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Unanswered Security Questions For Clinton

- October 20, 2015

Over Three Years After The Attack In Benghazi, Questions Surrounding The Deteriorating Security Conditions And Clinton's State Department Response Remain


TOP TAKEAWAYS

The following are just some of the many questions for Secretary Clinton that remain unanswered about the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi:

  • Should Hillary Clinton or any other Secretary of State have been informed when a U.S. Ambassador in a dangerous post requests additional security?
  • If Clinton was aware of "the increasing threat" prior to the attack, why not inquire about our security posture?
  • Were problems in Benghazi isolated or did they go "well beyond Benghazi"?
  • Does Clinton still believe Benghazi was not among the most dangerous U.S. posts in the world leading up to the attack? If not, what should happen before security is upgraded?

SHOULD HILLARY CLINTON OR ANY OTHER SECRETARY OF STATE HAVE BEEN INFORMED WHEN A U.S. AMBASSADOR IN A DANGEROUS POST REQUESTS ADDITIONAL SECURITY?

Clinton Said She Was Not Aware Of "Specific Requests And Decision Making" Regarding Security Because Decisions Rested With "Security Professionals." ALAN GRAYSON: "All right. Now, it was identified earlier that a report dating from the 1990s had said that the secretary should take a personal and active role in security. Have you done that during your four years at the State Department?" HILLARY CLINTON: "I have been very attuned to the environment in which threats are occurring, the intelligence that is available. Certainly not the specific requests and decision making, which rests with the security professionals." (Hillary Clinton, House Committee On Foreign Affairs, Hearing, 1/23/13)

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Clinton On The Requests For More Security In Benghazi, "I Didn't See Those Requests. They Didn't Come To Me. I Didn't Approve Them, I Didn't Deny Them." HILLARY CLINTON: "The specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn't see those requests. They didn't come to me. I didn't approve them, I didn't deny them." (Hillary Clinton, Committee On Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 1/23/13)

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In June 2014, Clinton Said The Security Warnings Were "Never Brought To Me ." SAWYER: "But should she have known the situation in Benghazi was deteriorating fast? A cable in August, a month before the attack, warns about vulnerability. There had been two bomb attacks on the mission in the last six months. The Red Cross had pulled out of Benghazi. The British had left too. You know, the criticism is it was a glaring, flashing red crisis there. The British were pulling out. There had already been attacks. There were cables being sent. Did you miss it? Did you miss the moment to prevent this from happening?" HILLARY CLINTON: "No, but I think, as the independent board that investigated every aspect of this, including all the cables, concluded, there was a lack of appreciation and response to the level of threat. Now, there were a lot of -" SAWYER: "By you too?" CLINTON: "Well, no, that was never brought to me." (ABC's Diane Sawyer Interview With Hillary Clinton, 6/9/14)

Then-Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey Testified That He Was "Surprised" Clinton Had Not Seen The Security Cable From Benghazi

In An August 16, 2012 Cable, Ambassador Stevens That A Regional Security Officer "Expressed Concerns With The Ability To Defend [The Benghazi] Post In The Event Of A Coordinated Attack." "In an August 16, 2012, cable to State headquarters, Stevens raised additional concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi following an Emergency Action Committee (EAC) meeting held on August 15, 2012, in Benghazi...The cable summarizing this EAC concluded the following points…(5) The Regional Security Office 'expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the even of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound.'" ("Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 Together With Additional Views," Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, 1/15/14, p. 15)

Then-Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey Said He Was "Surprised" Clinton Had Not Seen A Specific State Department Cable From Ambassador Stevens Regarding Security Concerns. LINDSEY GRAHAM: "When Secretary Clinton testified a few weeks ago that she had a clear-eyed assessment of the threat that we faced in Libya, is that really a credible statement if she didn't know about the ambassador's cable on Aug. 15, saying we can't defend this place." MARTIN DEMPSEY: "Well, I don't know that she didn't know about the cable." GRAHAM: "She said she didn't." DEMPSEY: "Well, that's a…" GRAHAM: "Are you stunned that she didn't?" DEMPSEY: "I would call myself surprised that she didn't." (Armed Services Committee, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 2/7/13)

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IF CLINTON WAS AWARE OF "THE INCREASING THREAT" PRIOR TO THE ATTACK, WHY NOT INQUIRE ABOUT OUR SECURITY POSTURE?

