October 9th, 2012
07:48 PM ET

U.S. official sought more security for Benghazi post

By Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott

The State Department's top security official in Libya asked for extra security for the consulate in Benghazi in the months before the diplomatic post was overrun in a deadly attack but received no response from superiors, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The disclosure comes ahead of a congressional hearing on Wednesday on the armed assault that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on September 11. U.S. intelligence believes the incident was a terrorist act.

Eric Nordstrom, the regional security officer in Libya until this past July, had conveyed concerns about the Libyan government's ability overall to protect American diplomatic facilities.

Moreover, he sent two cables to State Department headquarters last March and again in July requesting additional security agents for the Benghazi post, but did not receive any response, according to a summary of his interview with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Democrats that was obtained by CNN.

The Republican-led panel's hearing will be the first on the attack.

State Department officials: Benghazi attack 'unprecedented'

Nordstrom told the committee that Deputy Assistant Secretary Charlene Lamb wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi "artificially low." Nordstrom said she generally believed that extra security was unnecessary because there was a residential safe haven to fall back on in an emergency, according to the summary.

She thought the "best course of action was to assign three agents" to the Benghazi post, the summary quoted Nordstrom as saying.

Nordstrom said the facility usually had three or four agents. But he also told the committee that Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy issued a memo last December requiring five agents be assigned to Benghazi.

Senior State Department officials have said security personnel in Benghazi were outmanned and outgunned during the attack and that no reasonable security presence could have successfully fended it off.

"The lethality and the number of armed people is unprecedented. There had been no attacks like that anywhere in Libya - Tripoli, Benghazi or anywhere - in the time that we had been there. And so it is unprecedented, in fact, it would be very, very hard to find precedent for an attack like in recent diplomatic history," a senior agency official said.

The Oversight Committee hearing has been criticized by Democrats as election-year political grandstanding rather than a serious effort to find answers about the attack.

Photos: Libya Consulate attack

Nordstrom, Lamb, Kennedy, and Army Lt. Col Andrew Wood, commander of a security support team in Tripoli, are expected to testify at the hearing.

Nordstrom also described in an email a list of specific security incidents that occurred in Libya from June 2011 to June 2012.

The email and the list of incidents provided to CNN by the Oversight Committee outlines examples common to conflict zones - like carjackings and grenade attacks - to more serious cases that include assassinations and an attack on the motorcade of the British ambassador.

The document describes a general increase in crime in Tripoli, the large numbers of armed civilians, clashes between rival militias, widespread unemployment, random violence and revenge killings.

One incident refers to a June 6, 2012, bomb attack on the consulate in Benghazi and notes that an al Qaeda-affiliated group had claimed credit.

The list concludes that "the risk of U.S. mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, and businesspersons encountering an isolating event as a result of militia or political violence is 'HIGH.' The government of Libya does not yet have the ability to effectively respond to and manage the rising criminal and militia related violence, which could result in an isolating event."

Democratic staff allege that Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa and his staff have failed to consult them, refused to make witness available to Democratic staff and withheld documents.

Democrats also assert that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the Oversight panel's security, homeland and foreign operations subcommittee, effectively excluded them from joining his delegation on a trip to Libya last weekend. But Chaffetz denied that was the case.

Romney knew ex-SEAL slain in Benghazi

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  12. Newt Gingrich

    The only way the Us Embassy in Libya could have been protected was if they had a full MILITARY UNIT there guarding.

    Increasing the number of agents from 3 to 5 would have made no difference against a sophisticated and coordinated attack.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  13. Newt Gingrich

    RIGHT-WING nuts cry: Obama LIED about Libya!

    No he didn't.

    MILLIONS of people in the MIDDLE-EAST were RIOTING because of that Christian Taliban video.

    The people in the streets of Libya were saying in regards to the US embassy: "That is what you get for insulting our religion."

