State Dept. Security Chief: ‘We Had Correct Number of Assets in Benghazi at Time of 9/11 For What Had Been Agreed Upon’

By Elizabeth Harrington | October 10, 2012 | 3:39pm EDT

harlene R. Lamb, deputy assistant secretary of state, testifies before the House Oversight and Government REform Committee, Oct. 10, 2012. (AP)

( – Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who oversees safety and security for U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, told Congress on Wednesday that “we had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon.”

The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked Lamb about a request for temporary security for Benghazi that had been made by Eric Nordstrom, the regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

“Ms. Lamb, yesterday you told us in testimony that you received from Mr. Nordstrom a recommendation, but not a request, for more security and you admitted that, in fact, you had previously said that if you submitted a request you would not support it,” Issa said.  “Is that correct?”

“Sir, after our meeting last night I went back and at the time—” Lamb said.

“First answer the question, then I’ll let you expand,” Issa replied.  “Did you say that yesterday, that you would not support if he gave you the request?”

“Under the current conditions, yes,” she said.

“Okay, and then last night you discovered what?” Issa said.

“I went back and reviewed the July 9 cable from which I was referring and that was not in that cable,” she said.  “I’ve been reviewing lots of documents—”

The scene at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

“Well, we have the July 9 cable, it’s one that we put in the record that, in fact, has the words ‘request,’” Issa said.  “It doesn’t meet your standard of perhaps what you call a formal request -- you described that -- but it does request more assets.”

On Sept. 11, 2012, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was breached in what the State Department now calls a "terrorist attack." In the assault, the consulate was burned and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed, along with two security members and another consulate employee.

Issa continued: “Yesterday you told us—under penalty of perjury, essentially—that it wasn’t a request, it was a recommendation.  Does the word request mean request, and are you prepared to say that they requested these assets above and beyond what they had on September 11th rather than that they simply recommended?”

“Sir, we discussed that there was no justification that normally comes with a request,” Lamb said.  “That cable was a very detailed, complex cable outlining what we—”

“Well, we now have that cable and you’re right, it is detailed, and in several more places it expresses concerns,” Issa said.  “The September 11th cable confirmed the now-deceased ambassador expressed current concerns on that day, repeatedly in the cables that were denied to us, what we see is people telling you an al-Qaeda type organizations were coming together.”

“Now, the problem I have is that the State Department is basically saying, Mr. Nordstrom didn’t do his job, he didn’t make a formal request for justification, the ambassador didn’t do his job, he didn’t make a good enough case and that’s what you’re standing behind here today in addition to saying, ‘Well, there were five people there, therefore,’” Issa said.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, in a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate there. Three other Americans were also killed.  (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

“An embassy, a compound owned by us and serving like a consulate was in fact breached less than 60 days before, approximately 60 days before the murder of the ambassador in that facility,” said Issa.  “Isn’t that true?”

“Sir, we had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon,” Lamb said.

“My time is expired, to start off by saying that the correct number, and our ambassador and three other individuals are dead and people are in the hospital recovering because it only took moments to breach that facility, somehow doesn’t seem to ring true for the American people,” Issa said.

Nordstrom served as the principal security advisor to U.S. Ambassadors Gene Cretz and Chris Stevens on security and law enforcement matters in Libya.  Nordstrom testified that in early July that “post requested continued TDY staffing of 15 U.S. security professionals,” or temporary security staff, and the retention of a six-agent training team.

The request was for “an additional 60 days, until mid-September 2012,” Nordstrom said.

At the time of the attack on the anniversary of 9/11 there were five diplomatic security agents on the compound, according to Lamb's testimony, on Wednesday.

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