State Dept. stands by security procedures in Libya despite ambassador's death

A picture shows damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed.  (AFP Photo/Gianluigi Guercia)
Even after an assault a US diplomatic mission in Libya left four Americans dead, officials from the Obama administration insist that security on the scene was up to snuff, despite rampant warnings of a terrorist attack.

The attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 killed four US citizens, including Ambassador John Stevens, and conflicting reports are considering either the strike as either a response to an anti-Islam film produced in America or else a more broad terrorist attack involving Al-Qaeda affiliates. Regardless of the reasoning, though, the assault this month has largely left authorities in the US scrambling for answers and explanations. Nonetheless, the State Department says that they did everything in their power to prevent an atrocity.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal this week, a senior official with the US Department of State says that the administration’s “principal concerns” in Libya involved monitoring any attempts to damage the consulate with an improvised explosive device (IED), exactly what happened on June 6 when an explosive detonated outside the Benghazi compound. That being said, the department pleads that they took the necessary steps to protect the mission and its staff, even after the raid that ravaged the building earlier this month after took Mr. Steven’s life.

"Our security plan worked,” a second State Department official explains to the Journal.

Depending on who you ask, however, whatever security was in play in Libya might not have been enough. The New York Times reports that neither of the two US compounds in Benghazi were adequately secured, despite the administration’s claims that argue otherwise.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said at a congressional hearing this week that the attack should have been anticipated “based on the previous attacks against Western targets, the proliferation of dangerous weapons in Libya, the presence of Al-Qaeda in that country and the overall threat environment.” The Times says that American facilities in town were unprepared, however, and lacked protection from either the Marines or other military personnel, although initial news reports suggested just the contrary.

The Journal adds in their report this week that US officials repeatedly issued alerts in neighboring Egypt before anti-American protests ramped up ahead of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Sure enough, on 9/11 this year there were indeed protests outside the American embassy in Cairo, but those demonstrations are being blamed on “Innocence of Muslims,” a shoddily made American film uploaded to YouTube that portrays Islamic prophet Mohammad as a savage buffoon.

The White House initially suggested that the attack in Benghazi was conducted in response to the film as well, but evidence that has surfaced since points towards a terrorist attack. And although the US took great strides to ensure that another 9/11 didn’t occur at their Cairo establishment, security was lax enough in Libya to allow four Americans to be killed.

Days after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney suggested that the administration’s intelligence implies that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous response to the film, a senior counterterrorism official disputed that claim.

"We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda's affiliates, in particular al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said during a Senate hearing Wednesday. "I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy."

As far as the Obama administration is concerned, however, the war on terror is being waged as successfully as ever before.