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Embassy Row: Demanding answers

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2012

Two Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are questioning whether the State Department ignored warnings from U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Libya before Islamic extremists killed him on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Johnny Isakson of Georgia sent a letter last week to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling for the release of all cables between the U.S. Embassy in Libya and the State Department before the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where Mr. Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

The senators questioned the "conflicting" accounts of the attack, and the warnings from Libyan officials and Mr. Stevens about increasing tension in Libya's second-largest city. An uprising erupted in Benghazi in February 2011 and quickly spread across the North African nation into a civil war that ended eight months later with the killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"Specifically, we are concerned over the apparent lack of security preparations made despite a demonstrable increase in risks to U.S. officials and facilities in the period leading up to the attacks," they wrote to Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Corker and Mr. Isakson noted that militants in Benghazi first attacked the U.S. Consulate on June 6. Gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a car carrying British Ambassador Dominic Asquith a week later, and attacked the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in August.

They cited other reports of Libyan officials warning U.S. diplomats about the "rising threats" against American officials only days before the Benghazi assault. CNN also reported that Mr. Stevens was worried about the increase in Islamic extremism; however, the Obama administration failed to increase security around the consulate or the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

"Despite these warnings, the State Department sought and received a waiver from the standard security requirements for the consulate," Mr. Corker and Mr. Isakson said.

The White House and State Department initially blamed the Benghazi attack on mobs angered by an American-made film that mocked the Prophet Muhammad. Two week after the attack, Mrs. Clinton blamed terrorists linked to al Qaeda for the assault.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former deputy foreign minister of Germany. He discusses German relations with the European Union in a briefing at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Tuesday

Zalman Shoval, a special envoy for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netyanhu and a former Israeli ambassador to the United States. He has private meetings on U.S.-Israeli relations and addresses the U.S. Institute for Peace on Friday.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan, chief minister of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. He addresses the U.S. India Business Council and the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Wednesday

Jawed Ludin, deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan, who addresses the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Thursday

A delegation from the Netherlands including Klaas Langendoen, a former chief of the Criminal Intelligence Service; Adele van der Plas, a lawyer for domestic and international child victims of sex trafficking, and Bart van Well, a survivor of child trafficking in Amsterdam. They testify on human trafficking at a hearing before the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at 2 p.m. in Room 2255 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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