    The first responsible act by the gov't is to CALM the RIOTERS down before more chaos pursues. The CHAOS was started with that Christian Taliban video. So that is where you start first.

    Calm the angry mob to prevent further bloodshed and chaos.

    Then you move on to finding the Al Qaedi terrorists.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
    • CB

      You torture and murder innocent people because of a film most people have never heard of? No, this is a ploy to shut the world up about what it is your Islamist/jihadist intend for the rest of the world. They are working through the UN Resolution 1618.
      Most religions live by the Golden Rule, "Treat others as you would be treated". This is not followed in your religion.

      Libya IS the Obama admin's reality. Knowing the deceit that has been perpetrated, this is not going away AND it will be "dealt" with. You can count on that!

      October 14, 2012 at 12:57 am | Reply
      • chulodo

        Yes, there are people who might torture and murder innocent people because of a film.
        This film was voluntarily blocked by Google in Libya and Egypt one to two days after the attack,
        which means that it was available (and likely viewed) for days or weeks previous to that.

        It appears that the attack was a coordinated effort of terrorists traveling from or near Egypt,
        which explains why the attack was sudden. Whether the administration knew about their approximation to the compound in the day(s) before the attack is unknown to me.

        October 14, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • buckshot44

      50 minute video currently custody of a branch of government created to supply intelligence will totally rebut any idea that there was a demonstration outside of the consulate. Survivors were airlifted to Tripoli and began debriefing in route, with none expressing any notion of demonstrations. Why the attempt to force people to believe something other than terrorism ?
      political bombs will be dropped this week in D.C., intel community will not take to being thrown under the bus. Warning issued for Libya September 1st.

      October 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  14. Newt Gingrich

    Any lack of security around the U.S. embassy could be directly attributable to budget cuts that GOP Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who voted for.

    On this morning’s Starting Point, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien called Chaffetz out during a tense interview:

    O’Brien: “Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?”

    Chaffetz: “Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country.”

    O’Brien: “Okay, so you’re prioritizing. So when there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you’ve just said, ‘absolutely’, that you cut — that you were the one to vote against — security for the State Department, which would lead to Benghazi. That seems to say that you had a hand in the responsibility for this.”

    Chaffetz: No.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  15. eville11

    I find it so frustrating, yet typical, that the events in Libya in the Arab Spring stages and now, the attack and killing of the Ambassador plus security force personnel, that security measures were so weak / ignorant to allow this too happen. I worked with some of the finest DoS agents overseas and cannot fathom those in Libya were of any less caliber. In saying that, I would tear up congress and the chain of command until they got their CYA stories shoved into the rear and somebody put some effort into a proper reactionary response and subsequent defensive measures. Lame excuse of video and being repulsive is over, its a sham, send in the seals and take the guilty out.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:37 am | Reply
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  16. marg

    US AMBASSADOR CHRISTOPHER STEVENS WOULD HAVE NEEDED A WAIVER TO MINIMIZE OR INCREASE SECURITY. AS THE TRUTH IS KNOWN AND HAS BEEN STATED : THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD AUTHORIZE THE WAIVER IS THE CAPITAL OF USA. THE DEPT OF STATE WITH THE ATTN. OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE USA. THEREFORE THE BLAMES FALLS ON THE LYBIAN AND THE AMERICAN HIGHER UP GOVERNMENT.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:32 am | Reply
  17. marg

    People are forgetting that the Lybian government should have assisted with security likewise, they do have a military as well. AMERICA IS THERE FOR THEIR (LYBIANS) INTEREST. Do you all not know that Egypt is in debt to America. Protesters should have been kept at a lengthy distance if the Lybian government felt it was ok to protest. EVERYONE AROUND THE WORLD KNEW THE CASTROPHY THAT TOOK PLACE IN AMERICA ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. On that note I would say, YOU DONT HIT THE HAND THAT AIDES YOU UNLESS YOU ARE THERE TO FUEL THE FIRE.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
  18. den

    Is CNN really this out of touch with what is going on in the US right now? The Obama administration is denying any knowledge of the Bengazi scandal, the world is burning in hatred at the US, State Department is flailing with disclaimers, etc. The end is near for this complacent, conniving administration. The house of cards is tumbling, yet CNN wants to bury it's head in the sand and talk about anything but the issues at hand. Sickening!

