#Benghazi News: What did the ARB and Benghazi Committee know about Alamir, Eclipse and Xpand?

Posted: 3:53 am ET
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Via HuffPo:

A middleman the State Department relied on to hire unarmed guards at the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, previously worked with a company that’s now at the center of a massive international bribery scandal.

The FBI and law enforcement agencies in at least four other countries are investigating allegations ― first published by The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media ― that a Monaco-based company called Unaoil bribed public officials to secure contracts for major corporations in corruption-prone regions. In Libya, Unaoil partnered with a Tripoli-based businessman named Muhannad Alamir. A former Unaoil employee who served as a confidential source for the FBI told investigators that Unaoil and Alamir bribed Libyan officials. Unaoil and Alamir deny they bribed anyone.

Alamir started working with the State Department in early 2012, less than three years after cutting ties with Unaoil. He provided Blue Mountain Group, the small British security firm that won the Benghazi guard contract, with the license it needed to legally operate in Libya.
[…]

Despite the damning internal review and seven prior congressional probes, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly in 2014 to establish a special committee to further investigate the 2012 attack. Two years and $7 million later, the committee released an 800-page report. Democrats dismissed it as a partisan attack on Clinton, by then their expected presidential nominee.

The report echoed earlier criticisms of security lapses, but revealed little substantive information about the contracting process that contributed to the problem. The Benghazi committee report mentioned Blue Mountain 12 times. Alamir, Eclipse and Xpand weren’t mentioned once.

 

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WSJ: FSO Gregory Hicks About That Twice “Declined” Security Team Offer From Gen. Ham

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— Domani Spero

On January 22, FSO Gregory Hicks, former Deputy Chief of Mission at US Embassy Tripoli wrote a piece on the Wall Street Journal on “Benghazi and the Smearing of Chris Stevens” specifically contradicting the portion of the Senate Intel Committee’s report concerning AFRICOM’s offer for “sustaining” the security team in Libya and Ambassador Steven’s reported “decline” of the offer not just once but twice. (See Senate Report on Benghazi: Nothing Surprising, Spreading the Blame, Notable Details). Quick excerpt below:

Shifting blame to our dead ambassador is wrong on the facts. I know—I was there.

Last week the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The report concluded that the attack, which resulted in the murder of four Americans, was “preventable.” Some have been suggesting that the blame for this tragedy lies at least partly with Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack. This is untrue: The blame lies entirely with Washington.
[…]
Since Chris cannot speak, I want to explain the reasons and timing for his responses to Gen. Ham. As the deputy chief of mission, I was kept informed by Chris or was present throughout the process.
[…]
Chris wanted the decision postponed but could not say so directly. Chris had requested on July 9 by cable that Washington provide a minimum of 13 American security professionals for Libya over and above the diplomatic security complement of eight assigned to Tripoli and Benghazi. On July 11, the Defense Department, apparently in response to Chris’s request, offered to extend the special forces mission to protect the U.S. Embassy.

However, on July 13, State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy refused the Defense Department offer and thus Chris’s July 9 request. His rationale was that Libyan guards would be hired to take over this responsibility. Because of Mr. Kennedy’s refusal, Chris had to use diplomatic language at the video conference, such as expressing “reservations” about the transfer of authority.

Read the whole thing here.

The SSCI report on Benghazi was careful to point lots of fingers on lots of people. One might say, a circular firing with no bullets.  The additional views appended to the report was not so.  We’ll post that separately.

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“This Week With George Stephanopoulos” Features Former Embassy Tripoli DCM Gregory Hicks

— By Domani Spero

FSO Gregory Hicks, the former Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Tripoli (July 2012-October 2012) was one of George Stephanopoulos’s Sunday morning guests on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” on September 8.  Below is an excerpt from the transcript:

Via ABC News

Via ABC News

via ABC News

via ABC News

Read the full transcript here.

Asked for a response by ABC News, a spokesman said the State Department has “not punished Mr. Hicks in any way” and that “the circumstances that led to his departure from Libya was entirely unrelated to any statements he may have made relating to the attack in Benghazi.” Full statement below:

State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach’s statement to ABC News:

The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way. We appreciate his exemplary service on the evening of September 11 and his long career as a member of the Foreign Service.

