Less than a month before heavily armed terrorists overwhelmed the U.S. Mission in Benghazi and killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the compound held an “emergency meeting” because al-Qaeda had training camps set up in Benghazi and the consulate could not withstand a “coordinated attack,” Fox News reports, citing a classified cable.
The Aug. 16 cable marked “SECRET” indicated that the State Department’s senior security officer, or the RSO, did not think the U.S. compound could withstand a sophisticated attack — like the one that occurred on 9/11.
“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 says.
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According to a review of the cable addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Emergency Action Committee was also briefed “on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi … these groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs.’” Each U.S. mission has a so-called Emergency Action Committee that is responsible for security measures and emergency planning.
The details in the cable seemed to foreshadow the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. compound, which was a coordinated, commando-style assault using direct and indirect fire. Al Qaeda in North Africa and Ansar al-Sharia, both mentioned in the cable, have since been implicated in the consulate attack.
In addition to describing the security situation in Benghazi as “trending negatively,” the cable said explicitly 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 secret cable did not warn of an imminent attack 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.)”
As Fox News first noted, the Obama administration’s official story is that there were no warnings prior to the Benghazi attack but the cables uncovered by Fox seem to indicate that there was a direct warning given regarding the U.S. compound in Libya being vulnerable to an attack.
Predictably, the State Department refused to provide specific answers to Fox News about the cable.
“An independent board is conducting a thorough review of the assault on our post in Benghazi…Once we have the board’s comprehensive account of what happened, findings and recommendations, we can fully address these matters,” Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said in written statement.