It doesn't seem to make much sense: At the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the State Department reduced the number of security guards on the ground just as reports of security threats at the compound increased dramatically accoridng to two new reports by CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson and Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake.
The principal scoop in the CBS piece relates to the number of threats at the compound: 13 reported threats in the six months leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Eric Nordstrom, Regional Security Officer who was stationed in Libya. According to the report, Nordstrom relayed that information to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has launched an investigation into the security situation there. It's been known that the consulate weathered attacks prior to the deadly assault, including at least two bombing incidents, but 13 brings further questions about why security wasn't beefed up.
As for Lake's scoop, he reports that the State Department reduced the number of American diplomatic security officers in that same six-month time-span that CBS reports the uptick in threats. That information comes from whistle-blowers who reached out to House Republicans investigating the situation, specifically, Rep. Jason Chaffetz. "The fully trained Americans who can deal with a volatile situation were reduced in the six months leading up to the attacks," he said. "When you combine that with the lack of commitment to fortifying the physical facilities, you see a pattern.”
The obvious question this raises is why did the State Department reduce security just as threats increased? On background, a State Department official told Lake that an independent review panel was looking into the matter. Now, obviously, it's possible these new details are colored with a partisan tint, given that they come from House Republicans during a heated presidential race. In another on background statement to Lake, a State Department official said it's routine to reduce the number of security guards at diplomatic posts over time. That explanation probably won't satisfy much of the public (wouldn't reported threats be a factor in personnel numbers?), but more answers will undoubtedly come as the Obama administration's investigation continues.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.