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A debriefing of these Foreign Service officers immediately after the Benghazi attacks would have pointed to Islamist insurgents.

Secretaries of State Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice were both hands-on leaders. At the top of their list of instructions was security at overseas missions. I doubt whether either would have said “What difference does it make?” if a mission were overrun by jihadists and an ambassador killed.

With the security support we received under their leadership, terrorists did not kill any U.S. diplomats. Mr. Powell and Miss Rice communicated directly with ambassadors about threat situations. Classified cables received timely responses asking ambassadors to take action to protect U.S. interests, embassy personnel and American citizens.

I believe the State Department did not have emergency measures in place to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi and to ensure that military support was readily available in the event of terrorist attacks.

The Arab Spring uprising saw numerous Islamist militant groups infiltrating the region. Ambassador Stevens knew the risks he faced and had sent classified cables regarding his concern of terrorist attacks. Such information would have instantaneously reached the secretary of state’s office.

Elements of the Feb. 17 Martyrs Brigade militia, which had ties to al Qaeda, were hired to protect the U.S. mission. Reportedly, brigade members had been warned of possible attacks against the mission in early August. Security measures should have been heightened in Benghazi, knowing the weak Libyan government could not control the well-armed militias.

U.S. leaders watched in real time as the events of the U.S. Consulate attacks unfolded. Disguising the disastrous ending — by not referring to the attacks as undertaken by Islamist extremists — was a political decision. It can only be seen as gross negligence and incompetence by those involved in making that unfortunate conclusion.

John Price is a former U.S. ambassador to Comoros, Mauritius and the Seychelles islands. He currently serves as a resident scholar at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. He is the author of “When the White House Calls,” and regularly writes commentaries on Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.