Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why weren't the Marines called they could have been there within hours



Libyans walk on the grounds of the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Photo: AP/Ibrahim Alaguri

Updated 7:42 pm.
It was not a simple mob that attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, killing four Americans. Benghazi was the scene of a pitched battle, one in which unknown Libyan assailants besieged American diplomats with small-arms fire for over four hours, repelling several attempts by U.S. personnel to regain control of it.
Nor was what happened in Benghazi a simple story of Americans assaulted by the Libyans they helped to liberate from Moammar Gadhafi last year, American officials say. Libyan security forces and a sympathetic local militia helped the Americans to suppress the attack and get the diplomats inside to safety.
That account is the first official telling of Tuesday’s events. It’s preliminary, as much of what has been initially reported in the media on Wednesday has proven incorrect. And it was provided to reporters late Wednesday afternoon by Obama administration officials who would not speak for the record.
Now, a team of 50 Marines has arrived in Libya to secure the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, where the Benghazi staff was ultimately evacuated. And Google is even assisting by blocking some access to a provocative, anti-Islam video that may have provided a pretext for the attacks. But all that comes too late for the Benghazi consulate, and for four Americans there who died, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Beginning at 4 p.m. Washington time on Tuesday, unknown Libyans began an assault on the group of buildings used by the State Department as a Benghazi consulate. That apparently took the consulate by surprise: The diplomats there received no indication of an attack brewing when it reviewed its security posture ahead of Tuesday’s 9/11 anniversary. The compound lacked a Marine guard force, as is present at U.S. embassies in foreign capitals. Nor did it have other typical diplomatic security features, such as bulletproof glass and reinforced doors. Libyan guards were said to be outside the walls providing an outer layer of security, with a State Department security detail of undisclosed size within.
The attack, with small arms fire, set the main building aflame with three people inside, including Amb. Christopher Stevens. A consular official responsible for securing the complex, who initially left the building to escape the flames and thick smoke, found information-management officer and gamer Sean Smith dead inside.
A still-unknown number of American security personnel, dodging small arms fire and flame, attempted unsuccessfully to regain control of the main building 45 minutes after the attack began, retreating to an adjacent building annex. By 5:20 p.m. Washington time, Libyan security forces, assisted by what was described as a sympathetic local militia, regained control of the main building, and assisted an evacuation of the staff of approximately 25 to 30 to the annex. But by 6 p.m., the assailants began to attack the annex with small arms fire. It was there that two other, as-yet-unidentified U.S. nationals died.
It was not until 8:30 p.m. D.C. time that the attack was suppressed. But the security forces had lost track of Stevens.
Administration officials said that Libyans transferred Stevens to a Benghazi hospital at some point during the fighting. It is unknown if he was dead or alive when he reached the hospital, or what ultimately killed him. His body was ultimately transferred to American personnel at Benghazi airport, where a chartered U.S. flight was called in to evacuate the Benghazi diplomatic staff to the embassy in Tripoli.
All told, four U.S. nationals are dead and another three are wounded; it is not believed, contrary to early media reports, that any are U.S. Marines. The wounded and dead have been taken to American military hospitals in Germany, and the human remains will be taken back to the United States.
U.S. officials declined to speak to any motivations behind the assault. Much speculation has turned to a now-viral movie that criticizes the Prophet Muhammad as a tyrant and a sexual deviant. The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed a consultant on the film, “a self-described militant Christian activist,” who said the film’s producer was credited under a pseudonym, “Sam Bacile.” The reason for the pseudonym, Goldberg reported, was “because he leads anti-Islam protests outside of mosques and schools, and because, [the consultant] said, he is a Vietnam veteran and an expert on uncovering al Qaeda cells in California.”
The Associated Press appears to have tracked down “Bacile.” He is 55 year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted fraudster who was sentenced in 2010 to 21 months in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay $790,000 in fines, and told not to use computers or the internet for five years without his probation officer’s okay.
The anti-Islam Florida pastor Terry Jones is said not to be involved in the film, but Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones this morning to persuade him to revoke support for the film.
Google is taking another step. Bloomberg reported that Google will not remove a 14-minute clip from the film available on YouTube, as a YouTube statement said the clip was “clearly within our guidelines.” But it will restrict access to the film on YouTube in Egypt and Libya. Reuters reported that the Afghanistan government has already blocked YouTube access to prevent any potential provocation inside that country.
Administration officials have said they have not yet received indications that Afghanistan, which has already experienced riots ostensibly motivated by affronts to Islam, will soon experience related attacks. But U.S. embassy personnel worldwide have been told to beef up their security as they see fit as a precaution.
For now, in Libya, a Marine Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team or FAST team has the mission to secure the embassy in Tripoli and to assist with any necessary evacuations of U.S. personnel out of Libya. Based out of Rota, Spain, it will not assist in a hunt for the perpetrators of Tuesday’s attack that President Obama has promised will occur.
Defense Department personnel have not, as yet, addressed the composition of that force. Much of it is likely to fall within the command of Army. Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. troops in Africa. American drones and other military intelligence assets, some of which may not be under Ham’s command, are also likely to be used. Which means the next battle of Benghazi could be even more intense than the last.

