Did the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Not Have Enough Security?

TIME speaks to the Libyan politician who had breakfast with U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on the day of the American's death

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Gianluigi Guercia / AFP / Getty Images

A Libyan man walks through debris at the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi on Sept. 13, 2012

A tomato-and-onion omelette, washed down with hot coffee: that was the last breakfast of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens’ life. And although the scene in the U.S. consulate’s canteen in Benghazi on Tuesday morning looked serene, under the surface there were signs of potential trouble, according to the Libyan politician who had breakfast with Stevens the morning before the ambassador and three other Americans died in a violent assault by armed Islamic militants. “I told him the security was not enough,” Fathi Baja, a political-science professor and one of the leaders of Libya’s rebel government during last year’s revolution, told TIME on Thursday. “I said, ‘Chris, this is a U.S. consulate. You have to add to the number of people, bring Americans here to guard it because the Libyans are not trained.”

(MORE: Death and the American Ambassador: What Happened in Benghazi?)

Stevens, says Baja, listened attentively — but it was too late. On Tuesday night, armed Islamic militants laid siege to the consulate, firing rockets and grenades into the main building and the annex, pinning the staff and its security detail inside the blazing complex; U.S. officials told reporters on Wednesday they believed it took Libyan security guards about four hours to regain control of the main building. In the chaos, Stevens was separated in the dark from his colleagues, and hours later was transported by Libyans to a Benghazi hospital, where he died, alone, apparently of asphyxiation from the smoke.

U.S. officials told reporters on Wednesday that the Benghazi consulate had “a robust American security presence, including a strong component of regional security officers.” And indeed, one of the four Americans killed was former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, who was “on security detail” and “protecting the ambassador,” his sister Katie Quigly told the Boston Globe. Also killed was an information-management officer, Sean Smith. The fourth American who died has not yet been identified. Yet Baja describes a very different picture from his visit on Tuesday morning, even remarking at how relaxed the scene was when he returned to the consulate building a short while after leaving Stevens, in order to collect the mobile phone he had accidentally left behind. “The consulate was very calm, with video [surveillance] cameras outside,” Baja says. “But inside there were only four security guards, all Libyans — four! — and with only Kalashnikovs on their backs. I said, ‘Chris, this is the most powerful country in the world. Other countries all have more guards than the U.S.,'” he says, naming as two examples Jordan and Morocco.

(MORE: Chris Stevens: The American Who Loved Libya)

With the compound now an evacuated, smoldering ruin, Baja, who befriended Stevens in Benghazi during last year’s seven-month civil war, and in recent weeks had shared long Ramadan dinners with him, says he felt stricken not only by the loss but also by the sense that perhaps the tragedy could have been averted, had there been tighter security on the ground, and — more especially — had Libya’s nascent government cracked down against armed militia groups. Bristling with weaponry, much of it from Muammar Gaddafi’s huge abandoned arsenals, groups of former fighters have been permitted to act as local security forces in towns across Libya during the postwar upheaval in order to fill the security vacuum, despite the scant loyalty among many of them to the new democracy. “Up to now, there has been cover from the government for these extremist people,” Baja says, adding that he and Stevens had discussed for months the urgent threats from armed militia. “[Government officials] still pay them salaries, and I think this is disgusting.”

President Obama vowed on Wednesday to help track down the attackers. U.S. officials suspect the attack was a planned operation, rather than the result of a demonstration that got out of control. In an opinion piece on CNN.com on Thursday, Noman Benotman, a former leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who now runs the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist organization in London, said he believed the attack had been the work of 20 militants. He told CNN that he believed a militant group called the Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades could have coordinated the attack, perhaps to avenge the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al-Qaeda leader, who died in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan last June; the group also claimed responsibility for the attack last May against the International Red Cross in Benghazi.

In the scramble to figure out what went so calamitously wrong, U.S. officials deployed 50 Marines to Tripoli from a base in Spain, as members of an elite antiterrorism force called FAST, according to the Associated Press, citing unnamed U.S. officials. In addition, two American warships have been stationed off the Libyan coast.

