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Friday, September 28

Security fears hobble inquiry of attack on U.S. consulate in Benghazi: “It’s a cavalcade of obstacles right now.”

See also September 27 CNN report, Sources: 15 days after Benghazi attack, FBI still investigating from afar. ("FBI agents have made a request through the U.S. State Department for the crime scene to be secured ... but that has not happened.")

September 27, The New York Times:
Security Fears Hobble Inquiry of Libya Attack
By David D. Kirkpatrick, Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt

BENGHAZI, Libya — Sixteen days after the death of four Americans in an attack on a United States diplomatic mission here, fears about the near-total lack of security have kept F.B.I. agents from visiting the scene of the killings and forced them to try to piece together the complicated crime from Tripoli, more than 400 miles away.

Investigators are so worried about the tenuous security, people involved in the investigation say, that they have been unwilling to risk taking some potential Libyan witnesses into the American Embassy in Tripoli. Instead, the investigators have resorted to the awkward solution of questioning some witnesses in cars outside the embassy, which is operating under emergency staffing and was evacuated of even more diplomats on Thursday because of a heightened security alert.

“It’s a cavalcade of obstacles right now,” said a senior American law enforcement official who is receiving regular updates on the Benghazi investigation and who described the crime scene, which has been trampled on, looted and burned, [and] s badly “degraded” that even once F.B.I. agents do eventually gain access “it’ll be very difficult to see what evidence can be attributed to the bad guys.”

Piecing together exactly how Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died here would be difficult even under the best of conditions. But the volatile security situation in post-Qaddafi Libya has added to the challenge of determining whether it was purely a local group of extremists who initiated the fatal assault or whether the attackers had ties to international terrorist groups, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested Wednesday may be the case.

The Libyan government has advised the F.B.I. that it cannot assure the safety of the American investigators in Benghazi. So agents have been conducting interviews from afar, relying on local Libyan authorities to help identify and arrange meetings with witnesses to the attack and working closely with the Libyans to gauge the veracity of any of those accounts.

“There’s a chance we never make it in there,” said a senior law enforcement official.
[...]
Lots more in the report -- lots. "David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya, and Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington. Adam Nossiter contributed reporting from Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, and Steven Lee Myers from New York."


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