US consulate in Benghazi 'did not have enough security'

Damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed The attackers used heavy weapons including rocket-propelled grenades, prompting suspicions that the strike was pre-planned
 
The US consulate in Benghazi, where the US ambassador to Libya died in an attack on Tuesday, was not given the standard security contract offered to many American diplomatic missions in the Middle East, private military contractors have told the BBC.

The consulate's walls were breached in just 15 minutes, guards were outgunned and overwhelmed and four US personnel were killed, including the Ambassador, J Christopher Stevens.

US embassies and consulates in areas of the world where they are deemed liable to attack are usually offered a formal security contract called a Worldwide Protective Services Agreement, known in the industry as a 'Wips'.

The contract, or so-called tasking order, is between the US state department and any one of several major private military contractors such as DynCorp International and Aegis Defence Services.

Where was the U.S. Department of State Deploys Quick Reaction Force?

 The QRF, which operates under contract with DynCorp International, provided training and technical assistance .

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"This was a well-crafted military operation: the attackers would have carried out at least two weeks of surveillance" --  End Quote Noman Benotman Former Libyan jihadist

Under this agreement, extensive security precautions are put in place, including low-profile armoured vehicles, run-flat tyres, sufficient weapons, ammunition and trained personnel, as well as a tried and tested command and control system.

But sources have told the BBC that on the advice of a US diplomatic regional security officer, the mission in Benghazi was not given the full contract despite lobbying by private contractors.

Instead, the US consulate was guarded externally by a force of local Libyan militia, many of whom reportedly put down their weapons and fled once the mission came under concerted attack.

Possible informant?

US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in August 2012Mr Stevens is believed to have suffocated from fire smoke in the blazing compound









Inside the consulate, the defenders - consisting of a small group of Libyans and private US contractors who had formerly served in the US military including the elite Navy Seals - returned fire and put into action a fall-back plan to evacuate staff to a second building.

But the defenders were quickly outgunned by the sizable and determined attacking force that used heavy weapons including rocket-propelled grenades prompting investigators to consider whether Tuesday's attack had in fact been planned in advance by a jihadist group.

"This was a well-crafted military operation [by the attackers]," said former Libyan jihadist Noman Benotman. "They would have carried out at least two weeks of surveillance."

With fires blazing inside the compound within minutes of the attack beginning, the US ambassador became separated from other staff in thick smoke, which is believed to have caused him to suffocate.

Meanwhile the attackers appeared to know exactly where staff were being taken to and fired on a second building supposed to be a safe haven, prompting suspicions they had a prior informant inside the mission.

The investigation into the attack is being conducted jointly by the FBI, the US department of justice and the Libyan authorities, with a report due to be submitted to the US state department.

Given the unstable security situation in Benghazi and eastern Libya that has developed this year, it is surprising that security precautions for such a sensitive diplomatic mission were not more robust.

The northeast of Libya, especially around the town of Darna, has long been a home for jihadists, many of whom travelled to Iraq to fight the US military or become suicide bombers.

Both US and British diplomats in Benghazi came under attack from suspected Islamist militants in June, as did the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Britain then closed down its permanent presence there that month, moving staff back to the capital Tripoli.

