificial timetable,” he said.

A Republican staffer said normalization “referred to a desire by senior State officials to create a perception that the situation in Libya was improving” less than nine months after a civil war ravaged the country and overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The staffer also said that normalization included “replacing the American security presence with locally trained Libyans.”

Army National Guard Army National Guard Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who headed the special forces team, is also scheduled to testify Wednesday. He has also said that Mr. Stevens and other diplomats wanted his team to stay in Tripoli.

Democrats on the committee called the investigation “partisan,” saying they had been excluded from a congressional delegation to Libya and denied access to witnesses and documents. They also said the committee had not received a classified briefing.

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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