Although the State Department ordinarily does not discuss the details of personnel matters publicly, because he has alleged mistreatment, we will state generally that the circumstances that led to his departure from Libya was entirely unrelated to any statements he may have made relating to the attack in Benghazi. When Mr. Hicks voluntarily curtailed his assignment, he was in the position of finding another assignment in between standard assignment cycles. The Department made significant efforts to find him a new position at his level, including identifying an overseas position which he declined and succeeded in finding him a short-tour assignment in the Office of the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, pending the next assignment cycle. We continue to value his service and are working with him through the normal personnel process and assignment timetable to identify his next permanent assignment.

The State Department is deeply committed to meeting its obligation to protect employees and the State Department does not tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on ANY ISSUE, including Benghazi.

 

Of course, it would be a lot easier to believe Mr. Gerlach’s statement but for Peter Van Buren.  And let’s not even start with a gag order as a condition for a resolution within the State Department.  (By the way, speaking of gag orders, FSO Russell Sveda who was gay and went through a 14-year bureaucratic battle with State got around the media gag order by speaking to ADST’s Oral History Project, a non-media entity who published the interview online.  Smart.  You may read his account here).

Back to the Hicks affair — in May this year after Mr. Hicks appearance in Congress, a couple of unnamed US Embassy Tripoli employees dished to Hayes Brown of ThinkProgress about Mr. Hicks performance as deputy chief of mission in Tripoli (see EXCLUSIVE: Embassy Staff Undercut ‘Whistleblower’ Testimony On Benghazi).  Apparently, this includes “a lack of diplomatic protocol” by “going to a meeting with the Libyan Prime Minister Mohammed Magarief in a t-shirt, cargo pants, and baseball cap” and allegedly being “too upset to wear a suit.”  I don’t know about you, but “several troubling incidents” criticizing a senior officer’s performance at post ought to include more than simple bad choice in clothes.

What did he do that necessitates a curtailment?  We’ll never know.

Mr. Hicks on his May 8 testimony before the Oversight Committee also said this:

“After I arrived in Tripoli as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) on July 31, 2012, I fast became known as the Ambassador’s “bulldog,” because of my decisive management style.”

But why would anyone need a “bulldog” in a collegial embassy setting?

The American Bulldogs is one of the Top 10 Banned Dog Breeds (banned in Denmark, Singapore and various municipalities, the dog’s specialty is catching feral hogs and it is known for its very high pain threshold).  Meanwhile, the American Kennel Club (AKC) also says that a Bulldog’s “disposition should be equable and kind, resolute and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and demeanor should be pacific and dignified.” Take your pick.

Voluntold Curtailment

We don’t know Mr. Hicks and we’ve never meet him.  We have previously sent him a couple of emails but those were never acknowledged, so we’re not e-pals either.  We know that Tripoli was his first assignment as a DCM, so there is no paper trail on OIG inspections that we can locate.  The folks who worked for him (at least those who talked to the press) could only point to a bad choice in wardrobe as an example of bad performance. By his own admission, he “voluntary curtailed” from his assignment in Tripoli barely three months into his tour. Following the Benghazi attack, the Libya mission went on ordered departure. Curtailment during OD is widely viewed as a “no fault” curtailment, which in turn means, there would be no career repercussions.

But people inside the building also know that if you say “no” to management’s suggestion of voluntary curtailment, you risk incurring a “loss of confidence.”  Even if you say “no,” the chief of mission can still request the Director General of the Foreign Service for curtailment. Except in this case, management will be required to: (1) Include background information on any incidents that support the request(2) Confirm that the employee has been informed of the request and the reasons therefore; and (3) Confirm that the employee has been advised that he or she may submit comments separately.  In short, the bosses will need to do the work to justify an involuntary curtailment.

So when your leadership suggest that you take a “voluntary” curtailment, you can either say “yes” even if you don’t want to shorten your assignment, or you can say “no” and still be curtailed anyway.

Perhaps when people sign their names to a “voluntary” curtailment request that they don’t want, it should be appropriately called “voluntold”curtailment?

How will this end?