This week the UK Foreign Office altered its travel advice for the region, warning against all travel to Benghazi.
 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19605322

State Department knew of impending embassy attacks 48 hours prior

 
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had prior knowledge of planned and coordinated attacks by Muslim militants 48 hours before the actual assaults upon our facilities in Benghazi and in Cairo. Yet, with foreknowledge of the looming attacks that were going to occur, our Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens was left unprotected without armed Marine troops, militant Islamists were reported on the US Libyan Embassy grounds inside the compound. After issuing just one of the many Obama administration apologies from America to any Muslims who were insulted by a You Tube film made by some small time producer, a vicious assault began inside the US Embassy in Libya.

J. Christopher Stevens, our Ambassador should have been quickly escorted to a safe house along an unknown route as the typical diplomatic rescue plan in response to such a scenario, but those plans were botched as admittedly Libyan sources divulged the location of our Ambassador’s sanctuary and proceeded to brutalize, rape, and murder J. Christopher Stevens, a US diplomat who found himself without protection or support by the Obama administration once the known plan for a violent uprising began. The question is, why would President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knowingly leave our Ambassador to Libya in harms way when they could have sent word to him to evacuate or could have issued military helicopters heavily armed, to simply air lift our man and his staff from the hot zone. Yet, President Obama, in completely characteristic fashion, allowed an atrocity to occur. The only question remaining is when did Hillary and the President know precisely that our Libyan Ambassador was in danger?

The unprovoked violence has not stopped there are attacks against US Embassies in Morocco and other regions are reported. Much as the atmosphere that was a prelude to the 9-11 tragedy at the World Trade Center when US Embassies had been attacked all over North Africa and the Middle East, Muslim militants have struck again. Spurred on by the Obama Administrations weakness, apologetics, and conflict resolution approach, Muslims have been emboldened enough to strike with vicious tenacity at our foreign held US diplomatic compounds in the Middle East without fear or anticipation of reprisal. In other words, they must be confident that America under Barack Obama will do nothing in response to have it’s Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, raped, murdered, and paraded half naked through the Libyan streets just like they did to Muammar Gaddafi.

We have now seen the fruition of President Obama’s weak and non-resolute policies. His capitulation toward dealing with these radical Muslims who have bullied and intimidated anyone who does not agree with them using brutality and murder as they tools. President Obama illegally brought the US into a war with Libya with Congressional approval, an impeachable offense. President Obama condoned the overthrow of President Mubarak in Egypt, declaring the occasion to be an “Arab Spring” yet both Libya and Egypt are decidedly in the hands of the Muslim brotherhood. Muslim militants have become so confident, they now believe they can stage any kind of bloody uprising they want whenever they want in order to strike fear and reluctance to resist in the hearts of all they oppose. The world is not the same since President Obama took over US foreign policy, bowing to the Saudi royalty, rejecting Netanyahu of Israel, and refusing to take decisive action over Iran’s nuclear development. The President has operated under some kind of na├»ve form of radical political ideology that legitimizes America apologizing to the world while allowing the development of radical and terrorist organizations through out the Middle East while even forcing our troops to be at a disadvantage using limited engagement in response to enemy attacks. That foolhardy approach has cost hundreds of American soldier’s lives.

In all this, the insane and unpatriotic narratives of Democratic talking points and the unmitigated support of the US leftist media have actually tried to blame Governor Mitt Romney for making a public statement that called the actions of these Muslim terrorists as inexcusable, beyond tolerance, and indicative of the weakness in the Obama foreign policy doctrine that has encouraged the brazen hostility upon US Embassies abroad. Mitt Romney called for a strong and swift response to the unthinkable attacks that have allowed our enemies to commit terrible acts of violence against us with the reassurance that the Obama administration will do little in response. Romney merely spoke correctly in condemning the actions of the Muslim militants who were allowed to successfully conduct murderous operations against our Embassies with the apparent knowledge of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
 
"Folks, there’s something wrong with a government that won’t stand up to its detractors, allows our embassies to be attacked with unprovoked hostility, and then blames a candidate in the presidential race for speaking out about this horrid atrocity like any red blooded American would do who was outraged by the humiliating death of our Ambassador Stevens at the brutal hands of Muslim terrorists." --  Doc Vega | September 13, 2012
What has President Obama done in this crisis since now even more of our American consulates in other countries have come under attack? Well, he’s going to Las Vegas for a fundraiser. He has spoken to a couple of magazines that wanted his interview, and had denounced Governor Mitt Romney for speaking out about the tragedy. Wow, Mister President, I’m beside myself. Your response has been to overwhelming I could absolutely puke! What about the lives of the Ambassador and his staff? What about the growing aggression being demonstrated toward America by the two nations (Egypt and Libya) that you supported as they waged revolutions and overthrew rulers who had maintained stable governments and had kept the regions quiet and free of radical bloodshed?

