Benghazi Hearing: Looking for Truth Amidst a Partisan Divide, Outing OGA, Zingers

The Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Security Failures of Benghazi was predictable in many ways. The members of the committee started off beckering about the conduct of the investigation. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the committee accused committee chairman Darrell Issa of excluding the Democrats from the investigation by witholding documents, non-access to key witness Colonel Wood (“We could not even get his phone number.”) and says Issa “effectively excluded Democrats from a congressional delegation to Libya this past weekend.” The Republican members lined up to hammer the State Department (and President Obama).

The predictability of bi-partisanship

Cuts to embassy security funding was also brought up. And it turns out this is one of the few bipartisan issue in the House. According to the Oversight Committee, Rep Cummings and other Democrats reportedly helped 147 Republicans slashed that embassy security funding. Oy! Is that right?

It is predictable that the Republicans grilled the witnesses and the Democrats played defense. I’m sure that if this were a Republican administration, the Democrats would have played offense and the Republicans defense. Which sucks when looking for the truth is a seriously possibility and folks have already made up their minds.

Strangely enough, I don’t think anyone during the hearing asked the question as to why we had that office in Benghazi. But U/S Kennedy went on an gave an answer to the unasked question anyway using Ambassador Steven’s words in his prepared testimony.

Not a single representative asked the State Dept reps on the impact of running gigantic diplomatic missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and how these missions siphoned not only funds, but more importantly staffing resources from the rest of the Foreign Service.

How come no one wanna to listen to Dennis?

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says:

It is easy to blame someone else — like a civil servant at the State Department. We all know the game. It is harder to acknowledge that decades of American foreign policy have directly contributed to regional instability and to the rise of armed militias around the world. It is even harder to acknowledge Congress’ role in the failure to stop the war in Libya, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Pakistan, the war in Yemen, the war in Somalia and who knows where else. It is harder to recognize Congress’ role in the failure to stop the drone attacks that are still killing innocent civilians and strengthening radical elements abroad. We want to stop the attacks on embassies? Let’s stop trying to overthrow governments.

Go Dennis Go! Oops! Everyone had their ear plugs on.

Point of order — while OGA got outed?

Sometime during the four hour hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) called out “Point of order! Point of order!” as DAS Charlene Lamb  described the chaotic night of the attack.  Rep. Chaffetz objected to the aerial photo of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi saying, “I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.”

If you did not know it, Rep. Chaffetz  went to Libya over the weekend to get “an on-the-ground assessment of the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.”  This report says that “Specifically, he wanted to probe whether claims for more security were denied by the U.S. government.” He did not go to Benghazi, where the deaths actually occurred, but Tripoli is on the ground enough.  He spent a grand total of five hours in Tripoli.

Five hours in Tripoli via miljet? Don’t raise your voice. That’s exactly 300 minutes on the ground in Libya.  Five hours more than either DAS Lamb and U/S Kennedy as neither have ever been to Libya.  There were reportedly five RSOs in Benghazi at the time of the attack, none were sitting before the committee yesterday.   The five includes David Ubben who is currently recuperating at Walter Reed for his wounds; none of these RSOs were called in talk about what happened that night.  Presumably they are talking to the FBI and will talk to the ARB.

Anyway, about that point of order, here is  WaPo’s take on how the Other Government Agency or OGA got outed:

In their questioning and in the public testimony they invited, the lawmakers managed to disclose, without ever mentioning Langley directly, that there was a seven-member “rapid response force” in the compound the State Department was calling an annex. One of the State Department security officials was forced to acknowledge that “not necessarily all of the security people” at the Benghazi compounds “fell under my direct operational control.”
[…]
The Republican lawmakers, in their outbursts, alternated between scolding the State Department officials for hiding behind classified material and blaming them for disclosing information that should have been classified. But the lawmakers created the situation by ordering a public hearing on a matter that belonged behind closed doors.

Republicans were aiming to embarrass the Obama administration over State Department security lapses. But they inadvertently caused a different picture to emerge than the one that has been publicly known: that the victims may have been let down not by the State Department but by the CIA. If the CIA was playing such a major role in these events, which was the unmistakable impression left by Wednesday’s hearing, having a televised probe of the matter was absurd.

