October 10, 2012 Wednesday
Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Subject: “The Security Failures of Benghazi” Chaired by: Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) Witnesses: Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs, Bureau of Diplomatic Security; Eric Nordstrom, Regional Security Officer, State Department; Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, Utah National Guard, U.S. Army Location: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): The committee will come to order. Would you please take your seats?
Perhaps most appropriately today, the Oversight Committee mission statement reads: We exist to secure two fundamental principles. First, that American(s) have right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent. And second, Americans deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them.
Our duty on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is to protect these rights. Our solemn responsibility is to hold government accountable to taxpayers, because taxpayers have a right to know what they get from their government. It’s our job to work tirelessly in partnership with citizen watchdogs to deliver the facts to the American people and bring genuine reform to the federal bureaucracy. This is the mission of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
On September 11th, 2012, four brave Americans serving their countries were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya. Tyrone Woods spent two decades as a Navy SEAL, serving multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected the American diplomatic personnel. Tyrone leaves behind a widow and three children.
Glen Doherty, also a former SEAL and an experienced paramedic, had served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan. His family and colleagues grieve today for his death.
Sean Smith, a communications specialist, joined the State Department after six years in the United States Air Force. Sean leaves behind a widow and two young children.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, a man I had known personally during his tours, U.S. ambassador to Libya, ventured into a volatile and dangerous situation as Libyans revolted against the longtime Gadhafi regime. He did so because he believed the people of Libya wanted and deserved the same things we have: freedom from tyranny.
We join here today expressing from this side of the dais our deepest sympathy for the loss of lives of the families in Libya.
Additionally, other Americans were injured in this terrorist attack, some suffering very serious injuries. I spoke to the father of one American who is presently recovering here in the United States in a military hospital. He, hopefully, will have a full recover, but he has gone through supplemental surgeries that will require a long period of recuperation and reconstruction.
Yesterday, the State Department began the process of coming clean about what occurred in Benghazi. Or at least, they issued a broad and definitive statement headed by a gentleman here today, Ambassador Kennedy. They made witnesses available, and interviews. They made every effort, from what we can tell, to ensure that the people we wanted to talk to were available to us.
More importantly, yesterday they held a broad news conference over the phone in which they made it very clear that it had never been the State Department’s position — I repeat, never been the State Department’s position that in fact this assault was part of a reaction to a video or the like. This is corroborated by numerous witnesses and whistleblowers. Contrary to early assertions by the administration, let’s understand: There was no protest, and cameras reveal that, and the State Department, the FBI and others have that video.
Speaking of video, the one in California made by an individual and out there for a period of time also clearly had no direct effect on this attack. In fact, it was September 11th, the 11th anniversary of the greatest terrorist attack in U.S. history and the — New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. It was that anniversary that caused an organization aligned with al-Qaida to attack and kill our personnel.
I deeply, again, appreciate Secretary Clinton’s efforts to cooperate with this investigation. She stepped in and instructed her people to cooperate and they have. Additionally, I’ve had conversations directly with the secretary and I believe that our service together since 2001 in the United States Congress plays no small part in her recognition of the role we serve on both sides of the dome.
Today, however, this hearing has been called for the express purpose of examining security failures that led to the Benghazi tragedy. The safe haven within the compound, which some State Department officials seemed to think could protect the Benghazi compound’s inhabitants, did not work and in retrospect could not be expected to work. The overall level of security at the compound did not meet the threat existent or standards under Inman or any other reasonable assessment for a facility of this sort.
Today’s hearing is the result of concerned citizens with direct knowledge of the events in Libya ultimately reaching this committee. As we look back on what occurred, our challenge is to identify things that clearly went wrong and what the benefit of hindsight will be for the men and women serving at dangerous locations around the world. Accounts from security officials who were on the ground and documents indicate that they repeatedly warned Washington officials about dangerous situation in Libya. Instead of, however, moving swiftly to respond to these concerns, Washington officials seemed preoccupied with the concept of normalization. We will ask our panel here today what normalization means.
In accounts, we have heard its — it included artificial timelines for removing American security personnel, replacing them with local Libyans. These occurred even as training delays and new threats also occurred. These — this rush toward a reduced presence of U.S. personnel continued even as a bomb blew a 12-foot opening in the wall of this very compound we speak about today. Requests for extensions of more security by the mission in Libya, however, appeared to have often been rejected — or even, more deliberately, officials in Washington told diplomats in Libya not even to make them; or, as we’ve had in — in sworn testimony, if you make them, they will not be supported.
We know that the tragedy in Benghazi ended as it did. We now know that, in fact, it was caused by a terrorist attack that was reasonably predictable to eventually happen somewhere in the world, especially on September 11th.
In closing, as Secretary Clinton has impanelled a blue-ribbon board to fully investigate what occurred — and this work is important — it is much broader for us and for that panel to take up an additional challenge. There are hundreds and hundreds of facilities similar to this around the world. There are thousands of personnel serving this country who at any time, in any country, could be a target. Some of those are high-risk and obvious like Libya; others may be lower risk. This committee is dedicated to ensure that security is taken differently than it was leading up to the events here. We owe it to our federal employees who have put themselves and their families in harm’s way around the world.
The history of these panels is, in fact, that they deliver full and complete results and they pull no punches. Admiral Mullen is no stranger to controversy — and in fact getting to the bottom of it — so I do encourage all to look at the final result of the blue-ribbon panel.