Clinton: "I Was Certainly Aware" That There Were Reports About "The Increasing Threat Environment In Eastern Libya." SECRETARY CLINTON: "Well, I was certainly aware of a number of reports from throughout our Government. I don't know of the specific one that you are referring to. There were DoD reports, intelligence community reports, State Department reports talking about the decreasing-or the increasing threat environment in eastern Libya. That was what we were trying to address with the Libyans." (Hillary Clinton, Committee On Foreign Affairs, U.S. House Of Representatives, Testimony, 1/23/13)

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Clinton: "I Am Well Aware That There Were People Claiming To Be Associated With Al-Qaeda That Were Attempting To Influence Militias, Attempting To Exercise More Authority..." HILLARY CLINTON: "I am well aware that there were people claiming to be associated with al-Qaeda that were attempting to influence militias, attempting to exercise more authority, along with a number of other groups that didn't necessarily work under that flag but had the same militant jihadist mentality." (Hillary Clinton, Committee On Foreign Affairs, U.S. House Of Representatives, Testimony, 1/23/13)

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Reviews Have Determined The Benghazi Facility Did Not Have Adequate Resources

Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Report: The Benghazi Diplomatic Facility Was "Understaffed And Under-Resourced." "The Temporary Mission Facility continued to be understaffed and under-resourced, a situation best summarized in a June 2012 document from the Principal Officer In Benghazi, commenting that '[i]f this is a real mission, fund us and find the staff' … Benghazi was also severely under-resourced with regard to weapons, ammunition, [non-lethal deterrents] and fire safety equipment, including escape masks." ("Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 Together With Additional Views," Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, 1/15/14, p. 17)

Chairman Of The State Department Accountability Review Board Thomas Pickering: "Frankly, The State Department Had Not Given Benghazi The Security, Both Physical And Personnel Resources, It Needed." THOMAS PICKERING: "They did their best that they possibly could with what they had, but what they had was not enough, either for the general threat environment in Benghazi and most certainly against the overwhelming numbers of attackers and the weapons which they faced. Frankly, the State Department had not given Benghazi the security, both physical and personnel resources, it needed." (Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Briefing On The Accountability Review Board, Washington D.C., 12/19/12)

WERE PROBLEMS IN BENGHAZI ISOLATED OR DID THEY GO "WELL BEYOND BENGHAZI"?

In June 2014, Clinton Indicated That The Problems At The Benghazi Facility Were Isolated To That Facility And Not "A Systemic Failure." DIANE SAWYER: "This is the ARB: the mission was far short of standards; weak perimeter; incomplete fence; video surveillance needed repair. They said it's a systemic failure." HILLARY CLINTON: "Well, it was with respect to that compound." ( ABC's Diane Sawyer Interview With Hillary Clinton, 6/9/14)

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A Review Of U.S. Facilities Conducted Near The Of Clinton's Tenure Indicated The Security Issues Were "Widespread" And "Went Well Beyond Benghazi"

When Reviewing U.S. Facilities In 2012 And 2013, State Department Investigators Found "Numerous Security Deficiencies In Global Hot Spots," Indicating The Security Issues Were "Widespread." "State Department investigators discovered numerous security deficiencies in global hot spots when reviewing U.S. diplomatic facilities in 2012 and 2013, suggesting problems were more widespread than previously known. Inspections of five newly opened compounds in 2012 found failings that included deviations from security standards, along with design, construction and maintenance flaws. … The review, which hadn't been made public before, was undertaken from April to October 2012, toward the end of Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state." (James V. Grimaldi and Peter Nicholas, "Security Gaps Detailed At American Posts," The Wall Street Journal , 12/9/14)

  • "The Reviews Suggest Such Problems Went Well Beyond Benghazi." (James V. Grimaldi and Peter Nicholas, "Security Gaps Detailed At American Posts," The Wall Street Journal, 12/9/14)

"Inspections Of Five Newly Opened Compounds In 2012 Found Failings That Included Deviations From Security Standards, Along With Design, Construction And Maintenance Flaws." (James V. Grimaldi and Peter Nicholas, "Security Gaps Detailed At American Posts," The Wall Street Journal, 12/9/14)

DOES CLINTON STILL BELIEVE BENGHAZI WAS NOT AMONG THE MOST DANGEROUS U.S. POSTS IN THE WORLD LEADING UP TO THE ATTACK? IF NOT, WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN BEFORE SECURITY IS UPGRADED?

