An “emergency meeting” was held by U.S. diplomats in Libya nearly a month before the deadly attack that killed four Americans because al-Qaida training camps were in Benghazi and because the consulate could not defend itself against a “coordinated attack,” Fox News reports.
The revelations are based on a classified cable reviewed and reported by Fox on Wednesday. The emergency meeting was held on Aug. 15, and the cable summarizing the meeting – dated the next day – was marked “SECRET,” Fox reports.
The cable, addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, appeared to foreshadow the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Fox reports.
It also appears to contradict White House statements that the attack occurred without warning – and in response to anti-Muslim sentiment over a video produced by a California real estate developer.
According to the document, the U.S. State Department’s senior security officer – also known as the “RSO,” or Regional Security Officer – did not believe the consulate could be protected, Fox reports.
“RSO (Regional Security Officer) expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound,” the cable said.
Further, the consulate’s Emergency Action Committee was also briefed "on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi …,” the cable said.
“These groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs,’” Fox reports. Takfiris are fundamentalist Muslims who attempt to live life based on teachings from the early Islamic period.
Each U.S. mission abroad has a, “Emergency Action Committee” that oversees security and emergency planning, Fox reports.
The assault on the Benghazi compound was a coordinated, commando-style attack using direct and indirect fire. Al-Qaida in North Africa and Ansar al-Sharia, both mentioned in the cable, have since been implicated in the assault.
The cable also described the security situation in Benghazi as “trending negatively” – and specifically said that the mission would ask for more help.
“In light of the uncertain security environment, US Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to US Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover,” the cable said.
The cable also warned that intelligence was not clear regarding specific threats against the United States, cautioning that the Benghazi militias were not concerned with any significant retaliation from the Libyan government, which had apparently lost control in the city, Fox reports.
A briefing document with the cable explained that U.S. consulate officials “did not have information suggesting that these entities were targeting Americans but did caveat that (there was not) a complete picture of their intentions yet. RSO (Regional Security Officer) noted that the Benghazi militias have become more brazen in their actions and have little fear of reprisal from the (government of Libya.)”
On the day of the Sept. 11 attack, Stevens wrote a three-page cable about “growing problems with security” in Benghazi and “growing frustration” with the security forces and Libyan police, Fox reports.
Stevens said in his cable that he saw both entities as “too weak to keep the country secure,” Fox reports.
According to Fox, the Aug. 16 cable served as a direct warning to the State Department that the Benghazi consulate was vulnerable to attack, that it could not be defended, and that the presence of anti-U.S. militias and al-Qaeda was well-known to the U.S. intelligence community.
Fox asked State Department officials to respond to the contents of the Aug. 16 cable – as well as specific questions about who was specifically charged with reviewing the document and whether action was taken by Washington or Tripoli.
Other questions posed included that, given the specific warnings and the detailed intelligence provided in the cable, did the State Department consider extra measures for the consulate in light of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – and if no action was taken, who made that decision?
But State Department press officials declined to answer specific questions regarding the cable, citing its classified status.
"An independent board is conducting a thorough review of the assault on our post in Benghazi," Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement reported by Fox. "Once we have the board's comprehensive account of what happened, findings and recommendations, we can fully address these matters."
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