A lot went wrong at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, but according to new interviews with the staff, the staff should've been better prepared. That might seem like an obvious conclusion to draw with an event like this. However, based on what we know now, the attack was a long time coming, and the security measures taken just weren't as effective as they expected them to be.
The trouble started back in June, when there was a small bombing outside of the consulate. They'd just recently upgraded the security at the compound with a team of American Special Forces soldiers and newly trained Libyan guards. And after the bombing, everyone agreed: they did a great job! "That the local security did so well back in June probably gave us a false sense of security," one staffer told The New York Times. "We may have fooled ourselves."
In its newly published play-by-play of the incident, The Times paints an unsettling picture of the Americans getting blindsided by their attackers. "With as few as four armed Americans and three armed Libyans guarding the mission as the attack began, [Ambassador Christopher] Stevens's own bodyguard was so far away that he needed to sprint across the compound under gunfire to reach the building where the ambassador was working at the time," the paper reads. "But the bodyguard ultimately left without Mr. Stevens, who died of smoke inhalation." All the while, the attackers were raining down rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and gunfire onto the compound.
The new details don't necessarily help the president who's been struggling to explain exactly what went wrong that day. While their story's changed a couple of times since September 11, U.S. intelligence agencies have most recently said that the attack was "deliberate and organized" which takes a little bit of the air out of the initial idea that they were caught off guard by an angry mob protesting against the "Innocence of Muslims" video. And as recently as last Friday, the government's pushed back at further investigation, saying that the area is too volatile for the FBI to go in and do their thing.
This is certainly not the last time we'll be hearing about what happened in Benghazi a couple of weeks ago. Barack Obama will undoubtedly have to answer some tough questions as we dive into the final five weeks of the election. And you'd better be sure Mitt Romney will be one of the ones asking them.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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