The Obama administration will shortly by finding out that their inept and intentional capitulation over the growing radical Muslim threat at home and abroad cannot be diplomatically negotiated on civil terms when they are allowed again and again to conduct terrorism all over the Middle East. You cannot negotiate with people who are continually looking for reasons to be offended and reasons to justify the savage attacks they have committed against their neighbors, other religions, and against US foreign presence. President Obama is supported by the US mass media for doing nothing effective over this crisis but give lip service and make more assurances that those guilty will be brought to justice. Yet, that course of action never seems to pan out either under the Obama administration, does it?
Continue reading at NowPublic.com: State Department knew of impending embassy attacks 48 hours prior | NowPublic News Coverage http://www.nowpublic.com/world/state-department-knew-impending-embassy-attacks-48-hours-prior#ixzz26ejnKp9h


Briefing by Senior Administration Officials to Update Recent Events in Libya

Special Briefing


Office of the Spokesperson


Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
September 12, 2012








SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you, Operator, and thanks to all of our journalists for joining us on this very, very difficult day. We thought it was important to give you a little bit more information about what we knew when we knew it to help shape your understanding of the tragic events in Benghazi. Here with me I will hereafter be Senior Administration Official Number One. That’s [title withheld]. I also have with me [Senior Administration Official Two], hereafter Senior Administration Official Number Two. And we also have [Senior Administration Official Three], hereafter Senior Administration Official Number Three.
Let me just give you some framing points. First of all, we want to make clear that we are still here today operating within the confusion of first reports. Many details of what happened in Benghazi are still unknown or unclear. The account we’re going to give you endeavors to reconstruct the events of last night to the best of our ability now. And again, this reflects our current accounting of events. These are first reports, and so the facts could very well change as we get a better understanding.
Let me also give you a little better understanding about our office conditions in Benghazi. The facility that we are working in is an interim one. We originally acquired the property before the fall of Qadhafi. It includes a main building and several ancillary buildings, and then there was also an annex a little bit further away.
So let me give you a little bit of the chronology to the best of our knowledge. Again, the times are likely to change as it becomes a little bit more precise, but this is how we’ve been able to reconstruct what we have from yesterday.
At approximately 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time yesterday, which was about 10 p.m. in Libya, the compound where our office is in Benghazi began taking fire from unidentified Libyan extremists. By about 4:15, the attackers gained access to the compound and began firing into the main building, setting it on fire. The Libyan guard force and our mission security personnel responded. At that time, there were three people inside the building: Ambassador Stevens, one of our regional security officers, and Information Management Officer Sean Smith. They became separated from each other due to the heavy, dark smoke while they were trying to evacuate the burning building. The Regional Security Officer made it outside, and then he and other security personnel returned into the burning building in an attempt to rescue Chris and Sean. At that time, they found Sean. He was already dead, and they pulled him from the building. They were unable, however, to locate Chris before they were driven from the building due to the heavy fire and smoke and the continuing small arms fire.
At about 4:45 our time here in Washington, U.S. security personnel assigned to the mission annex tried to regain the main building, but that group also took heavy fire and had to return to the mission annex. At about 5:20, U.S. and Libyan security personnel made another attempt and at that time were able to regain the main building and they were able to secure it. Then, due to continued small arms fire, they evacuated the rest of the personnel and safe havened them in the nearby annex.
The mission annex then came under fire itself at around 6 o'clock in the evening our time, and that continued for about two hours. It was during that time that two additional U.S. personnel were killed and two more were wounded during that ongoing attack.
At about 8:30 p.m. our time here in Washington, so now 2 o'clock in the morning in Libya, Libyan security forces were able to assist us in regaining control of the situation. At some point in all of this – and frankly, we do not know when – we believe that Ambassador Stevens got out of the building and was taken to a hospital in Benghazi. We do not have any information what his condition was at that time. His body was later returned to U.S. personnel at the Benghazi airport.
Later that evening, we were able to bring our chartered aircraft from Tripoli into Benghazi to evacuate all of our Benghazi personnel back to Tripoli. This evacuation, which had to occur in a couple of planeloads, included all of our American Benghazi personnel, including the three wounded, and the remains of our fallen colleagues. They are now in the process – that same staff – of being evacuated to Germany. The staff that is well is going to stay in Europe on standby for a while while we assess the security situation in the coming period. The wounded will be treated in Germany, and the remains will come home, and we’ll advise you of when that will be as soon as we know.