Assignments in the Foreign Service are typically handed out a year before the actual job rotation. So if one curtails from an assignment, one does not have a lot of jobs to choose from and may have to take what is normally called a “bridge” assignment.  An assignment between your previous job and the next assignment with a start date in the foreseeable future.  We don’t know what happened in this case but — paging —

Rep. Jackie “I think this committee will help you get a good onward assignment” Speier — where are you?

This Week’s interview did not indicate Mr. Hicks’ current assignment.  But a couple of things we should note:

1) Mr. Hicks ran for State-VP in the 2013 AFSA election and failed in his quest to represent the Foreign Service. (see AFSA Elections 2013: Unofficial Results, Asada Defeats Hicks2013 AFSA Election Results: 3,505 Out of 16,000+ Members Voted, Plus Vote Count By Candidate).  His congressional testimony occurred just prior to the AFSA elections where he ran in the slate of the IAFSA Coalition.  It was a typical low turn out election.   If there were sympathy votes, there were not enough to overcome  his closest opponent; he lost by about a hundred votes.

2) If Mr. Hicks was not in trouble before, he could be in trouble now for going on “This Week…” without prior clearance under FAM 4170 Official Clearance of Speaking, Writing, and Teaching.  This is something that similarly “got” Mr. Van Buren in hot water during his very public battle with the State Department bureaucracy (After a Year of Serious Roars and Growls, State Dept Officially Retires FSO-Non Grata Peter Van Buren).

The question now is how far will this escalate.

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US Embassy Juba: Dear Congress, This Facility Puts Employees “At Risk” But Hey, Waivers

By Domani Spero

The South Sudan gained independence on July 9, 2011, after being at war with Sudan for nearly 40 of the past 57 years. USCG Juba became an embassy the same time.  In early 2013, State/OIG conducted an inspection of the USG’s newest embassy in the world. The mission is headed by Ambassador Susan D. Page who arrived at post in December 2011; DCM Michael McClellan arrived at post in September 2012.  At just one paragraph, the leadership section of the OIG report is a haiku and the shortest we’ve seen ever.

For all those folks in Congress almost tearing their hair silly over the Benghazi talking points, here is one for you – Juba.  And this one is actually an embassy not a special mission like Benghazi.

Map of Juba, South Sudan

Map of South Sudan

Backgrounder excerpted from the OIG report:

The United States invested significant high-level energy and funding in the process that led to South Sudan’s 2011 referendum and subsequent independence. The South Sudan Government and people have a positive opinion of the United States for its role in their independence. However, the country faces severe and long-standing security, economic, and development challenges supplemented by worrisome government measures to restrict human and civil rights.

South Sudan is among the world’s poorest countries. The literacy rate is 27 percent, and half the population of 10.6 million is under the age of 18. The population of Juba has expanded to 1 million, a tenfold increase over the past decade. Although South Sudan has substantial oil reserves, exploitation requires trans-shipment of the crude oil to the Red Sea via Sudanese pipelines. The economy has deteriorated since January 2012, when the government shut down oil production as the result of disputes with Sudan. There is very little manufacturing or commercial farming, and most products are imported. The country suffers from a severe shortage of foreign currency. The United States and South Sudan have no significant bilateral trade.

The United States is the largest bilateral donor to South Sudan, providing $632 million in FY 2012. Since 2005, the United States has provided $10 billion in humanitarian, development, peacekeeping, and reconstruction assistance to South Sudan and eastern Chad. In South Sudan there are an estimated 212,000 refugees, 114,000 of them displaced, and since 2010, 691,000 returnees from Sudan. Fighting across the borders continues, resulting in new refugee flows.

One of the OIG’s key findings is that the Department has been unable to staff Embassy Juba adequately, “preventing the embassy from functioning as effectively as it should.” It operates out of a small chancery deemed too small to accommodate additional staff and the new embassy is not scheduled for construction until 2018.

But post is not short on ambition. Its 2014 Mission Resource Request includes as one of its goals “the elimination of conflicts in flashpoint areas;”  in a country that has only known war in 40 of the past 57 years.


Facility Puts Embassy Employees At Risk

The embassy compound is too small and operates under waivers for a number of security standards. The embassy cannot accommodate the personnel necessary to advance U.S. interests effectively and to manage and monitor the $1.6 billion development program—the largest in Africa. A recent USAID/South Sudan staffing review found the need for 27 new positions to oversee programs properly. Staffing on the policy side is also insufficient to meet Washington’s high demand. All reporting offices work long hours trying to keep up with questions from the National Security Council Staff, S/USSESSS, the Department, and the Combatant Command for Africa (AFRICOM).

