The Cable

Senators call on State Department to investigate Benghazi security failures

The heads of the Senate Homeland Security Committee called on the State Department's inspector general today to urgently investigate the security procedures and decisions at the Benghazi consulate before and during the attack on Sept. 11, as well as the personal security of Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of the four Americans killed in the assault.

"In light of the horrific attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel there, we write to request that you conduct a thorough investigation of the Department's development of security requirements for the Benghazi Consulate as well as the resource decision-making process to provide security for this post," wrote Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (R-ME), in a letter to State Department Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel that was obtained by The Cable.

"Upon completion of your findings, we urge you to provide recommendations to improve security at other diplomatic posts around the world, with a focus on smaller posts and non-permanent facilities established by the Department in post-conflict nations like Libya."

The senators want the inspector general's office to investigate whether there was adequate security at the Benghazi consulate, whether there was an established and clear process for determining security requirements at overseas posts and whether that process was followed in Benghazi.

Lieberman and Collins also want to know if it's true that the Libyan government told the U.S. government to move or increase security at the Benghazi consulate before the attacks, as Libyan Deputy Minister of the Interior Wasif al-Sharif reportedly said, whether the State Department beefed up security after a bomb exploded near the consulate in May, and how State vetted the local security forces, who may have been complicit in the attacks.

"The media has reported that one of the Foreign Service Officers killed in the attack, Sean Smith, may have expressed concern about the security provided by the local security forces hours before his death. Minister al-Sharif reportedly told media outlets that local security forces pointed extremists towards the annex site after U.S. personnel managed to escape the main compound," the senators wrote.

Lastly, the senators want the State Department to investigate the operational security procedures around Stevens and determine who might have known that he would be in the consulate at that time and why he didn't have more protection.

"Who is responsible for determining the security requirements, including personnel, equipment, and other assets, that are necessary to maintain the protection of the Chief of Mission and other personnel at each overseas facility, and was this procedure followed in Benghazi?" they wrote.

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The Cable

State Department sets up 24-hour monitoring team for embassy crisis

The State Department has gone into full-blown crisis mode, organizing a round-the-clock effort to coordinate the U.S. government's response to the expanding attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The State Department has stood up a 24-hr monitoring team to insure appropriate coordination of information and our response. In addition, our consular team is working with missions around the world to protect American citizens and issue appropriate public warden information," a senior State Department official told reporters Friday afternoon.

"We have been monitoring events in the Middle East and North Africa intensively today, and working with our personnel and missions overseas and host governments to strengthen security in all locations and to respond effectively where protests have turned violent," the official said.

The official noted that U.S. embassies in Libya and Yemen have been reinforced with Marine FAST teams and noted that other unspecified measures are being taken to strengthen embassy security around the region. The State Department is working with the governments in Tunisia and Sudan to increase security at the U.S. embassies there as well, the official said.

The U.S. Embassy in Tunis was breached by rioters who replaced the American flag with the black banner of al Qaeda. According to Tunisian state television, at least three Tunisians died when security forces open fire in an effort to disperse the crowd; another rioter was killed in Sudan, Reuters reported.

"The secretary, other department principals, and our ambassadors and charges in the field have been in constant contact with regional leaders, and we appreciate the many public statements that leaders have made in recent days condemning the attack in Benghazi, denouncing violence and calling for calm," the official said.

The White House said in a memorandum to Congress Friday that the Marine FAST teams will be there are long as they are needed but will be limited to the mission of protecting U.S. assets and personnel.

"Although these security forces are equipped for combat, these movements have been undertaken solely for the purpose of protecting American citizens and property. These security forces will remain in Libya and in Yemen until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed," the White House memorandum stated.

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