In the meantime, we have taken our Embassy in Tripoli down to emergency staffing levels. We have reduced the staff down to what we call emergency staffing levels. And we have requested increased support from the Libyans while we assess the security situation.
I would also like to advise you that last night, all of our diplomatic posts around the world were ordered to review their security posture and to take all necessary steps to enhance it if those were deemed necessary. I’d like to now turn it over to Senior Administration Official Number Three for some remarks on what his agency has been up to.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Thank you, [Senior Administration Official One]. Along with President Obama and Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta condemns the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi in the strongest possible terms. The Secretary also extends his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the entire State Department family.
General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, briefed the Secretary on the situation last night, and the Secretary has received regular updates since then. DOD is working closely with the White House and State Department to provide all necessary resources to support the security of U.S. personnel in Libya. This support includes a Marine Corps fleet antiterrorism security team based out of Europe. The mission of this team is to secure the diplomatic facility in Tripoli, our Embassy, and protect U.S. citizens as needed.
DOD is also providing support to evacuate American personnel and casualties out of Libya. Those individuals and the remains of our fallen colleagues will arrive, if they haven’t already done so, at Ramstein Landstuhl in Germany.
In closing, let me just say that the Department of Defense is ready to respond with additional military measures as directed by the President. Back to you, [Senior Administration Official One].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much, [Senior Administration Official Three]. We have, unfortunately, lost [Senior Administration Official Two]. He had to go off to another meeting. You can imagine how busy he has been. So why don’t we go right to your questions. Operator, please take the first one.
OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you have been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1 at this time.
And the first question is from Elise Labott with CNN. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I have a couple of questions, if you would. And again, all of our condolences on what happened today. I was wondering if you can talk about now how – I know Secretary Clinton said that this would not affect how the U.S. dealt with the Libyans, and that you would move forward. But certainly, it must make you start to think about any precipitous rush to support groups in any other countries such as Syria or the like because of the uncertainty of who is on the ground.
And then I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about Chris Stevens’ personal security and how his personal detail could have been separated from him. I mean, his personal detail’s number one responsibility is to protect their package, and so it just seemed – I just would like more clarity on how he got out of the building and then went back to find him. Why didn’t he just keep staying in the building looking for him? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Let me start with the last question first, Elise. I think you can understand that I’m not going to go into detail about how his security detail was organized. I think in the accounting that I gave, I made clear that security personnel were endeavoring to get him out of the building when they got separated by the incredibly thick smoke and fire – if you’ve seen the pictures from the building you can have some sense of how awful the conditions were – and that they then turned right back around, got more help, and went back in to look for him. So this was really a quite – a heroic effort.
With regard to your larger question, as the Secretary said very clearly today, we are as committed today as we have ever been to a free and stable Libya. That is still in America’s interest. And we are going to continue to work very strongly to help them have the future that they want and they deserve. I would simply note how quickly and how strongly senior members of the Libyan government came forward to condemn this attack, to offer all support to us.
I’d also like to underscore that it was Libyan security forces that stood with ours in defending our buildings. We also had some – one of the local militias who is friendly to the Embassy came to assist as well. And I think that really speaks to the relationship that we’ve built with Libya. Thank you.
OPERATOR: The next question is from Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you explain to us whether you know whether Ambassador Stevens was alive when he was removed and taken to the Libyan hospital or not? And secondly, there are suggestions that he died as a result of smoke inhalation. Do you know if that is indeed what was his proximate cause of death?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, thank you, Arshad. Frankly, we are not clear on the circumstances between the time that he got separated from his – from the rest of the group inside the burning building, to the time that we were notified that he was in a Benghazi hospital. And again, we were not able to see him until his body was returned to us at the airport.
You can imagine that we will not be able to say anything about the cause of death until we’ve had a chance to perform an autopsy.
