Issa’s Committee Calls First Hearing On Benghazi Attack, Diplomatic Security to Testify as More Info Drips …

Updated October 5 @ 8:17 PST
CBS News reports that the Committee has issued a subpoena for Lt. Col. Andy Wood, a Utah National Guard Army Green Beret who headed up a Special Forces security team in Libya to appear at the October 10 hearing.  Secretary Clinton is reportedly also scheduled to attend although she is not listed among the Committee’s witnesses.

ABC News’ Jake Tapper reported a couple days ago that the House Oversight and Reform Committee chaired by Darrell Issa (CA-R) has called its first witnesses for the hearing on the Benghazi attack.  The report names the following State Department/Diplomatic Security employees to testify:

  • Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom was stationed in Libya from September 2011 to June 2012. The Department of State provided Mr. Nordstrom to the Committee for a briefing, where he confirmed for the Committee the security incidents cited in the letter, and confirmed that the mission in Libya made security requests.
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs Charlene Lamb is an official in Washington is involved in reviewing security requests.

Her official bio says that Ms. Lamb is:

“a key member of the DS management team, responsible for providing strategic planning, management support, and establishing budget priorities to senior DS management. Ms. Lamb manages more than $1.2 billion in security assets and programs and thousands of personnel dedicated to that purpose. She is also responsible for the safety and security of over 285 overseas Embassies and Consulates and oversees the 550 special agent/security professionals posted at those locations.

Ms. Lamb joined Diplomatic Security in 1987, serving her first assignment as a Special Agent in the San Francisco Field Office. In 1989, Ms. Lamb volunteered for duty in Beirut, where she managed a 500-person guard force at the height of the civil war in Lebanon.”

The letter that the Committee sent to Secretary Clinton includes a list of about a dozen security incidents in the lead up to the Benghazi attack.  The Committee said that the information it cites is based on those “provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya.” It also said that “multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi.  The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington.”

Can’t say who provided the list to the Committee, but who closely tracks these incidents, anyways? In any case, it appears that the Regional Security Officer in Libya has already confirmed these incidents during a private appearance at the Committee.

Here is the list of security incidents.