    October 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Reply
    • Mayfly

      Thank you for your clear speaking reaction. I'm shocked at the obvious omission by CNN of the terrorist attack in Libya against our embassy and the loss of life. Their silence is deafening....and telling

      October 11, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
  19. Mark Nolan

    Don't believe Clapper's a complete tool ? Google the words Diane Sawyer, Clapper, London, terror...And read about it with an open mind. Assuming you are capable of thinking for yourself.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  20. Mark Nolan

    This is the same complete idiot who just last year described Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as "largely secular." Does anyone in this administration have a bleeping clue. Clearly Clapper the Clueless Clown does not...

    October 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Reply
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  21. Mark Nolan

    Well ! I must say, I've heard many people defend their own persoanl brand of incompetence and other forms of shirking responsibility, but never I witnessed such unmatched eloquence and pompousness as spews from the maw of our good Professor Clapper !

    Bravo Monsieur ! Bravo ! Encore !

    Hey Stupid, you might wanna keep a copy of your idiotic speech for when the next embassy is attacked. Oh, and keep up the good work ! You're doing a fine job ! GIve that man a raise ! LOL

    October 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  22. Will Conaway

    Regardless of your politics, it is disapointing to see any administration attempt to cover up their mistakes, especially when those mistakes cost the lives of US citizens. Own up to it, learn from it and move FORWARD. Anything less will lead to a long road of denials, deception and delays in the enevitable uncovering of the truth.

    Perhaps even more disapointing is the backpage coverage of this topic which is enough to make one believe that there are truly bias outlets of media that would assume this go away. Shame.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Reply
    • Laura

      I completely agree with your post. I thought I would come to cnn.com to read about this story, but it is buried. This is important stuff!

      October 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply
    • Mayfly

      CNN is a tabloid.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:21 am | Reply
  23. MaryM

    from the Drudge report (very right wing) Is anyone surprised that the GOP's latest dog and pony show has its origins in the GOP's own intransigence and short-sightedness? Remember the facts when Issa's committee tries to paint the Obama Administration as the heavy over the attack in Benghazi. As usual, there is always more than one faction worthy of inspection if one is truly seeking to uncover what went wrong and how best to keep it from happening again.

    October 10, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  24. me

    Well, we can't have it both ways. If we want to increase security personnel we need to admit we need bigger government, increase spending and raise taxes to pay for the increase (as well as all the other stuff the politicians wanted to have but not pay for.)It's absurd on its face to complain that we didn't have extra security while refusing to approve and/or fund extra security. Raise my taxes and give our people what they need to be safe – abroad _and_ here at home – pay off some debt too while you're at it my kids have no interest in paying my bills.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Reply
    • crbrianb

      Increased security personel does not mean more big government. Big government is the government telling you how to live every aspect of your life, regulating every aspect of business, telling you that you make too much money and should feel guilty for it, etc. Get the government out of our lifes and let it serve to protect us as it should.

      October 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Reply
      • chulodo

        That's funny, crbrianb, because Romney's answer to "Big Government" is more massive tax cuts that will either boost the debt, impose more taxation elsewhere, or cause more weakness of services that was arguably the case here, as the State Department was allocating security based on the resources for which they were funded (after a $200 million to $300 million security cut by the Republican-led Congress recently).

        October 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
      • chulodo

        Furthermore, cbrianb, appropriate regulation is in place to protect people, and when it hasn't been in place, it has hurt.