Ironically, Benghazi had ostensibly held a special bond, as well as a debt of gratitude, to the U.S. and other Western countries — something highlighted in the bitter comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, when she expressed dismay that the attack occurred in a city the U.S. helped to save. French and American military jets pounded Gaddafi’s forces outside the city in March last year, saving Benghazi from the threat of mass slaughter.

The deep fondness for the U.S. is indeed felt in Benghazi, according to Baja, who was head of the political-affairs committee for Libya’s National Transitional Council until the elected government was installed last month. Stevens and Baja had met on Tuesday morning primarily to plan the American Cultural Center’s official opening, which was scheduled for Wednesday evening. “There was going to be a big ceremony,” Baja says. “There was going to be English classes. It was a very nice place.”

Recalling what he told Stevens over their omelettes, Baja says, “I told him, people admire the U.S. style of life, but that there were extremists, and we have to work in a cooperative way to put an end to these people,” adding that he had advocated pushing Libyan officials to crack down on armed militia. “He agreed with that. He knew this, he knew the names of the militia I told him, and their background.” Now that knowledge — some of it gone with Stevens’ disastrous death — could become key details in the grim investigation.

PHOTOS: Protests Rage in Middle East, Sparked by Mysterious Anti-Islamic Film

97 comments
gen_jake61@yahoo.com
gen_jake61@yahoo.com

Why on earth did the Americans give up the embassy in Libya .They had two large American war ships in the area full of marines, why did they not clean house and take back the embassy instead of turning tail and getting out of there as fast as they could .…Now look at the mess !.. Its embarrassing . In the early days the used to say the Americans are coming , now the say the Americans are running

Reed
Reed

Today brings an accurate story of how the biased liberal media lies for the WH, this will only destroy our country. This administration has done the opposite of transparency, we cannot believe the biased media anymore. The Fast and Furious facade, the U S consolate in Libya facade, this must stop. The sane thing is people are waking up to the hypocrisy and fabrications they throw our way, they think your stupid, needy welfare takers. Obama wants to destroy this country, his friends before the 2008 was enough information to understand his dislike to the U S.Mitt will be good for everyone, the people that are unable to work will not be tossed aside, Mitt will take care of everyone while producing jobs. We are faced with the collapse like GREECE if you people don't realize the presidents agenda. You wont need to worry about welfare as the money will run out then people will be looting. Crime will increase with the debt this man has toppled on our country, do the math, it will run dry.

Justin Andrews
Justin Andrews

Better to be attacked OVER THERE..then OVER HERE... .. such idiots..

cm6096
cm6096

The only thing really missing is obama standing under a mission accomplished banner for the whole rediculous failure of foreign policy to be complete.

armchrexpert
armchrexpert

US just doesn't know what security looks like.  When I was living overseas, to pay the phone bill at Cable amp; Wireless, I entered a secured compound with armed guards, through locked bullet proof doors, then into a room with more armed guards, and finally to a bulletproof booth with a sliding intrusion resistant-slot.  That phone company was better locked down than any US bank. 

Viking.
Viking.

Anyone

that says anything against Islam is dismissed as an extreme

right-wing racist by the Left and subjected to death threats from

Islamists. Take an objective look at the objectives of Islam as

dictated by Mohammed and you will find that the anti-Islamists are

very sane people that have actually read the teachings of Mohammed.

We're going to end up with an Islamist bloc across the whole of the

Middle-East. The result being an intensified terrorist war against

the West. We shouldn't help them achieve their objectives.

ersatzear
ersatzear

Disturbing reports coming out of the UK. According to diplomatic officials, the Obama admin knew about this planned attack 48 hours in advance and did nothing. 

Michael Nixon
Michael Nixon

Amateur hour in the White House, I at least thought Hillary had her act together but I guess not.  The Arab Spring is over and paid for in American blood.  HOPEing for CHANGE in November!

JAG
JAG

and to debunk another MYTH..... the Marines did have LIVE Ammunition in Egypt and Libya..... 

That was ANOTHER Right Wing LIE!!!!! 

Ladies and Gentlemen-

The following information is provided regarding Marine involvement in the recent actions in Egypt and Libya:Egypt:

-The Ambassador did not impose restrictions on weapons or weapons status on the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) detachment. 