The current facility puts embassy employees at risk. The inability to add more staff leaves assistance programs vulnerable to failure or misuse of funds. The Department has decided to keep the mission with its current footprint until construction of a new embassy. It will be a number of years, however, until the new embassy is ready. In the meantime, personnel and the integrity of our programs are at risk.

Tour of Duty

When Consulate General Juba became an embassy in July 2011, the Department specified that tours of duty would be unaccompanied and 1 year in duration, with two rest and recuperation trips. The Ambassador has developed policies to increase time on the ground, including a November 2012 policy setting a maximum of 33 days that an officer could be away from post. Frequent absences due to illness further reduce time in the office. The 1-year tour of duty has a number of negative consequences. Officers find it difficult to conduct policy advocacy effectively, because it takes so long for them to learn their portfolios and establish personal contacts with South Sudanese officials. They often do not have time to understand, oversee, and shape foreign assistance programs. Frequent rotations also result in ineffective management of locally employed (LE) staff, causing them to take less initiative due to shifting priorities.

Below are a few more items in the report that we thought striking .  We will blog separately about the consular operation there.

  • There is no entry-level officer development program at Embassy Juba. The two entry- level officers interact with the DCM on a regular basis, but there are no activities directed to their long-term career development.
  • The invisibility of the EEO counselor at a post with many junior officers and new LE staff members could account in part for the lack of EEO complaints. Local guard force personnel indicated on questionnaires and interviews that they had been victims of tribalism, favoritism, and other discrimination. Without the guidance of certified, trained personnel and ready access to pertinent information, mission employees cannot resolve EEO issues and are vulnerable to workplace discrimination.
  • The embassy’s limited computer platform leaves officers tracking upcoming visitors and reports on dry-erase whiteboards. Department-issued BlackBerry devices do not work in South Sudan.
  • Few employees use the embassy SharePoint site, inaugurated in October. Instead, they email documents to one another, inevitably missing some employees and spawning multiple requests for updates.
  • When asked how they track contacts, officers showed inspectors piles of business cards. These stacks are practically meaningless without context, which officers lack because of complete turnover in American staffing each summer.

Public Diplomacy Fail: $600 Million in Aid and Locals Don’t Know It’s From Uncle Sam?

 The PAO does not hold regular planning meetings with the Ambassador or the DCM, and there is no mission public diplomacy strategy. Other than the daily “gaggle” in the Ambassador’s office, which concentrates mostly on the agenda of the day, the only planning meeting is the weekly extended political section meeting once a week on Fridays. That meeting does not lend itself to an exchange of information on how the public affairs section can support mission objectives.

The USAID mission has a budget of more than $600 million, but USAID public affairs support is located in Washington. The Ambassador is an active promoter of USAID activities and often opens projects for them. USAID has brought on board an LE staff member in public affairs and is now in the process of hiring a documentation, outreach, and communications U.S. direct hire. It is important for the PAO to think ahead about how best to coordinate her work and that of the USAID documentation, outreach, and communications officer. As is, according to one interviewee, “the man on the street has no idea that the United States is contributing more than $600 million in assistance to South Sudan.”

The full report is available here.

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Significant Attacks Against U.S. Diplomatic Facilities/Personnel From 1998-2012

by Domani Spero

The State Department recently released its compilation of significant attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel from 1998 to 2012.

The list notes that some attacks may not be included because, in certain cases, the motivation of the attacks could not be determined. In other cases, violence against individuals may not have been reported through official channels.  It says that the information is not an all-inclusive compilation but “a reasonably comprehensive listing of significant attacks.”

Thousands of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, breaking windows, setting fire to the Consular Section entrance, and causing extensive damage. (U.S. Department of State Photos)

Thousands of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, breaking windows, setting fire to the Consular Section entrance, and causing extensive damage. 2012 (U.S. Department of State Photo)

Below is the list of attacks in 2012 We have highlighted in red all attacks with death or injuries, including incidents where the casualties are non-Americans.