        Exhibit A: the mortgage and wall-street meltdown which has cost billions if not trillions.
        Exhibit B: prior limits on mining that cost lives and workers' health.
        Exhibit C: the loose regulations on drilling in the gulf which hurt businesses AND people along the coast for months and is still showing aftereffects of the spill.

        October 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
      • Frederick1337

        Interesting viewpoint. Ideologically unsound to ask the government to protect you, when at the same time you are arguing to downsize it so that it can't. Paradox. Signed, the Federalist.

        October 11, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • sdb625

      If our president had ordered the Marines to protect the Consulate at Benghazi like he is suppose to do these 4 Americans may still be alive today, but he couldn't do that because then it would appear that everything was not okay and that AL-QAEDA IS ALIVE in spite of his lies to the American people. I hope he throws Hillary Clinton under the bus and then Bill Clinton will throw him under the bus. Go to GOOGLE and type in KAL PENN OBAMA AFFAIR. There are 137,000 results. Kal Penn is the presidents "male friend" and he studied sociology! Imagine that! They are predicting that once Obama is out of office the stories will start coming out about EVERYTHING!

      October 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  25. 1ofTheFllen

    TRANSPARENCY Obama – Lied about the Libyian embassy attacks and denied them more security in a country that just finished a revolution? Obama Lied about ObamaCare being cheaper and yet it is more expensive. Obama Lied about closing Guantamo, Balancing the and Reducing the National Debt and having a transparent administration. Obama has lied, lied, and lied over and over.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Reply
    • chulodo

      The Republican-led Congress had cut >$200 million in security personnel.
      The attack was unprecedented for the region.
      There was minimal warning for it.
      You are being disingenuous for blaming Obama for an event that was unreasonably foreseen.

      October 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
      • Frederick1337

        I have noticed the 2012 trend in circulation. Neither side wants to bring up anything, unless it suits their sides political agenda. I for the most part have tried to stay impartial, but from time to time I feel like its a black hole sucking me in to comment.

        October 11, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  26. drose

    CNN, shame on you for burying this story – I can't believe this is not on the front page of your website – this is huge – your story on Ann Romney's cake on Good Morning America is easier to find than this story on the Obama Administration's cover up of the terrorist attack (NOT a response to a video as they previously, and repeatedly, told mainstream America). I've given up on CNN to get the facts, your bias has now affected your ability to remain a trusty news source.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  27. KJMU

    The question is how a superpower like the US with hundreds of jets and helicopters nearby (south Italy and the Mediterranean Sea) did not send any help during the 4 HOURS of attack on the embassy in Libya? Using airpower smartly could stop these barbarians and save American lives! Who is responsible for abandoning our government officials there?

    October 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  28. Martin Thomas

    another burried story on a has-been liberal news site

    October 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Reply
    • tominil

      I had to search for it too Martin. CNN is a joke.

      October 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Reply
  29. Wade

    Obama LIED! PERIOD!

    October 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Reply
  30. lovemygirl

    One would think this story as it unfolds would be very damaging to the administration. It isn't just the poor decions made, the ignoring of repeated requets for better security but the coverup afterwards. We'll see how far up the food chain it goes.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  31. mb2010a

    Republicans should have done a little more research on how their Republican controlled House has been dealing with all this leading up to the attack on our embassy...this whole congressional hearing is going to backfire and hurt them more than Obama as all the facts come to light. Typical...

    October 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
    • crbrianb

      And what power does the house have over this? The President is called "The Commander in Chief" for a reason. If the house had any say in this, then they would be called "The House in Chief."

      October 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Reply
    • garbar

      obamas favorite excuse "lets blame the republicans"... guess what, Romeny Gov of massachusetts, was able to work with a state thats 80 percent democrat

      October 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  32. mb2010a

    GOP Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has repeatedly blamed President Barack Obama for the September 11th attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Chaffetz has also spearheaded the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s October 10th hearing to address the alleged security lapses that led to the deaths, in what the Salt Lake Tribune calls an “political stunt.” But it turns out that any lack of security around the U.S. embassy could be directly attributable to budget cuts that Chaffetz voted for.