OPERATOR: Andrea Mitchell with NBC News is next. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this and especially at such a terrible time for all of you. Can you expand on the regular security for the Ambassador? I know you don’t usually talk about security, but you can imagine how people want these details now in terms of, was it diplomatic security? Were they all RSOs? How long had he been in Benghazi? Give us a little bit more of his movements that day.
And secondly, there’s a lot of reporting now on this being linked to a terror attack, an organized terror attack – possibly al-Qaida sympathetic or al-Qaida linked. Can you speak to that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Operator, is the call ongoing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sorry, it looks like I had a – I was on mute there for a while. I was going on and on on mute. I apologize. So Andrea, to your first question: Frankly, we are not in a position to speak any further to the perpetrators of this attack. It was clearly a complex attack. We’re going to have to do a full investigation. We are committed to working with the Libyans both on the investigation and to ensure that we bring the perpetrators to justice. The FBI is already committed to assisting in that, but I just – we’re – it’s just too early to speak to who they were and if they might have been otherwise affiliated beyond Libya.
With regard to Chris’s trip to Benghazi, as you know, he made regular and frequent trips to Benghazi so that he could check up on developments in the east. You know that he had been our representative – the Secretary’s representative and the President’s, to the Transitional National Council before the fall of Qadhafi and had spent a lot of time in Benghazi and built deep contacts there. So this was one of his regular visits that he made periodically.
With regard to the security arrangements, I think you will understand that we never talk in detail about how our security is arranged. And we particularly don’t talk about security arrangements for – personal security arrangements for senior level personnel.
What I can tell you is that security in Benghazi included a local guard force outside of the compound on which we rely, which is similar to the way we are postured all over the world. We had a physical perimeter barrier, obviously. And then we had a robust American security presence inside the compound, including a strong component of regional security officers. But I’m not going to go any further than that on the specifics.
Next question, operator.
OPERATOR: Josh Rogin with Foreign Policy is next. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. First, just one point of clarification. Can you tell us what time in the timeline that Ambassador Stevens was delivered to you at the airport? But the larger question is, you didn’t talk at all about the protests. You started your timeline with that the firing began. Can you talk about the timeline of when the protests started, how that fit in with it, and your sense of whether or not the protestors and the assailants were the same?
And a question for Senior Administration Official Number Three, I believe, who talked about the mission of the forces there: You said they were there to protect the Embassy. Does that mean that – are you saying clearly that they will not be involved in the search for the perpetrators? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: With regard to when we gained possession of Ambassador Stevens’ body, it was extremely late our time. I think it was already dawn in Libya, but I just don’t have a precise time for you, Josh.
With regard to the protests – I assume you’re not talking about protests in Cairo, are you? You’re talking about protests in Benghazi?
OPERATOR: He is back in the main conference.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. We frankly don’t have a full picture of what may have been going on outside of the compound walls before the firing began. So I really just don’t have any specifics on that at the moment. I apologize.
Let’s take the next one.
OPERATOR: Jill Dougherty with CNN is next. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. One – [Senior Administration Official One], one thing that is not completely clear, and I don’t know whether you can answer it at this point, there is some confusion about whether he, the Ambassador, was directly targeted or whether he just happened to be there when this attack took place. Can you answer that?
And then also, just one more point about the lack of clarity about what happened after he became separated and then his body was at the hospital. Do you know how he was transported? I mean, I think the Secretary said Libyans took him to the hospital. Could you just try to clarify that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: On your first question, I really can’t speak to it. We just are not in a position to say at the moment. Obviously, as we said, there’s going to have to be a full investigation, and presumably some of these things will come to light.
There are reports out there that I cannot confirm that he was brought to the hospital by Libyans who found him. Obviously, he had to get there somehow. No Americans were responsible for that. But again, I’m not in the position to confirm because we frankly don’t know how he got from where Americans last saw him. And again, we were told that he was at the hospital, but we didn’t see him there ourselves. I’m sorry if it’s frustrating.
[Senior Administration Official Three], was there something from Josh that went to you that we didn’t answer?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Yes, just briefly. And Josh, thanks for the question. The fleet’s antiterrorism security teams that we deploy when requested are responsible for the protection of Embassy personnel and property, and they also play a role in the evacuation of personnel, as required.