The MCESG Marines in Cairo were allowed to have live ammunition in their weapons. 

The Ambassador and Regional Security Officer have been completely and appropriately engaged with the security situation. Reports of Marines not being able to have their weapons loaded per direction from the Ambassador are not accurate.

JAG
JAG

and WHAT exactly would have been enough security from a grenade launcher????

and to all getting on Obama about his President's Daily Brief.... You really think he does NOT get this brief, even if it has no formal schedule???

and you really think he is not updated EVERY freaking minute of the day..... 

and anybody going on with rumors about what happened to Chris Stevens is just disgusting.... he died of smoke inhalation..... and was found right after he died.... they did NOTHING to his dead body.... STOP with the disgusting rumors.... 

lastly... Security at Embassies has different rules, being it is on foreign soil.... 

Prashant Chegoor
Prashant Chegoor

Americans should understand that the Freedom of Speech they enjoy here is something which is not allowed/encouraged/properly understood  in other nations ,especially the MUSLIM World. As such making controversial videos and circulating them with the aim  of so called "CHANGE"  has Dangerous consequences as is evident in the recently. Then why make such videos and cause harm to innocent people both  Americans and others living in other parts of the world? Why cannot we respect life and think Real hard before making such videos and bragging about them and circulating them.Isn't there a sense of Responsibility associated with Freedom of Speech? Just because this kind of Freedom of speech is  Tolerated in this Country does not mean it shall be tolerated around the World. Then why  disturb the peace in other nations? Also i am pretty sure the people who have resorted to arson ,vandalism  and murder in Libya and in Egypt do not understand english ,are young and brainwashed into believing that everything Anti Islam posted on the Web is an endorsement by the US Govt.And we cannot change this sentiment no matter what we do in those countries.So why  fan the fire by such videos.Islamic radicals are barbarians and they do not deserve ANY mercy but then we should not give them a chance to brainwash other  young people by using such videos. It is good we have Freedom of Speech and it is fundamental for a Democracy to thrive but we should not misuse it for dangerous consequences.And just look at this SAM BACILE guy , he makes a movie of false propaganda by apparently "tricking" the actors , but does not even have the GUTS to show his FACE and identify as who he really is . SHAME on such a Person. Having said all this i think the Approach taken by President and Secretary of State are Appropriate and the right way to handle this kind of Sensitive situation.It is necessary to condemn videos which are made in the name of Freedom of Speech but which cause so much harm to Americans and others Outside.

And MITT ROMNEY is an Idiot to accuse the President of apologizing .Mitt probably does not know that President has tremendous responsibility and he has to choose his WORDS carefully.Mitt according to me is UNFIT to be a President.Words make a lot of difference , it may not be the case  here but it DOES in other nations.A person who cannot control his emotions but instead steps in front of the Media just because his poll numbers are dwindling and then points finger at the President is according to me no Leader himself.Dirty tactics Mr ROMNEY. 

I urge Americans to please dig into the History and see how Saddam (supplying him with Chemical weapons to use against Iran),Shah of Iran (  Reinstating him by overthrowing the democratically elected Prime minister Mossadegh in staged Coup) and Mujahideens were supported the by CIA and others and as a result we see the mess in the Arab World and the Alqeada led terrorism.Just read the book "TALIBAN" by Ahmed Rashid to get an idea of how these Mujahideens were religiously brainwashed by CIA , ISI and the Saudi Govt to overcome the "Godless" Russians. We should not forget the HISTORY because it has the Sideaffect of BLOWBACK for future genrations as we are seeing now. We should aim NOT to repeat these mistakes by first acknowledging the past Mistakes.Because in the end we want peace all over the World and not just  the USA  for now and in the future. 