  • April 6, 2012, BENGHAZI – Two Libyans who had been fired from a contractor providing unarmed static security for Consulate Benghazi, threw a small IED over the Consulate fence.  There were no casualties or damage and the suspects were arrested but not prosecuted.
  • April 11, 2012, BENGHAZI – A gun battle between an unidentified armed group and forces loyal to the Transitional National Council (TNC) occurred about 4km from Consulate Benghazi.  The unidentified armed group attacked a Ministry of the Interior building in an attempt to seize a fleet of vehicles that had belonged to the Gaddafi regime.   The gun battle included use of antiaircraft guns and RPGs.
  • April 25, 2012, TRIPOLI – A US Embassy Local Guard Force officer traveling in a diplomatically-plated vehicle was detained and his Embassy-issued radio seized at a militia checkpoint.  He was released without further incident.
  • April 26, 2012, BENGHAZI – While a Foreign Service officer stationed at Consulate Benghazi was attending a trade-related event at the International Medical University, a fistfight escalated to gunfire between security forces for the trade delegation and militia providing security for the University.  A US Foreign Service officer was evacuated by members of the 17th of February Martyrs Brigade, a Libyan militia, stationed at Consulate Benghazi.
  • April 27, 2012, BENGHAZI – Two South African contractors were kidnapped by armed men while walking through a residential area of Benghazi.  After a brief interrogation about their nationality and purpose in Libya, they were released unharmed.
  • May 1, 2012, TRIPOLI – The Deputy Commander of Embassy Tripoli’s Local Guard Force was carjacked, beaten and detained by a group of armed youth.  He escaped by climbing over a fence and notifying the Embassy by phone.  Libyan security forces fought a gun battle with the assailants in order to recover a number of stolen vehicles and release other detainees.
  • May 22, 2012, BENGHAZI – Two RPG rounds were fired at the Benghazi office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), approximately 1 km from Consulate Benghazi.  The attack occurred during the early morning hours and there were no casualties.  A Facebook posting that claimed responsibility for the attack said: “After we confirmed that the ICRC were giving out the Bible to the refugees of Tuwerga in Benghazi, a group of Mujaheddin attacked the HQ of the ICRC with an RPG and it targeted the meeting room inside the building. We didn’t want to hurt the Christians it is just a warning, we also didn’t want to hurt any Muslims working there. We recorded it on video and will publish it soon – so the ICRC must take down their flag with the red cross and close its offices in Libya. We announce that Libya is an Islamic State. We did not attack the Sahara Bank.  Finally, now we are preparing a message for the Americans for disturbing the skies over Derna.”
  • June 2012 – Ambassador Stevens was in the habit of taking early morning runs around Tripoli along with members of his security detail.  According to sources, sometime in June 2012, a posting on a pro-Gaddafi Facebook page trumpeted these runs and directed a threat against Ambassador Stevens along with a stock photo of him.  It is reported that, after stopping these morning runs for about a week, the Ambassador resumed them.
  • June 6, 2012, BENGHAZI – Under cover of darkness, assailants placed an IED on the north gate of Consulate Benghazi, blowing a hole in the security perimeter that was described by one individual as, “big enough for forty men to go through.”
  • June 10, 2012, BENGHAZI – On or about June 10, 2012, a two-car convoy carrying the British Ambassador to Libya from a conference on reforming Libyan military law was attacked in broad daylight by a militant with an RPG.  This attack was an important escalation in the violence against Western targets in Benghazi, as prior attacks had been at night and were often preceded by warnings from the attackers.  Photos from the aftermath of the attack are attached.
  • Late June 2012, BENGHAZI – The ICRC building was attacked again, this time in broad daylight while people were inside.  Once the ICRC pulled out, the US Consulate was the last Western flag flying in Benghazi, making it an ideal target for militants.
  • August 6, 2012, TRIPOLI – Armed assailants attempted to carjack a vehicle bearing diplomatic plates operated by U.S. security personnel.
  • WEEKS BEFORE September 11, 2012, BENGHAZI – The unarmed Libyan guards employed by British contractor Blue Mountain Group were being warned by their family members to quit their jobs guarding Consulate Benghazi because there were rumors in the community of an impending attack.

US Embassy Libya’s Warden Messages for U.S. citizens which normally alerts  American citizen residents of security-related situation is here.  You will note that it released exactly five messages between May and August 2012, and only three coincide with the list provided to the Committee:

And then — just days before the House hearing, somebody leaked a State Department email to ABC News showing the mothership (aka Main State not “State Main”) rejecting a security asset request from US Embassy Tripoli/Security Support Team.

Via ABC News:

The subject line of the email, from Miki Rankin, the post management officer for Libya and Saudi Arabia, reads “Termination of Tripoli DC-3 Support.”

Rankin informs [Ambassador] Stevens and the others on the email, whose names have been redacted, that Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy “has determined that support for Embassy Tripoli using the DC-3 will be terminated immediately. Post’s request to continue use of the plane in support of the SST was considered. However, it was decided that, if needed, NEA will charter a special flight for their departure.”

The email is posted online here.

ABC News reports that an “SST” is a Security Support Team, about 16 Special Forces troops assigned to protect officials from the U.S. State Department. And that this particular SST was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. Also this:

The U.S. government official who provided the email to ABC News – and wanted to remain anonymous because of  the sensitivity of the matter – described the small DC-3 plane as an asset for a security team to more freely and safely move throughout the country, and to more easily transport arms and other security equipment. In short, having the plane allowed the security team to better perform its duties, the official said.
[…]
The State Department official acknowledged that the plane was used to get around Libya, not just to get in and out of the country. But once commercial air service was re-established, the State Department decided that the SST didn’t need the plane anymore. The security team, it would seem, disagreed.

Taken in itself, not sure that a DC-3 would have changed the outcome of what happened in Benghazi. But taken with the rest of what is going on right now, this will add fuel to the charges furiously flying around.

