Nov 29 2012
By Senator Marco Rubio
November 29, 2012
Eight weeks after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, it is encouraging that Congress is finally serious about examining the events surrounding that day.
As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said on “Meet the Press” recently, this was not an intelligence failure. But failures clearly happened elsewhere, particularly in the State Department.
State Department documents revealed that slain Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and others had warned several times of “growing problems with security” and violence in eastern Libya, where Benghazi is located, after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and after the Transitional National Council moved its governing headquarters from Benghazi to Tripoli in September 2011. Stevens’ predecessor Ambassador Gene Cretz had also sent cables to the State Department warning of the deepening security crisis in Libya.
Well before the Benghazi attack, our intelligence agencies, Department of Defense and State Department cables from the U.S. Embassy in Libya all warned of a growing security crisis. They said terrorists from across the region, including al Qaeda elements believed to be associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, were able to travel freely into the country to recruit, organize, plan attacks and procure weapons.
This is not to suggest these attacks were planned months in advance. We don’t know, but we do know that they were premeditated. We also know that the CIA believed the Benghazi tragedy on September 11 was the work of terrorists within hours of the attacks.
Conducting diplomacy on behalf of the United States is not without risks. U.S. foreign service officers and members of the diplomatic corps understand this. I think it is important that the U.S. continue to show the flag in far-flung corners of the world, some of which may often be dangerous.
Diplomats like Stevens thrive on engaging with the local population. That important work must continue in Libya, Pakistan, Egypt and other countries that pose difficulties. However, the U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that our posts overseas are properly fortified and defended, based on the security situation on the ground.
We know that the security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi and the CIA annex was woefully inadequate. It should have been fortified, and more reliable security forces were clearly needed to defend those facilities. Immediate access to heavier weapons may have saved lives.
It is important to decide which elements of the U.S. national security structure should be available to support the defense and extraction of U.S. diplomats and personnel if they come under fire.
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