In the end, My deepest condolences to the departed Embassy members.They laid down their lives protecting the interests of Libya and the values of America.They deserve our full respects.I hope their killers are HUNTED down mercilessly.

morningdove
morningdove

There is never enough security in a hateful world. The only security is to live a good life with integrity. Then whatever happens your life has been lived with dignity and respect. THe hatred, greed and lying over taking our world is not who we really are. We are much better than this. May truth, wisdom and peace prevail.

ronzup
ronzup

sorry Baja lost a friend,we lost a man dedicated to serve our country with extreme dedication.It never should happen,all diplomats in over seas duties should be assured  safety from the host country.The Libyian people should exact the punishment for the murder of these men with the same ferocity they used to liberate their country.From what has been reported this man did alot to help the people of Libyia,and asside from his family,and his country,they will feel his loss most.Im sure the lack of security was caused from confidence since we would believe the authorities would squash any uprising for an allie.

Steven Janiszewski
Steven Janiszewski

Obviously not enough security. But who knew? It is a

long-standing religious war. Mitt “Cyborg” Romney wants to stir

it up, because he is a puppet of the Mormon Church. To

gain an existential understanding of the cult that produced Mitt

"Cyborg" Romney, and to get your socks scared off, read The

Assassination of Spiro Agnew, available

in paperback and ebook at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb...

Its unwilling, part-Mexican Mormon assassin

dramatizes the Mormon superiority complex, manifesting it as racism,

sexism, jingoism and an anti-federal government temperament.

His research in the new library reveals ominous similarities

between Islam and Mormonism. The spiritual power behind the cult,

which is not the Holy Ghost, acts out.

“With a clarity of language and vision unsurpassed

in contemporary American prose, Steven

Janiszewski's Assassination

of Spiro Agnew takes

us into a U.S. mazed with madness and Mormonism and all

things Utah, a U.S. that was then and still is. Do we need a novel,

even as brilliant as this one, about a young man on a divine mission

to assassinate the Vice President because he is too liberal? Yes, now

more than ever. Readers, welcome to a masterpiece.”

Tom Whalen

www.tomwhalen.com

Read The Assassination of Spiro Agnew.

Word has it that David Axlerod enjoyed its

post-modern style as much as he relished being abhorred by the Mormon

experience.

salxedo
salxedo

According to our media there is one, just one important issue in this event: Romney remarks

hiruu
hiruu

The place GOT ROCKETED...not sure what more security would have done to stop that...except get killed in the attack as well.

carlos333777
carlos333777

 Ambassador Stevens got what he deserved for being so thoroughly stupid. He was warned about what could happen. How can anybody who is supposedly an intelligent ambassador love people who wanted to kill him? The Americans did not kill any of the bastards who committed this crime. SHAMEFUL!!!

usnavy83
usnavy83

At the Egypt Embassy, the Marines are not allowed to have live AMMO!! outrageous!!

SteamerSteve
SteamerSteve

The marines weren't allowed to carry live ammunition.  Per order of the ambassador. Wow.

lx01
lx01

It's funny how people comments on this kind of topic..are you seriously running away from the reality? Don't you think the main killer of our diplomat are some pathetic christians who tends to think that the truth only exists in their religion? This is not the first time this kind of incidents has happened. It's not who did it, you need to find out why these kinds of situation keeps occurring..if you're a serious American patriot. Think like an American: not like a Republican, Democrat, or a Christian.

mdshams22
mdshams22

This  is the reward  of  exporting democracy by Bombing, Killing and injuring  people and

country.  There is a proverb  "As you sow so you reap".

John Smith
John Smith

Well with a shitty breakfast like that...

itssoobvious
itssoobvious

All

praise mohamed the prophet, lol.  Now come get me you neanderthals!

I don't care if it was the movie that made them mad or a terrorist group

planned it, because that was yesterday and today it is everyday muslims that

are burning and rioting.  Showing their true colors and acknowledging

their support to the groups we call terrorist -- which they call allies.

CUT ALL AID TO THESE COUNTRIES AND LET THEM IMPLODE!

              

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    ヽ!!l::.”⌒`.:i i::’⌒`ヾ.!!|iiiヽ../

     ;〈..⊂・⊃| |:⊂・⊃.:::〉iii/      

     \!!, …//| |ヾ\…..:,;;iii/ 

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      ;;llllllllllilllllllllilllllii;  \

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 ::::;| ヽヽ,illlllllllllllllllllllll!゙.|  |::::::|::

skeptica
skeptica

When you get rid of snakes (i.e., Gaddafi) you have to be prepared for the rats to take over.