  • The rush, or the wait or whatever with Ambassador to USUN Susan Rice.  Is Libya or Intel/Security her portfolio? No, so whhhhyyy?
  • First CNN’s then WaPo’s reporter walking around and finding things in the unsecured Benghazi compound. CNN reported on Ambassador Steven’s journal, and WaPo has an online scrapbook of Sensitive But Unclassified documents found inside the building.
  • The Local Guard Program appears to terminate the same day the compound was attack. If not, where are the guards?  Wired.com reports that documents recovered from the grounds of the mission show that the guards there were paid an hourly rate of 5.21 Libyan Dinars — the equivalent of $4 per hour and quipped: “Perhaps if the U.S. had spent more than $4 per hour on Benghazi’s security, it wouldn’t need to dispatch quite so many of its most valuable troops.” We don’t yet know if the Blue Mountain contract was awarded based on “best value” or was this awarded based on the “lowest price technically acceptable.”
  • The Government of Libya says it will cooperate with the US on this incident, but is it not still under international obligation to protect whatever is left of the mission in Benghazi? And what’s with those “It’s not our job to stop people from taking things” gardeners anyway; if they re still USG-employed, they should already be fired. Jeez! Can you see me stomping my foot?  They’re “tending the grounds” for what, the next Fourth of July?
  • Philippe Reines, Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide and personal spokesman getting into a public meltdown with BuzzFeed correspondent Michael Hastings. He’s Hillary’s guy so his job is not going to go on Now Vacancy until the Secretary leaves the building for good, but his demeanor was not at all helpful on this.  That’s why there’s a lockbox for your email when you get mad, dude!
  • The FBI stuck in Tripoli until this week while the crime scene got contaminated by curiosity seekers and journalists rummaging through the rubble; uninvited visitors were not issued CSI suits, gloves, boots.

The Committee may have a couple or so names to add as possible witnesses for the October 10 hearing:

Miki Rankin, Post Management Officer, Washington, D.C. (now Deputy Executive Director at the Bureau of Administration/EX)

Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management, Washington, D.C.

Blue Mountain UK, Benghazi Office security contractor cited by Wired.com (located in Wales)

 

 

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USCG Guangzhou: Former Guard Pleads Guilty for Attempt to Sell Info to Chinese Intel Agency

This one gets an award for astounding stupidity like writing an “I’m ready to spy for you” offer to China’s Ministry of Security, except that he called it an um, “business arrangement.”  This dolt then delivered it to the MSS, that’s equivalent to personally delivering a spy offer to the CIA’s branch office.  But that’s not all. When the MSS declined to accept the letter,  this guy left his open letter in his apartment, believing that Chinese spies keeping tabs on foreigners in the city would find it. And presumably contact him to make a counter offer … just like in a bad movie.

Via USDOJ

Former U.S. Consulate Guard Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Communicate National Defense Information to China

Ryan Underwood, a former civilian guard at a U.S. Consulate compound under construction in China, pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia in connection with his efforts to sell for personal financial gain classified photographs, information and access related to the U.S. Consulate to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
[…]
Underwood, 32, a former resident of Indiana, was first charged in an indictment on Aug. 31, 2011, with two counts of making false statements and was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011.  On Sept. 21, 2011, he failed to appear at a scheduled status hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia.  The FBI later located Underwood in a hotel in Los Angeles and arrested him there on Sept. 24, 2011.  On Sept. 28, 2011, Underwood was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government, two counts of making false statements and one count of failing to appear in court pursuant to his conditions of release.  Sentencing for Underwood has been scheduled for Nov. 19, 2012.  He faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.
[…]
According to court documents, from November 2009 to August 2011, Underwood worked as a cleared American guard (CAG) at the construction site of a new U.S. Consulate compound in Guangzhou, China.  CAGs are American civilian security guards with Top Secret clearances who serve to prevent foreign governments from improperly obtaining sensitive or classified information from the U.S. Consulate.  Underwood received briefings on how to handle and protect classified information as well as briefings and instructions on security protocols for the U.S. Consulate, including the prohibition on photography in certain areas of the consulate.

Plan to Sell Information and Access for $3 Million to $5 Million

In February 2011, Underwood was asked by U.S. law enforcement to assist in a project at the consulate and he agreed.  In March 2011, Underwood lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market.  According to court documents, Underwood then devised a plan to use his assistance to U.S. law enforcement as a “cover” for making contact with the Chinese government.  According to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood intended to sell his information about and access to the U.S. Consulate to the Chinese MSS for $3 million to $5 million. If any U.S. personnel caught him, he planned to falsely claim he was assisting U.S. law enforcement.