On the second part of your question, whether or not U.S. military personnel will be involved in future operations to track down the perpetrators of this attack, I’m simply not going to speculate on what may or may not be in the works in the future.
Back to you, [Senior Administration Official One].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Let’s take the next one, Operator.
OPERATOR: Tom Bowman with National Public Radio is next. Please, go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. Listen, there’ve been troubles in Benghazi for some time now. I understand the Consulate was attacked or bombed two, three months ago. The British have put out threat warnings about Benghazi. Was there any consideration before the attack yesterday of beefing up security there?
And the other thing is, the head of Diplomatic Security at the Consulate, as things started getting worse and worse there, the whole situation started going south, did he try to get a quick reaction force of some kind from the U.S.? Did he believe the Libyan forces were sufficient? Did he do anything to try to get more help?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of how we were postured in terms of security at our mission in Benghazi beyond what I said. So – because we don’t ever talk about the details of those kinds of things.
What I would say, though, is that we did, as we did in missions around the world, review the security there in the context of preparing for the anniversary of September 11th. And at that point, there was no information and there were no threat streams to indicate that we were insufficiently postured.
Let’s take the next one, Operator.
OPERATOR: Justin Fishel with Fox News is next. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks. I have two quick questions. Do you believe that this attack was in any way related to the incident in Cairo? You suggested this attack in Benghazi was more complex; so is it safe to rule out that this was a reaction to the inflammatory internet video?
And second, the initial statement put out yesterday by the Embassy in Cairo has become somewhat of a political issue, Romney accusing the Administration of sympathizing with the attackers. Whether or not that’s true, can you please tell us when that statement was released exactly? Was it released before or after the protest started? Was it released to stop any of the protestors from getting more violent? Please give us a timeline on that. We’ve been asking about that a lot today.
Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Let me start with the last one first. With regard to the statement from Embassy Cairo, let me say unequivocally here that that statement was not coordinated with Washington and was therefore taken down. My understanding is that it was initially released at about noon Cairo time, which was before the protests in Cairo began.
More broadly, the Secretary spoke to our view on this issue yesterday. She did it again today. Even as we stay true to our core principles and our core values, we condemn these attacks on our diplomatic mission. There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.
With regard to whether there is any connection between this internet activity and this extremist attack in Benghazi, frankly, we just don’t know. We’re not going to know until we have a chance to investigate. And I’m sorry that it is frustrating for you that so many of our answers are “We don’t know,” but they are truthful in that.
Let’s continue, Operator.
OPERATOR: Steve Myers with The New York Times. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. I would add my condolences to everyone. Just a few follow-up questions: Do you know how many people – that is, American and Libyans – who were inside the compound when the attack began overall? And also, how many of them might have been wounded in addition to those who were killed? And you have not yet identified the two others, but you said one was – unless I misunderstood, a regional security officer. Are the other two State Department employees? Are they Marines? Anything more, even if you can’t identify them at this stage, about the other two?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Steve, at the moment, I have reports of three additional wounded on top of the four total who were killed. That report could also change, frankly. I’m sorry about that. My understanding is that between the main compound and the annex, we had a total of about 25 to 30 people, but again, we never precisely size our diplomatic missions, as you know.
I can’t recall if there was another piece of that question. Anyway, Operator, maybe you’ll let him back if there was. Thanks.
OPERATOR: Julian Barnes with Dow Jones is next. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: A question for Official Number Three: Is there any discussion of sending a FAST team to Egypt? And are there any warships near Libya or being sent to Libya as part of security?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Thanks, Julian. As you are aware, we don’t typically talk about the prospect of future military operations one way or the other, or about the movement of assets that may or may not be used in the future. That’s where I’d leave it.
OPERATOR: Dina Temple with NPR is next. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Dina Temple-Raston with NPR. I’m wondering if you can tell us whether there was any specific recent intelligence indicating that there was going to be a threat against the consulate.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Dina, you won’t be surprised if we decline to talk about intelligence. I did speak a little bit earlier about our review of our security posture in advance of September 11th.