JANUARY 1 TO DECEMBER 31 – IRAQ: Unknown individuals targeted the U.S. Consulate in Kirkuk with indirect-fire attacks on 41 separate occasions; additional indirect-fire attacks were launched against other U.S. interests in Iraq.

*FEBRUARY 2, 2012 – BAMAKO, MALI: Demonstrators attacked a U.S. Embassy vehicle with stones while the vehicle was en route to evacuate Mission dependents from a local school. A second Embassy vehicle also was attacked in a different location. There were no injuries in either incident.

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals attacked a U.S. Army convoy carrying one Embassy employee, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding two others.

MARCH 2, 2012 – ADEN, YEMEN: A gunman fired three rounds into the side window of a U.S. Embassy vehicle. No one was hurt in the attack.

MARCH 17, 2012 – FARYAB PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Insurgents fired two rockets at the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound. No injuries or damage were reported.

MARCH 24, 2012 – URUZGAN PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: An explosive device detonated against a vehicle outside an entry control point of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound, killing four Afghan National Police officers and one local national.

MARCH 26, 2012 – LASHKAR GAH, AFGHANISTAN: An individual dressed in an Afghan National Army uniform killed two International Security Assistance Force soldiers and wounded another at the main entry control point of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound.

APRIL 12, 2012 – VALLEY OF THE APURIMAC, ENE, AND MANTARO RIVERS, PERU: Presumed members of Sendero Luminoso terrorist group fired on a U.S. government-owned helicopter, killing one Peruvian police officer and wounding the Peruvian crew chief.

APRIL 15 TO 16, 2012 – KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: The U.S. Embassy compound sustained minor damage after heavily armed gunmen attacked several diplomatic missions and Afghan government buildings throughout the city.

APRIL 16, 2012 – GHOR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals attacked a U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound with small-arms fire but caused no injuries.

APRIL 16, 2012 – MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Protesters stole several letters from the sign at the Embassy front gate and threw paint onto the building.

JUNE 6, 2012 – BENGHAZI, LIBYA: An explosive device detonated outside the U.S. Special Mission, leaving a large hole in the perimeter wall but causing no injuries.

JUNE 16, 2012 – PAKTIKA PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown gunmen opened fire on a U.S. Embassy helicopter, striking the aircraft and rupturing its fuel tank, but causing no injuries.

AUGUST 8, 2012 – ASADABAD CITY, AFGHANISTAN: Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives near U.S. provincial reconstruction team members walking near Forward Operating Base Fiaz, killing three U.S. service members and one USAID employee, and wounding nine U.S. soldiers, one U.S. diplomat, four local employees, and one Afghan National Army member.

SEPTEMBER 3, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden vehicle attacked a U.S. Consulate General motorcade near the U.S. Consulate General’s housing complex, injuring two U.S. officials, two locally employed staff drivers, a local police bodyguard, and several other policemen providing security for the motorcade.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2012 – ZABUL PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: The U.S. provincial reconstruction team was targeted with two improvised explosive devices, but suffered no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 – BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Unknown individuals on the ground fired at a U.S. Embassy aircraft, but caused no damage to the aircraft and no injuries to those on board.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2012 – JERUSALEM: A “flash-bang” device was thrown at the front door of an official U.S. Consulate General residence, damaging an exterior door and hallway, but causing no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 11 TO 15, 2012 – CAIRO, EGYPT: Protesters overran U.S. Embassy perimeter defenses and entered the Embassy compound. No Americans were injured in the violent demonstrations that continued for four days.