In 2014, Clinton Tried To Downplay The Security Threat In Benghazi, Saying, "Were There Security Threats? Yes. … There's A Long List Of Countries Where There Are Security Threats To American Interests." DIANE SAWYER: "But he was there on 9/11 --" HILLARY CLINTON: "Right -- and of his own choosing." SAWYER: "But you wanted a post there." CLINTON: "It was important to have diplomatic assets. Were there security threats? Yes. And there are -- there's a long list of countries where there are security threats to American interests." SAWYER: "But these were the highest, among the highest security threats--" CLINTON: "No -- well, it would be in the top 25. It was not--" SAWYER: "Not in the top five, top 10?" CLINTON: "Maybe -- maybe in the top -- upper 10. But there were places where we had much more concern." ( ABC's Diane Sawyer Interview With Hillary Clinton, 6/9/14)

  • Clinton: "There Were Places Where We Had Much More Concern." DIANE SAWYER: "Not in the top five, top 10?" HILLARY CLINTON: "Maybe, maybe in the top, upper 10. But there were places where we had much more concern." (ABC's Diane Sawyer Interview With Hillary Clinton, 6/9/14)

Click To Watch

Security Was Deteriorating In Benghazi Prior To The Attack

"A Stream Of Diplomatic And Intelligence Reports" And "A String Of Assassinations As Well As Attacks" In The Months Before The Benghazi Attack Revealed The Deteriorating Security Situation And The Rise Of Al Qaeda-Leaning" Extremist Groups. "In the months leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Obama administration received intelligence reports that Islamic extremist groups were operating training camps in the mountains near the Libyan city and that some of the fighters were 'Al Qaeda-leaning,' according to American and European officials. The warning about the camps was part of a stream of diplomatic and intelligence reports that indicated that the security situation throughout the country, and particularly in eastern Libya, had deteriorated sharply since the United States reopened its embassy in Tripoli after the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's government in September 2011. By June, Benghazi had experienced a string of assassinations as well as attacks on the Red Cross and a British envoy's motorcade." (Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt, "Libya Warnings Were Plentiful, But Unspecific," The New York Times, 10/29/12)

  • Ambassador Chris Stevens Had Warned Of "A Security Vacuum" In Benghazi. "Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the September attack, e-mailed his superiors in Washington in August alerting them to 'a security vacuum' in the city. A week before Mr. Stevens died, the American Embassy warned that Libyan officials had declared a 'state of maximum alert' in Benghazi after a car bombing and thwarted bank robbery." (Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt, "Libya Warnings Were Plentiful, But Unspecific," The New York Times, 10/29/12)

Former Obama Department Of Homeland Security Official Todd Keil: "I Would've Put A Significant Amount Of Priority On Benghazi Requests." JIM JORDAN: "Flip it around. You're the guy at the desk in Washington. You get the request from these guys on the grounds for more help. Would you have fought to make that request happen?" TODD KEIL: "As a matter of fact, sir, my last position with D.S., I was the regional director for a D.S. regional bureau vetting those requests from the field. I would've put a significant amount of priority on Benghazi requests." JORDAN: "Oh, so you had that job"? KEIL: "Yes." JORDAN: "Before -- before Benghazi, you had that job?" KEIL: "Correct." JORDAN: "And you would have went to bat for these folks?" KEIL: "Yes, I would've." (Select Committee On Benghazi, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 9/17/14)

Click To Watch

A Top Security Official In Libya Said He Was Criticized For Seeking More Security

"Eric Nordstrom, Who Was The Top Security Official In Libya…Testified He Was Criticized For Seeking More Security." "Eric Nordstrom, who was the top security official in Libya earlier this year, testified he was criticized for seeking more security. He said conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was 'abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?'" (Calvin Woodward, "FACT CHECK: Slips In Vice President's Debate," The Associated Press, 10/11/12)

  • Nordstrom: "So When I Requested Resources, When I Requested Assets, Instead Of Supporting Those Assets, I Was Criticized." (Oversight And Government Reform Committee, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 10/10/12)

Nordstrom On His Refused Security Requests: "The Takeaway From That, For Me And My Staff, It Was Abundantly Clear, We Were Not Going To Get Resources Until The Aftermath Of An Incident." JORDAN: "Mr. Nordstrom, do you think -- do you think they were ever going to give you what you wanted? Do you think -- what do you think would warrant actually them saying, you know what, these guys know what they're talking about; we're going to meet their request?" NORDSTROM: "Thank you for asking that question. I actually had that conversation when I came back on leave and for training in February. And I was told by the regional director for Middle Eastern affairs, that there had only been one incident involving an American where he was struck by celebratory fire, was one of Colonel Wood's employees. The takeaway from that, for me and my staff, it was abundantly clear, we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident." (Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 10/10/12)

Clinton's State Department Didn't Just Reject Requests For More Security-They Actually Reduced The Level Of Security In Libya

The Department Of Defense (DOD) Site Security Team (SST) Left Libya In August 2012, Because The State Department Failed To Request Its Renewal Even Though It Came At "No Cost" To The State Department. "There has been considerable public discussion about the DOD's Site Security Team in Tripoli. The SST, which was provided by the DoD at no expense to the State Department, consisted of 16 special operations personnel detailed to the Chief of Mission in Libya, although its numbers fluctuated slightly due to rotations." ("Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 Together With Additional Views," Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, 1/15/14, p. 20)


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