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Monday, October 8

State Department: We didn't pull security teams from Benghazi before the attack on the consulate; their mission was simply over

Get set, as Capitol Hills readies an inquiry on the Benghazi consulate attack.  The basic story is that several people with first-hand knowledge are now wracking their brains and recalling that, by gum, security in Benghazi had been pretty awful in the months leading up to the attack on the U.S. consulate there. And some of these people are now prepared to sing like a bird to members of Congress.

A few aren't waiting for the orchestra to warm up before they start warbling.  On Friday senior CBS correspondent John Miller observed, "[As] we get closer to next Wednesday's congressional oversight hearing we're going to start learning some incredible things."

Yuppers. This morning at 12 AM sharp the Daily Beast released for publication Eli Lake's report, Exclusive: Libya Cable Detailed Threats:
In a dispatch sent the day he was killed, Ambassador Christopher Stevens described how the militias keeping the peace in Benghazi threatened to quit over a political feud.

Just two days before the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two leaders of the Libyan militias responsible for keeping order in the city threatened to withdraw their men.

The brinksmanship is detailed in a cable approved by Ambassador Chris Stevens and sent on the day he died in the attack, the worst assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission since the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran. The dispatch, which was marked “sensitive” but not “classified,” contained a number of other updates on the chaotic situation on the ground in post-Gaddafi Libya.

CBS was not left in the dust by the Daily Beast. From the same report that quoted Miller (Libya consulate: Was security added or taken away?):
CBS News has obtained a copy of a State Department email, dated May 3, 2012, responding to a request by the Embassy in Tripoli to maintain a DC-3 transport plane for security purposes. The request was turned down.

State Dept. email on Libya transport (pdf)
[John] Miller said he expects a lot of news to come from next week's Congressional hearing into security at the Benghazi consulate.

"I've been to embassies all over the world and I've seen how security works," Miller said on CBS This Morning.

"When it comes to the ambassador, whether he going to make a trip, make that call, in the embassy the ambassador is king. That's going to be his call whether to go.
But the things that go along with that -- which is the security of the facility he's going to, the security provided to him on the road -- a lot of those decisions aren't made there, they're made in Washington.
Miller said one witness that may shed light on the matter is the regional security officer from Benghazi, Eric Nordstrom, "who we understand is prepared to testify about these rising security threats - and they did ask for more security in cables and memos from Washington."

Another witness being sought is Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, "who is the person who approves or denies those requests. I think we're going to see a lot of news coming out of that," Miller said.[...]
Later on the same day the above report was released CBS ran with another eye-popping report:
Congress to probe security flaws for Libya diplomats
By Sharyl Attkisson
October 5, 2012 - 7:26 PM EDT, Updated 10:43 PM EDT

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - CBS News has learned that congressional investigators have issued a subpoena to a former top security official at the US mission in Libya. The official is Lt. Col. Andy Wood, a Utah National Guard Army Green Beret who headed up a Special Forces "Site Security Team" in Libya.

The subpoena compels Lt. Col. Wood to appear at a House Oversight Committee hearing next week that will examine security decisions leading up to the Sept. 11 Muslim extremist terror assault on the U.S. compound at Benghazi. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues were killed in the attack.

Lt. Col. Wood has told CBS News and congressional investigators that his 16-member team and a six-member State Department elite force called a Mobile Security Deployment team left Libya in August, just one month before the Benghazi assault. Wood says that's despite the fact that US officials in Libya wanted security increased, not decreased.

Wood says he met daily with Stevens and that security was a constant challenge. There were 13 threats or attacks on western diplomats and officials in Libya in the six months leading up to the September 11 attack.

A senior State Department official told CBS News that half of the 13 incidents before September 11 were fairly minor or routine in nature, and that the Benghazi attack was so lethal and overwhelming, that a diplomatic post would not be able to repel it.

Wood, whose team arrived in February, says he and fellow security officials were very worried about the chaos on the ground. He says they tried to communicate the danger to State Department officials in Washington, D.C., but that the officials denied requests to enhance security.

"We tried to illustrate...to show them how dangerous and how volatile and just unpredictable that whole environment was over there. So to decrease security in the face of that really is... it's just unbelievable," Wood said.

The State Department official says there was a "constant conversation" between security details in Libya and officials in Washington D.C.

Sources critical of what they view as a security drawdown say three Mobile Security Deployment teams left Libya between February and August in addition to the 16-member Site Security Team on loan from the military. That's 34 highly-trained security personnel moved out over a six month period.

One State Department source told CBS News the security teams weren't "pulled," that their mission was simply over.

Yessirreebob, we're learning some incredible things.

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