SEPTEMBER 11 TO 12, 2012 – BENGHAZI, LIBYA: Attackers used arson, small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars against the U.S. Special Mission, a Mission annex, and U.S. personnel en route between both facilities, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. government personnel, wounding two U.S. personnel and three Libyan contract guards, and destroying both facilities.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Demonstrators, at the U.S. Embassy to protest inflammatory material posted on the Internet, threw stones at the compound’s fence and tried to get to the Embassy perimeter wall, before police secured the area.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 – SANA’A, YEMEN: Protesters stormed the Embassy compound, looting property and setting several fires. No U.S. citizens were injured in the attack. Throughout the day, groups of protesters harassed the U.S. Embassy and a hotel where Embassy personnel were residing.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – CHENNAI, INDIA: Protesters outside the U.S. Consulate General threw a Molotov cocktail, causing some damage but no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – KHARTOUM, SUDAN: An angry mob threw rocks at the U.S. Embassy, cut the Mission’s local power supply, and used seized police equipment to battle the Embassy’s defenders, damaging more than 20 windows and destroying several security cameras.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Protesters breached the U.S. Embassy wall and caused significant damage to the motor pool, outlying buildings, and the chancery. Separately, unknown assailants destroyed the interior of the American Cooperative School. No U.S. citizens were injured in either attack.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2012 – KARACHI, PAKISTAN: Protesters broke through police lines and threw rocks into the U.S. Consulate General perimeter, damaging some windows but causing no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 – JAKARTA, INDONESIA: Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and other material at the U.S. Embassy to protest inflammatory material posted on the Internet, injuring 11 police officers and causing minor damage to the Embassy.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 – BEIJING, CHINA: Protesters surrounded the U.S. ambassador’s vehicle and caused minor damage to the vehicle, but no injuries were reported.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Demonstrators outside the U.S. Consulate threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and pulled down a billboard showing a U.S. flag.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2012 – LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: During a demonstration by thousands of protesters outside the U.S. Embassy, an unknown individual threw a rock at the building, damaging a ballistic- resistant window.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012 – KOLKATA, INDIA: Protesters marched toward the American Center, rushed the gates, and threw sticks and stones at the facility, causing minor damage to a window.

OCTOBER 1, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals opened fire on the U.S. provincial reconstruction team facility with small-arms fire, but caused no injuries.

OCTOBER 4, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN:Unknown individuals targeted the U.S. provincial reconstruction team with small-arms fire, but caused no injuries.

OCTOBER 11, 2012 – SANA’A, YEMEN: The U.S. Embassy’s senior foreign service national investigator was shot and killed in his vehicle by gunmen on a motorcycle. The terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack.

OCTOBER 13, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: A suicide bomber detonated a suicide vest as a delegation of U.S. and Afghan officials arrived for a meeting, killing two U.S. citizens and five Afghan officials.

OCTOBER 29, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Two men in a car harassed and threw a can at a U.S. military officer assigned to the Embassy who was driving a vehicle with diplomatic license plates. The officer was not injured in the incident.

NOVEMBER 4, 2012 – FARAH, AFGHANISTAN: An unknown individual attacked the U.S. provincial reconstruction team facility with a grenade but caused no injuries.

NOVEMBER 18, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Two mortar rounds exploded near U.S. Consulate General housing, injuring one local guard and damaging the consul general’s residence with shrapnel.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012 – JAKARTA, INDONESIA: Demonstrators, protesting inflammatory material posted on the Internet, threw objects at the U.S. Embassy.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012 – MEDAN, INDONESIA: Demonstrators at the American Presence Post damaged a vehicle gate in an attempt to gain access to the ground floor of the building.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: A round of indirect fire landed near a U.S. Consulate General residence but did not detonate and caused no injuries or damage.

DECEMBER 4, 2012 – DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Demonstrators surrounded a U.S. Embassy vehicle on the road, attempted to set it afire, and threw rocks and bricks at it, shattering several windows and injuring the driver.

DECEMBER 22, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Protesters forced their way into the Ministry of Justice to confront a visiting delegation of U.S. government investigators. No one was hurt in the encounter, but photos of the U.S. investigators inside the Ministry of Justice were later posted on social media and other Internet sites.

The complete list is accessible online here.

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What Really Happened in Consulate Benghazi? The Truths Are Out There, Lots of Them …

Updated 9/25

Patricia Kushlis of WhirledView has her own questions here.

One more question: What role did social media played in this attack?  I am told that Ambassador Stevens was scheduled to open the “American Space” in Benghazi, that’s why he was there. A day before the attack, the Embassy tweeted this:

In late August, Ambassador Stevens opened the Consular Section in Tripoli.  If bad guys were monitoring the embassy’s media digs, one could easily guess that the Amb or someone higher up in the Embassy would be the official to open the new American Center in Benghazi. In fact, the Public Affairs Officer and the Economic Officer were both scheduled to be there with him for the opening. So all the bad guys would have needed was to stay ready and watch for an opportunity to attack. –DS

* * *

In the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack, UK’s The Independent reports that sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack.

