Memories of the abuses by foreign mercenaries, acting for the brutal Qaddafi regime, prompted the decision, according to State Department officials.
Once the Libyans took away the private security guard option, it put enormous strain on a little-known State Department arm, the Diplomatic Security
Service. This obscure agency has been responsible for protecting American diplomatic posts around the world since 1916.
Though embassies have contingents of Marines, consulates and other offices do not. And the missions of Marines, in fact, are to destroy documents and
protect American government secrets. It is the Diplomatic Security agents who are charged with safeguarding the lives of American diplomats.
Today, roughly 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents guard 275 American embassies and consulates around the globe. That works out to a whopping seven agents per
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the State Department relied on hundreds of security contractors to guard American diplomats. At times, they even hired private
security guards to protect foreign leaders.
After Afghan President Hamid Karzai narrowly survived a 2002 assassination attempt, the State Department hired security guards from DynCorp, a military
contractor, to guard him. Their aggressiveness in and around the presidential palace, however, angered Afghan, American and European officials. As soon as
Afghan guards were trained to protect Karzai, DynCorp was let go.
But the State Department's dependence on contractors for security remained. And Benghazi epitomized this Achilles' heel.
Unable to hire contractors, the Diplomatic Security Service rotated small numbers of agents through Benghazi to provide security, on what government
officials call temporary duty assignments, or "TDY." Eric Nordstrom, the Diplomatic Security agent who oversaw security in Libya until two months before
the attack, recently told members of Congress that though he twice requested 12 agents he was rejected - and told he was asking for "the sun the moon and
that he replied bluntly to his superiors in Washington. "It's not the hardships," Nordstrom testified he had said. "It's not the gunfire. It's not the
threats. It's dealing and fighting against the people, programs and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. And I added it by saying, 'For me, the
Taliban is on the inside of the building.' "
Other State Department officials also say that the reliance on contracting created a weakened Diplomatic Security Service. They said department officials,
short on staff and eager to reduce costs, nickeled-and-dimed DS security requests.
"That is not a DS-centric issue," said a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "That is a Department of State issue."
Democrats have blamed Republicans for the lack of funding. They point out that House Republicans rejected $450 million in administration requests for
increased Diplomatic Security spending since 2010. They say Senate Democrats were able to restore a small part of the funding.