Oops, too?  The NYT reported that among the over two dozens employees evacuated from Benghazi the morning of September 12 were a dozen of apparently CIA operatives and contractors.

This makes me wonder if the CIA is also the owner of the 50-minute video of the attack whose existence was confirmed by State; and which Rep. Issa said is not FBI’s. Well, whose video is it – the Department of Commerce?

Best and Worst Witnesses?

The best witness among the four witnesses hauled up before the committee is no doubt, RSO Eric Nordstrom. He was prepared, straightforward and articulate. He spoke in a commanding manner, was respectful but also forceful in his testimony.  If I were overseas, I would want him as my Regional Security Officer, too. Pardon me? You love him to pieces because he does not hold his punches? Well, he sure didn’t hold his punches yesterday.

He also talked about a “new security-reality” in his prepared statement which, frankly was lost during the hearing. No one bothered to ask him what we should be doing differently in this new reality or how Congress might best support addressing this new reality. The reps were busy listening to themselves talk. But here is what he said:

“The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service. Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra-half dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault. I’m concerned that this attack will signal a new security-reality, just as the 1984 Beirut attack did for the Marines; the 1998 East Africa bombings did for the State Department, and 9/11 for the whole country. It is critical that we balance the risk-mitigation with the needs of our diplomats to do their job, in dangerous and uncertain places. The answer cannot be to operate from a bunker.”

The other issue that RSO Nordstrom had in his prepared statement was the persistent matter of staff turnover, which is not a reality just in Libya but in other posts around the world, particularly in hardship posts.

“This brings me to the issue of staff turnover. At traditional posts most staff are assigned for periods of one to three years. In re-establishing our presence in Libya after the revolution, we needed to rely on a high number of staff who could serve temporarily (what we call TDY), so that we could adjust staffing quickly in the event that the security situation drastically changed. In the short term, that can and did work very well. However, what I found is that having only TDY DS agents made re-establishing and developing security procedures, policies and relationships more difficult. I understood it was also difficult for my colleagues in Washington to fill constant staffing requirements from a limited pool of available agents with high-threat tactical training. As the sole permanent RSO for the first seven months I was in Libya, I was unable to focus resources on developing traditional RSO programs as much as I would have wished, and instead spent a significant amount of time training new TDY staff, who were often set to leave eight weeks after they arrived. Nowhere was this more evident than in Benghazi, which had no permanent staff assigned to provide continuity, oversight and leadership to post’s programs.”

RSO Nordstrom, blessed his heart also has the best zingers.

“We were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident.”

“How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through.”

“For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

Man, oh, man. That last one is a keeper and will zinged just about everyone up his chain of command and the regionals.

To me the worst witness among the four is without a doubt, Deputy Assistant Secretary Charlene Lamb who told the panel, quote, “We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11.”

In fairness, we have  over 270 posts around the world. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan are the exceptions when it comes to the number of RSOs. Apprently, US Mission Baghdad has something like 88 DS agents. It is important to note that posts normally have one RSO and one ARSO or Assistant Regional Security Officer. Some consulates and smaller posts like the American Presence Posts would be lucky to have one RSO. In most cases, an FSO has collateral duty as Post Security Officer if there is no RSO at post.

And – if you were testifying before Congress next to your boss, three layers up, you probably would squirm, too. I watched her sit there with the three men and she looked nervous as a sitting duck who knew what’s coming but was unable to leave. Even her introduction was dull. This is a woman who in 1989 volunteered for duty in Beirut, where she managed a 500-person guard force at the height of the civil war in Lebanon. But you wouldn’t know that listening to her.

But — four Americans died in the attack, and to say that we have “the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11” is like disconnected wifi. I’m sorry to say this but — how socially intelligent are you to say something like that? The Cable’s top article after the hearing was Lamb to the slaughter, and it was not talking about Roald Dahl’s book.