Antiehypocrite
Antiehypocrite

Once again, in the quest for oil, America has teamed up with the devil.  Well done.

Surely when they saw their allies sodomize Gaddafi with a knife, they must have known they had unleashed pure evil?   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Stupid, stupid Americans. 

These comments are absolutely hilarious - and nonsense!

Ironically, Benghazi had ostensibly held a special bond, as well as a

debt of gratitude, to the U.S. and other Western countries—something

highlighted in the bitter comments by Sec. of State Hillary Clinton

on Wednesday, when she expressed dismay that the attack had occurred in

a city the US.. had helped to save. French and American military jets

pounded Gaddafi’s forces outside the city in March last year, saving

Benghazi from the threat of mass slaughter.

The deep fondness for America is indeed felt in Benghazi, according

to Baja, who was head of the political affairs committee for Libya’s

National Transitional Council until the elected government was installed

last month. Stevens and Baja had met Tuesday morning primarily to plan

the official opening of the American Cultural Center, which was

scheduled for Wednesday evening. “There was going to be a big ceremony,”

Baja says. “There was going to be English classes, it was a very nice

place.”

beaverorduck
beaverorduck

Uh, my Republican opponent, uh, shoots first and aims later.  I, uh don't shoot at all.  I'm too busy campaigning.

Charades
Charades

I heard they raped his corpse and that is why his pants were pulled down in the photos of the aftermath...

Crampon
Crampon

Guns work better with ammo.

Brian McCall
Brian McCall

We were just attacked and our weak president does nothing but posture for his pathetic campaign?

chicagoxile
chicagoxile

Listen to me now. Listen to me now. My finger's in the air, so listen to me now. No president, NO president could have foreseen a planned and organized attack on such a weakly protected "interim" consulate, on 9/11 of all days, in a city that's a known Al Qaeda hotbed, even after an IED attack on said consulate in June, even after terror reprisal threats in the run-up to 9/11. Presidents aren't God, you know. Presidents aren't omniscient.

Sharon
Sharon

This is Romney's fault somehow.  I just know it.

JasonW
JasonW

"Did the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Not Have Enough Security?"

We must now bury our dead. That question has obviously been answered.

JimTreacher
JimTreacher

Seems pretty obvious that it didn't.

18235
18235

cant have enough USA security when it comes to a muslim.

nyt657
nyt657

The U.S. Marine guards were not allowed by the Obama State Dept to have live ammo. What more do you need to know?

Steven Janiszewski
Steven Janiszewski

Obviously not.  But who knew?  Historians in the future have already written that the end of civilization as we know it begins with the "Muslim Conquest."  It is a long-standing religious war.  Mitt “Cyborg” Romney wants to stir it up, because he is a puppet of the Mormon Church, which wants to buy the White House and take over the county with its puppet. To gain an existential understanding of the cult that produced Mitt "Cyborg" Romney, and to learn about historical accounts of the end of our civilization, read The Assassination of Spiro Agnew, available in paperback and ebook at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb...

Its unwilling, part-Mexican Mormon assassin dramatizes the Mormon superiority complex, manifesting it as racism, sexism, jingoism and an anti-federal government temperament. His research in the new library reveals ominous similarities between Islam and Mormonism. The spiritual power behind the cult, which is not the Holy Ghost, acts out.

“With a clarity of language and vision unsurpassed in contemporary American prose, Steven Janiszewski's Assassination of Spiro Agnew takes us into a U.S. mazed with madness and Mormonism and all things Utah, a U.S. that was then and still is. Do we need a novel, even as brilliant as this one, about a young man on a divine mission to assassinate the Vice President because he is too liberal? Yes, now more than ever. Readers, welcome to a masterpiece.”

Tom Whalen

www.tomwhalen.com

Read The Assassination of Spiro Agnew.

Word has it that David Axlerod enjoyed its post-modern style as much as he relished being abhorred by the Mormon experience.

djs1138
djs1138

I guess since the ambassador was sodomized and killed... No! The consulate did not have enough security.