An Angry Crowd and Security People Run Away

It also reported that the Benghazi compound perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff.

Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near the compound said: “The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”

Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya’s Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post:  “There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet.”

Or There Wasn’t a Single Ant and Then There were 125 Armed Men

A Libyan guard at the Consulate in Benghazi (apparently one who did not run away) interviewed by McClatchy News in the hospital where he was being treated for five shrapnel wounds in one leg and two bullet wounds in the other, said that the consulate area was quiet – “there wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said – until about 9:35 p.m., when as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound from all directions.

Mohammad al Bishari who had leased the compound to the USG also said in the same McClatchy report that the attack began with assailants carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and the black flag of Ansar al Shariah moving from two directions against the compound.

How did he know that? Was he an eyewitness?

Ambassador Rice on Spontaneous

On September 16, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos: “What this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated response to what happened in Cairo.”

Really now. This was five days after the attack. Surely Ambassador Rice, said to be in the short list as the next Secretary of State if there is an Obama II term could have waited a while longer. The State Department had already announced that the FBI is investigating; five days after the attack with no official presence on the ground, with the consulate compound not even secured by US or Libyan Forces to protect forensic evidence, how do we know that this attack was spontaneous or premeditated?   (The FBI arrived in Libya on September 18). I wonder what do you gain by going on teevee and saying this when the investigation is ongoing?

Blue Mountain Contracted Guards at Consulate Benghazi

On September 17, Danger Room reported that four months before the Benghazi attack, the State Department signed a contract for ** “security guards and patrol services” at a cost of $387,413.68. An extension option brought the tab for protecting the consulate to $783,284.79. The contract which is for the Local Guard Program lists only “foreign security awardees” as its recipient. But Danger Room has confirmed that the contract recipient was Blue Mountain, a British company that provides “close protection; maritime security; surveillance and investigative services; and high risk static guarding and asset protection.” (** Go to the Federal Procurement Data System and search of Benghazi to view contracts, site does not have permalink)

Libyan Officials on Warnings, Preplanned Attacks

In any case, on September 19, CNN’s Arwa Damon reported that Libyan military officials told her, that just three days before the attacks, the Libyans had a meeting with senior employees from the consulate where they were talking about this rising threat against western interests.  Supposedly , the Libyan officials said the meeting highlighted the point that the Libyan government could not control militias.

As if somehow that was news to the Americans whose compound was previously attacked in June and where one car was almost carjacked in Tripoli just a month ago.

Then on September 20, WaPo reports that Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf said in an interview on CBS’s “Face The Nation:”

“The way these perpetrators acted, and moved … and they’re choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no, this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, determined…predetermined.”

GOP Intel Chair on Non-Protest in Benghazi

On September 23, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union: “I have seen no information that shows that there was a protest going on as you have seen around any other embassy at the time.[…] It was clearly designed to be an attack.”

But what did he see? Are they colored?

So of course, there are lots of questions

The office in Benghazi is not an American Presence Post (APP), and not a Consulate, Consulate General or Consular Agency.  It’s called the U.S. Office Benghazi and is not listed in the Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts, or in the State Department list of US embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions. And yet, there were roughly 30 personnel reportedly evacuated from the compound following the attack.  Who was in charged of the office? Other Government Agency?

Who knew about the location of the “safe house” in Benghazi? Who leaked the supposedly secret location?

What happened to the US contracted guards? Did they really run away? What were the nationalities of the US contracted guards? Were they Libyans, UK nationals, third country nationals, what? Who was or who were Ambassador Stevens’ closed in guards? Did he have a US direct hire RSO as one of his closed in guards or not? (WSJ reports that five armed State Department diplomatic security officers were at the consulate during the attack).

What happened to the Libyan guards who were responsible for the outer perimeter? Did they let the attack happen because they “absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate?” If they did not let the attack happen, how long before the Libyan forces reinforcement get to the compound?

How could the Libyan guard interviewed at a hospital tell that there were as many as 125 men attacking the compound? Did he count them while he was down?  Why was he shoot on the legs and not at any other part of his body? Were the militants firing at the ground?