Post-hearing and language

As if the four-hour Oversight hearing wasn’t enough, U/S Kennedy went back to Foggy Bottom and gave an On-The-Record Briefing. He mentioned the RSOs who were in Benghazi that night:

And we know that David (Ubben) was so badly injured that at this very moment he still remains in serious condition at Walter Reed Hospital. And we know that Alec and Zack and Scott and Renaldo and Dave went in and out of the burning building again and again, trying to find both Chris and Sean.
[…]
Let me say a little bit about the process and how things work as well. We have security professionals in Washington – many, many, if not all of them who have many years of experience in the field. And then we have the field professionals, our Regional Security Officers. This is not a matter of rejecting requests. This is a matter of a dialogue that goes back and forth between our professionals in the field and our professionals in Washington looking for the right solution. We make sure that they do that, and they do it all the time. And one of the ways that happens, because this is a dialogue, someone says, “I need A, B, and C.” The professionals in Washington, with all the experience they have, say, “I see your point. Functionally, isn’t this what you’re asking for? What about if we send you B, C, and D instead?” We arrive at a solution. We arrived at solutions for Benghazi.

In short, as the familiar goes in Foggy Bottom, “it depends.”

The first question the press asked was about one of RSO Nordstrom’s zingers, the clip that made it to prime time news:

QUESTION: […] I want to concentrate on something else he said towards the end, and he seemed to make a point, or was given the opportunity to make the point of saying that, “For me” – this is the quote: “For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.” And as a career Foreign Service officer, I’m wondering what your reaction to that is, if you’ve talked to anyone else in the building about that comment, and what they think about it —

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: No. I mean —

QUESTION: — and what it says about Mr. Nordstrom, if anything.

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: I’ve just gotten back, after being on the Hill. I am extremely, extraordinarily proud of the Diplomatic Security Service. These are individuals I’ve worked with for almost 40 years. They are the best of the best. They’re extraordinary professionals. And I was simply surprised to hear language like that used.

It looks like even the best of the best gets pissed.

And since language is always evolving, I’ll end with a new word my blog pal, Kolbi came up with as the hearing was unfolding:

Nordstrom, \nord-struhm\, verb;

1.)  To document your position so effectively and completely that, in the event of a very public Congressional hearing, if there are rear ends left flapping about in the breeze at the end of it, yours sure isn’t one of them.

Examples of Usage:

– “…So I made sure I Nordstromed the hell out of it…”

– “…And I told them that I would be Nordstroming that up one side and down the other, just so we were all clear on where I stood…”

That’s a free lesson right there, no need for FSI’s distance learning.

 

 

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Security Failures of Benghazi: Hey! Can we call Representatives Issa and Chaffetz as witnesses, too?

Via CSM:

Earlier claims from Chaffetz and fellow Republican Congressman Darrell Issa that the administration ignored pleas for more security from Libya embassy officials should be treated with caution until there’s some proof.
[…]
Since retaking control in 2010, House Republicans have aggressively cut spending at the State Department in general and embassy security in particular. Chaffetz and Issa and their colleagues voted to pay for far less security than the State Department requested in 2011 and again this year.
[…]
Is that responsible for the tragedy in Benghazi? Probably not, at least not entirely. Usually when security goes wrong, it’s down to a cascade of small failures piling up. But it’s a bit rich to complain about a lack of US security personnel at diplomatic missions on the one hand, while actively working to cut the budget to pay for US security personnel at diplomatic missions on the other.
[…]
The Worldwide Security Protection program (WSP), which the government says provides “core funding for the protection of life, property, and information of the Department of State,” and a separate embassy security and construction budget, which in part improves fortifications, have both been under fire.

“In 2011 they came in and passed a continuing resolution for the remainder of that fiscal year. The House proposed $70 million cut in the WSP and they proposed a $204 million cut in Embassy security,” says Mr. Lilly. “Then the next year, fiscal 2012, they cut worldwide security by $145 million and embassy security by $376 million. This year’s bill is the same thing all over again. The House has cut the worldwide security budget $149 million below the request.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican co-leading a House investigation on October 10 regarding the “Security Failures of Benghazi” said in a interview last week that the number of American diplomatic security officers serving in Libya had been reduced in the six months prior to the attacks. Via The Daily Beast:

“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.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-R) and Rep Darrell Issa (CA-R), currently top hunters of the security failures of Benghazi, hopefully leaving no stone unturned even in Congress

Sure you see a pattern. Some might think there’s a pattern apparent in the Congress, too.

