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Diplomat on the ground tells Congress he was ‘stunned’ by Rice account of Benghazi
Colleagues told him in an email, “and I quote, ‘It’s my understanding that Undersecretary for Management [Patrick Kennedy], agreed to the current compounds being set up and occupied, conditioned as is.’”
Mr. Nordstrom said the State Department-chartered investigation into the attacks had been interested in that correspondence, written in February 2012: “I requested, ‘Is anything in writing? If so, I’d like a copy for [the] post [in Libya] so we have it handy for the ARB.’ That’s eight months before the attack.”
Mr. Nordstrom said he never got a copy of the order and he never found out who made the decision to go ahead and move staff in to buildings that did not meet security standards for issues such as setback from the public road, access controls, and blast-proof architecture.
“We did not meet any of those standards,” he said of the building in Benghazi, which was overrun and set ablaze by heavily armed extremists during the attack.
The accountability review board’s report released last year stated simply that “there was very real confusion” between diplomats on the ground and officials in Washington “over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions” about security there.
They said the situation was complicated by the fact that the mission in Benghazi was not even a recognized diplomatic facility. For administrative purposes, it was treated as a residential building exempt from all security standards, the report states, but it does not say on whose authority it was classified that way.
“I got no confirmation as to who made those decisions,” Mr. Nordstrom said. “No one has said they took that decision and taken responsibility for it.”
The board interviewed Mr. Kennedy and spoke with Mrs. Clinton, officials have said.
Mr. Hicks also said the U.S. military, contrary to statements made by top Pentagon brass, could have prevented the second attack phase.
Col. David Lapan, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that by the time the team would have left Tripoli, the second attack in Benghazi was over.
Mr. Hicks added that the Libyan president had been so angered by Mrs. Rice’s comments that he was still “steamed” about it two weeks later. As a result, it took U.S. diplomats more than two weeks to get the Libyans to cooperate in bringing FBI investigators to Benghazi.
“President Magariaf was insulted in front of his own people, in front of the world. His credibility was reduced. He was angry. A friend of mine who ate dinner with him in New York during the U.N. season told me that he was still steamed about the talk shows two weeks later. And I definitely believe that it negatively affected our ability to get the FBI team quickly to Benghazi,” he said.
“It took 17-18 days for us, from that [TV] interview, to get the FBI to Benghazi,” he said. “We strung together a series of approvals from low- to mid- level officials” in the Libyan government to authorize the brief visit of the FBI to the site of the attack.
The agents were helicoptered in by the U.S. military with a large military escort, officials have said.
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About the Author
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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