As part of his plan, Underwood wrote a letter to the Chinese MSS, expressing his “interest in initiating a business arrangement with your offices” and stating, “I know I have information and skills that would be beneficial to your offices [sic] goals.  And I know your office can assist me in my financial endeavors.”  According to court documents, Underwood attempted to deliver this letter to the offices of the Chinese MSS in Guangzhou, but was turned away by a guard who declined to accept the letter.  Underwood then left the letter in the open in his apartment hoping that the Chinese MSS would find it, as he believed the MSS routinely conducted searches of apartments occupied by Americans.

In May 2011, Underwood secreted a camera into the U.S. Consulate compound and took photographs of a restricted building and its contents.  Many of these photographs depict areas or information classified at the Secret level.  Underwood also created a schematic that listed all security upgrades to the U.S. Consulate and drew a diagram of the surveillance camera locations at the consulate.  In addition, according to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood “mentally” constructed a plan in which the MSS could gain undetected access to a building at the U.S. Consulate to install listening devices or other technical penetrations.

According to court documents, the photographs Underwood took were reviewed by an expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security who had original classification authority for facilities, security and countermeasures at the U.S. Consulate.  The expert determined that many of the photographs contained images classified at the Secret level and that disclosure of such material could cause serious damage to the United States.

In early August 2011, Underwood was interviewed several times by FBI and Diplomatic Security agents, during which he admitted making efforts to contact the Chinese MSS, but falsely claimed that he took these actions to assist U.S. law enforcement.  On Aug. 19, 2011, Underwood was again interviewed by law enforcement agents and he admitted that he planned to sell photos, information and access to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to the Chinese MSS for his personal financial gain.

The U.S. government has found no evidence that Underwood succeeded in passing classified information concerning the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to anyone at the Chinese MSS.

A couple quick thoughts —

I would have like to nominate this guy for the Darwin Awards but he did not self-select himself out of the gene pool.

Of course, if he were astoundingly smarter who knows what type of access he would have granted to his would be “business partners” so I’m glad he wasn’t a bulb of smarts.

 

 

 

 

 

Father of Injured Benghazi Security Officer David Ubben Speaks Up

On September 21, the WSJ reported that during the Benghazi Attack, diplomatic security agent David Ubben was inside the main building with Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, the information-management officer, when the attackers set it on fire around 15 minutes after the shooting started.

The three took refuge in a safe room, but found themselves overcome by smoke and agreed they would make a break for it through a window, according to a State Department official familiar with Mr. Ubben’s role.

Mr. Ubben, a 30-year-old Iraq war veteran, managed to escape, but lost contact with Messrs. Stevens and Smith in the dense smoke, the official said.
[…]
Mr. Ubben and the other security agents made several trips into the building to try to find the diplomats but could spend only brief periods inside, and suffered varying degrees of lung damage, said the official familiar with Mr. Ubben’s role.

DS Agent David Ubben is reportedly recuperating at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  Meanwhile, his father Rex Ubben, told Reuters on Wednesday that the US State Department should own up to what he said were its mistakes and release more information about what occurred.

David Ubben, a 31-year-old State Department employee, suffered broken bones and other injuries in the Sept. 11 attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

As David Ubben recuperates at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, his father, Rex Ubben, said he did not blame the State Department or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for his son’s injuries. But “I do find it troubling that they have not owned up to their shortcomings; in government, in the military, and in business, if something goes wrong, you admit it, correct it, and move on,” Rex Ubben said.
[…]
Ubben also questioned why it took so long for his son to reach a hospital after the attack, saying of his son’s condition, “by my count, there were five or six broken bones (one completely smashed, thus the operations) and shrapnel damage head to toe. I was surprised at how many parts of him were injured.”
David Ubben is having a series of surgeries and his father expects him to be hospitalized for several months.
[…]
Rex Ubben, 60, said he was a 24-year Air Force veteran who retired in 1995 as master sergeant. He was based at various U.S. embassies. Since retiring, he has been a computer programmer for several banks.

Continue reading, Father of US bodyguard injured in Libya attack pushes State Department