Unidentified Libyan military officials tell CNN that they highlighted the “rising threat against western interests” during a meeting with consulate officials three days before the attack. Why? The rising threat is not a secret if you’re following Libyan news. Is this a CYA line of — we told them, we told them, and they did not do anything? Which consulate officials did they met?

Are people’s recollection of events generally reliable in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident like this, or are they generally reliable much later after they have thought about it some more?

Why would someone say there was an angry crowd and that guards put up little defense or ran away if that did not happen?

Why would  the reported commander of Benghazi Police force say that there were some people from the security forces who let the attack happen if that was not true? Did he not realized saying that sounds bad on the news, and makes Libyan forces look bad?

On the night he was killed, Sean Smith AKA Vile Rat was online with his friend The Mittani and wrote this:

(12:54:09 PM) vile_rat: assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures

If the consulate compound was so quiet that “there wasn’t a single ant outside” — why would one of the Libyan police guarding the compound be taking pictures? That would have been quite a boring picture, wouldn’t it?

And if there was already a shooting war with as many as 125 militants descending on the compound, and one of the Libyan police guarding the compound was taking pictures, was he no more than a spectator instead of doing his job of actually protecting the diplomatic compound?

Ansar al-Sharia, a hard-line Islamist militia has been linked to the attack on Benghazi; the group denied it. The Libyan President al-Magarief told Al Jazeera that he think this was Al Qaeda. Of course, his own Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al_Sharif also claimed during a news conference that those who attacked the U.S. consulate were Gaddafi loyalists.

Were the attackers Qaddafi loyalists? Were they Al Qaeda affiliates? If they are the latter, when was the last time an Al Qaeda group or subgroup passed up on a chance to gloat over dead Americans? Like never.  Are members of  Ansar al-Sharia the perpetrators of this horrific attack or are they the scapegoat for a collective national guilt?

I hope that the Accountability Review Board be convened quickly so they can start their work and provide answers to these questions and many more questions surrounding this attack.

Sean Smith died that night. He had no reason to spin what happened either way. But others sure have good enough reasons.

If this was a spontaneous attack, precipitated by the anti-Islam video clip, who gains?

If this was a premeditated, terrorist attack, who gains?

The truth is out there. The Libyan Government’s truth. The Libyan people’s truth. The American Government’s truth. The Dem’s truth, the GOP’s truth, this is an election year after all, so versions of truths is unsurprisingly de rigueur.

And somewhere in the middle of all that is the real truth.  I hope we get there. We owe it to our dead and their loved ones to find it.

Related articles

US Embassy Libya: Protesters storm the US Office in Benghazi, kill one American officer, wound others

Al Jazeera, citing Libyan security forces is reporting that an American staff member of the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound.

An armed mob attacked and set fire to the building in a protest against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt’s capital.

“One American staff member has died and a number have been injured in the clashes,” Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya’s Supreme Security Committee, said on Wednesday, adding that rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the building from a nearby farm.

The AP reports that  Libyan security forces outnumbered by the crowd did little to stop the protesters.  The mob overwhelmed the facility and set fire to it, burning most of it and looting the contents, witnesses said.

One American was shot to death and a second was wounded in the hand, al-Sharef said. He did not give further details.

The violence at the consulate lasted for about three hours, but the situation has now quieted down, said another witness.

Secretary Clinton released the following statement confirming the death of one officer and condemning the attack:

I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.

Benghazi is  the second largest city in Libya and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council during and immediately after the 2011 Libyan civil war. On June 6, 2012 there was an IED attack on the U.S. Office in Benghazi during the early morning hours. There were no casualties.  A few days later, there was another attack, this time on a UK diplomatic convoy in Benghazi on June 11. Two individuals sustained injuries. Last month, in the early morning of August 6, U.S. Embassy personnel were attacked by armed assailants in a possible carjacking in Tripoli. The personnel evaded the attack and arrived safely at their destination.  But on September 11, they finally got one of ours.

Our State Department source said that the officer killed was a TDYer out for a short stint in Benghazi.  We’re also hearing that top embassy officials were supposed to open the new American Corner in Benghazi on September 11. So it is possible that there were more people at the US Office in Benghazi than the normal number of staff when the attack happened. We will update blog post if we learn more.