    On this morning’s Starting Point, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien called Chaffetz out during a tense interview:

    O’Brien: “Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?”

    Chaffetz: “Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country.”

    O’Brien: “Okay, so you’re prioritizing. So when there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you’ve just said, ‘absolutely’, that you cut — that you were the one to vote against — security for the State Department, which would lead to Benghazi. That seems to say that you had a hand in the responsibility for this.”

    Chaffetz: No.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  33. benderrains

    "Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) acknowledged on Wednesday that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010.

    On Wednesday morning, CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien asked the Utah Republican if he had "voted to cut the funding for embassy security."

    "Absolutely," Chaffetz said. "Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,0000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”

    For the past two years, House Republicans have continued to deprioritize the security forces protecting State Department personnel around the world. In fiscal year 2011, lawmakers shaved $128 million off of the administration's request for embassy security funding. House Republicans drained off even more funds in fiscal year 2012 - cutting back on the department's request by $331 million. "

    October 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Reply
    • crbrianb

      I notice that you convientely skip the part about how this has been applied to the security evalution of an embassy. If an embassy is considered at risk, they get increased security. If an embassy isn't considered at risk their security forces get cut. There has been a number of embassies whose security forces have been increased, even as result of the budget policy you quoted. Why did the state department consider the Libyan embassy as a low risk, even though they kept getting requests and had tons of evidence showing elsewise?

      October 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Reply
  34. Brian

    CNN buried this article while featuring articles on depression and Lance Armstrong. This would be a death knell for a Republican but it is glossed over for The One

    October 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
    • crbrianb

      That's becaue the main stream media is becoming the former USSR's TASS.

      October 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Reply
      • chulodo

        Your paranoia is showing.

        USSR's TASS wouldn't have published it at all.

        Celebritiness sells better.

        This article is currently second on the list of "this just in".

        October 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • lilkidthings

      Exactly this. I am disturbed and completely disgusted with the situation. The lack of media attention is shameful.

      October 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • garbar

      cnn is just as bad as fox news now if not worse. They should start a new party TUMA, Tax us more already

      October 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  35. Jeffrey Miller

    CNN is just doing its job. Regardless of Mrs Clinton's fine reputation, three American citizens lost their lives and we need to make sure the propoer security is being provided to our diplimats so this doew not happen in the future.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  36. Hugo Corv

    So... the U.S. officials in Libya who were killed by terrorists, asked for protection MONTHS before the attacks.

    And President Obama repeatedly LIED, blaming the attacks on the exercise of free speech.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
    • Brian

      Obama lied and our ambassador died

      October 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  37. Enoughspin

    Glad to see CNN is still interested in covering real news, despite how damaging the truth may be to our President. This is what "leading from behind" does...it gets Americans killed. This cover up and refusal to accept accountability for a series of poor decisions is all too characteristic of our fearful leader. I suppose his next move is to apologize to Libya for causing this mess in Benghazi.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  38. pbcalif

    Why is CNN allowing "security analysts" like Fran Townsend, who has no credibility, to make inflammatory remarks about the Libyan attack? Why is CNN being generally inflammatory to promote foreign affairs issues simply because of the political debate coming up? It might do CNN justice to remember that Secretary of State Clinton is one of the most respected, well known, and able people in international affairs and to let someone like Townsend demean her credentials is shameful.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Reply
    • abbot

      Are you worried about when independent fact finder tell the truth. Are you so brainwashed that you will love Obama no matter what... just because he is Dem?

      October 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
      • Brian

        I think we both know the answer to that abbot, Dems don't like facts...

        October 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • thetruth

      I'm sure you wouldn't be saying that if a republican was in the WH. The political debate will be about the realities of the current foreign policies, and guess what???? Libya is a REALITY of the Obama administration's foreign policies. Deal with it!

      October 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Reply
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