Here is what the State Department says about its Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) Program in its funding request to the Congress:

The Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) program affords core funding to provide a safe and secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. The promotion of American interests and foreign policy protects life, property, and information at more than 274 missions abroad. In order to do this, the Department must address threats against U.S. personnel, facilities, and equipment worldwide. The civil unrest in Abidjan, Egypt, and Tunis; the increasingly volatile situation in Mexico; the physical assault on the Embassy in Syria; and the suspension and reactivation of operations at the U.S. Embassy in Libya highlight the need for continued vigilance, program execution, and funding. As U.S. diplomatic humanitarian efforts in critical threat and unstable locations expand, increased security and security training will ensure all U.S. Government employees (USG) are prepared to work safely in these areas. WSP provides funding for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), and other Departmental bureaus.

Last year, when Congress slashed State’s budget, Matt of Feral Jundi  asked:  Is The DoS And The WPS Program Being Set Up For Failure By Congress?

Another point I wanted to make is WPS will be vital for the ‘other’ DoS missions out there as a result of the Arab Spring.  The cards are being re-shuffled in the middle east and diplomatic missions in these countries will be vital for national interest. These are dangerous times, and security for these diplomatic missions is essential. Congress should do all it can to ensure DoS and it’s security apparatus is successful, because lives and national interest are on the line.

Here is Stimson’s The Will and the Wallet:

Looking at the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports for State and Foreign Operations, the committees both cut from the administration’s request but did so to different degrees and in different ways. The House made substantially deeper cuts than the Senate, shaving 11.6% ($6.3B) off of the President’s request, while the Senate cut by a smaller 4.7% ($2.6B). Beyond overall funding levels, the House and Senate agreed on some budget priorities while sharply disagreeing on others.

Notably, both Committees cut deeply into the State Department’s operating costs, each slashing about $2.5 billion, or about 22% of the President’s request, from State’s Diplomatic and Consular Programs account. In fact, this cut accounts for over a third of the House’s $6.3 billion overall net cut and falls only about $50 million short of the Senate’s net cut.

The Cable reported the significant cuts in the 2011 budget with the actual numbers:

As part of the budget deal struck to avoid a government shutdown, the White House has agreed to reduce the State Department and foreign operations budgets for the rest of fiscal 2011 by $8 billion.

Other programs that will lose large portions of their requested funding include the operating expenses for USAID ($122 million less than the request), the Civilian Stabilization Initiative (-$144 million), the office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (-$155 million), the Peace Corps (-$71 million), the International Clean Technology Fund (-$215 million), the International Strategic Climate Fund (-$185 million), and Worldwide Security Protection (-$61 million).

So we’ll probably make a big deal about “Main State” rejecting a request for a DC-3 but … but how about how much money Congress slashed from the security protection portion of the budget request?

For the sake of clarity and whatnot, and so that we, the people can have both the real low down on these failures and also a big picture idea on how these security failures happen, the Committee on Oversight reps should call themselves as witnesses to this very important hearing and ask the following questions for starters:

  • Did I or did I not vote to cut the State Department’s embassy security budget in 2011?
  • Did I or did I not cut the same security budget again in 2012?
  • Did I think through the possible consequences to that reduction in security budget for over 270 American missions overseas?  Was my vote sequestered from reality?
  • When allocating blame for this incident, what percentage of that should I assign myself? What methodology for calculating blame would be helpful?
  • Before I get hopping mad and write all sorts of letters, did I stop and think how the reduction in security funds might have affected the hiring of Libyan local guards at $32 a day versus American private security contractors at say $750 a day?
  • This guy has serious questions about inadequate security that need some answers, too. Dammit, didn’t I get elected to Congress so I get to ask the hard questions?

Should be interesting to watch. I’ll bring my 16 oz Bloomberg drink and popcorn.

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)