Going back to Steve, I didn’t, I think, fully answer your question. I missed a piece. The remaining two who also lost their lives, as the Secretary said, were State Department personnel, but we are still even now trying to work the next-of-kin notifications, so that’s all I can give you at the moment.
Let’s take about three more, and then we’re going to have to hop here. Go ahead, Operator.
OPERATOR: Jim Michaels with USA Today. Please go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Yeah, thanks for taking our calls. I just wanted to go back to an earlier question. Was – can you describe a little bit about the level of organization of this assault and how it was or was not related to an overall protest/riot occurring about the same time?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I wish I could. Frankly, I’ve given you as much information as we are confident in at the moment. We will obviously know more in coming days and weeks as we secure our personnel, as we have a chance to talk to them, as we have a chance to interview Libyans who may have been witnesses. But frankly, that’s as much as I’ve got at the moment. I’m sorry to frustrate you.
OPERATOR: Margaret Brennan with CBS News, please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. I would like to ask first, any information as to when the bodies will be arriving in Landstuhl? Also, if you can describe for us how the operation was directed overnight. Was that an interagency effort, out of State? How was that run?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: With regard to the remains coming home, our hope is to do that as soon as possible, but we have some processing that is required. We will obviously be informing all of you when we have precise details about their return. It was very much an interagency effort in the – while the violence was ongoing and in the aftermath and throughout the day today, led in the usual way by the National Security Council with the participation of all of us. Obviously, the State Department had a huge piece of that, but all agencies – all relevant agencies were involved.
OPERATOR: Jo Biddle with AFP is next. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing the call. I wondered if I could just confirm with you the number of injured. Was it three or was it four in the end? And also, I wondered if I could ask – we’re hearing that the Pentagon might have been in touch with Pastor Jones, asking him if he could withdraw his support for this video. Could you talk to that? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I only have confirmed three wounded at the moment, but again, that is a first set of reports. It may not be accurate. I don’t think we have anything on Pastor Jones unless [Senior Administration Official Three] has something to add.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Thank you. I can confirm that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, spoke by phone this morning with Pastor Jones. This was a brief call in which General Dempsey expressed his concerns over the nature of the film, the tensions it could inflame, and the violence it could cause. And he asked Mr. Jones to consider withdrawing his support for the film.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you. Let’s take one last one and then we’re going to have to run off. Operator.
OPERATOR: Karen DeYoung with The Washington Post. Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just to clarify, as you described the compound and the auxiliary building, was that separate building outside of the perimeter of the compound? Or is it all inside that perimeter, that’s secured – as you said – inside by U.S. officials?
And secondly, just to once more clarify – and sorry to be obtuse about this – you have no idea whether Ambassador Stevens was alive when he was taken from or otherwise exited the building and taken to the hospital?
And also, just to [Senior Administration Official Three], could you say how Pastor Jones responded?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: My understanding – and again, if this is not correct, we will correct the record – is that we have, as I said at the top, a main compound that includes the main building and several ancillary buildings, that there is also an annex further away, that both of those facilities had perimeters and had Libyan perimeter security.
And as I said with regard to Ambassador Chris Stevens, we just do not know. We have seen Libyan reports that when he was recovered and taken to the hospital, he was unconscious and he later passed, but we are not in a position to confirm those.
So with that, I’m going to thank you all for joining us. We will –
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: [Senior Administration Official One], I think –
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sorry, [Senior Administration Official Three], yeah, to you. I’m sorry.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Yeah, that’s okay. No problem. Karen thanks.
The Chairman did have a brief call with Pastor Jones. The – Mr. Jones did hear the chairman’s concerns, but he was noncommittal.
Back to you, [Senior Administration Official One].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. And sorry, [Senior Administration Official Three], I jumped on you again.
Thank you all for joining us this evening. We will commit ourselves to sharing what we can with you as more information develops in the coming days. I just want to again reiterate what I said at the top, that we are operating for the purposes of this backgrounder on first reports. We’ve all had the experience of first reports being inaccurate, so – but this information we have given today, we are giving to the best of our knowledge at this time.
Thank you all for joining us, and thank you to [Senior Administration Official Three], as well. Good night.
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/09/197694.htm

 

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