But today, it is 30 days since the September 11th attack, more or less. It is a long time to wait if you’re sitting in Cairo, in Algeria, in Beirut, in Damascus, and you don’t trust that the security measures you need have occurred. Today, we begin the process of saying: They must be able to trust because you must be able to assure them that you’re doing your work differently than just a short time ago.
Today, we expect full cooperation from our panel and we expect to get to the truth, but it will in fact be a much longer time before all the facts are known. We do not intend to flesh out all the facts; we intend today, on a bipartisan basis, to ensure that we begin the confidence-building for our men and women serving this country around the world, that we will ensure that they be protected and, if anything, protected more than the perceived threat, and never less.
With that, I recognize the ranking member for his opening comments. And then, by unanimous consent, one additional — the chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security and his counterpart will be recognized for opening statements. All other members will have seven — (they weren’t a ?) legislative day — seven days in order to put their opening statements in the record.
With that, I recognize Mr. Cummings.
REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And let me very — be very clear. You said that your side of the aisle grieves the loss of our fellow countrymen. It’s not just your side of the aisle, Mr. Chairman, it’s this side of the aisle and our entire country. We grieve the loss of Ambassador Christopher Smith (sic\Stevens), Sean Smith and Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
I believe we should conduct a thorough and responsible investigation into the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi. We need to carefully — very carefully — investigate allegations that have been made over the past week, and we need to run them to the ground before we jump to conclusions. We should not be about the business of drawing conclusions and then looking for the facts.
Let me start by thanking Secretary Clinton and the State Department for cooperating fully with this committee. They agreed to all of our witness requests; they offered additional witnesses beyond those requested; they promptly organized interviews with department officials; and they have been collecting documents sought by the committee.
Today, there are several specific allegations I would like to ask the witnesses about. For example, to Mr. Eric Nordstrom, a former regional secretary (sic/security) officer in Tripoli, he told the committee there should have been five diplomatic security agents in Benghazi. In other interviews we conducted yesterday, we learned that there were — that there were, in fact, five agents in Benghazi on the day of the attack. Should there have been even more?
We will ask him about this, and I hope he’ll be prepared to answer that since there has been so many allegations in the press saying that there were not. And we will ask the State Department for its views as well.
Another witness, Colonel Andrew Wood, has said he believes that a military unit stationed in Tripoli should have had its term extended because of security concerns in Libya. Just yesterday, we learned that this team was extended not once, but twice. Should it have been extended a third time?
We need to ask where else was it needed and were its functions being fully served by others on the ground by the time it left the country?
We should listen carefully to these and other allegations, and we should listen just as carefully to the responses. I’m disappointed to say, however, that although the chairman claims we are pursuing this investigation on a, quote, “bipartisan basis,” that has simply not been the case.
For example, the chairman concealed the committee’s interactions with Colonel Wood until Friday night, when he appeared on national television. The chairman then refused requests to make Colonel Wood available so we could speak with him, ask him basic questions and prepare for hearings. We could not even get a phone number.
The chairman has withheld documents that were provided to the committee, which is in violation of the House rules, and he effectively excluded Democrats from a congressional delegation to Libya this past weekend. We were told about the trip less than 24 hours before it was supposed to take place.
It’s a shame that they are resorting to such petty abuses in what should be a serious and responsible investigation of this fatal attack. The problem is that these actions deny members of this committee the ability to effectively and efficiently investigate this incident. The members on this side of the aisle are just as concerned as the members on the other side of the aisle. We each represent about 700,000 each — people, too. We want to make sure that all the questions are answered.
In contrast, on the Senate side, every member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democrats and Republicans alike, joined in a bipartisan letter to the State Department requesting information on the attack.
So what do we do today? What do we do today? My goal is to try, in some way, to put this toxic partisanship behind us and focus on the security of our personnel. Every two years we put our hands up as members of this Congress and we swear to protect the people of the United States of America. All of us do that, not just Republicans, not just Democrats, all of us. And those people that we’ve promised to protect are not limited to just the folks that are within our shores and our boundaries of this nation, but those people who go out and put their lives on the line everyday for us in foreign lands.
The chairman has said that our committee will examine not only the Libya attack, but security at outposts across the Middle East. Mr. Chairman, I fully support this effort.
And if that is our goal, we have to examine the funding. The fact is that since 2011, the House has cut embassy security by hundreds of millions of dollars below the amounts requested by the president. The House has done that. The Senate restored some of these funds, but the final amounts were still far below the administration’s request and they were far below the levels we enacted in 2010.
Mr. Chairman, I just heard what you said about making sure that we make — do everything in our power to make sure that this never happens again. And I join you in that statement. And we can do better. And I would like to ask the chairman to join me in doing so. Mr. Chairman, I ask you to join me in calling on our leaders in the House to immediately consider a supplemental funding bill to restore funding for embassy security that was cut by the House over the past two years.
According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, we could save $2.5 billion per year just by eliminating the tax rate for oil companies. Even Republicans now agree that we should do this, including Governor Romney. We could fully replenish these embassy security accounts with just a fraction of that amount. Restoring our commitment to embassy security could make a real difference to thousands of Americans who serve our country overseas, often, in extremely dangerous circumstances as you, Mr. Chairman, just stated.
And I do agree with you, we should act with utmost urgency. Every single moment counts. From this day forward, it is my hope that our committee will thoroughly investigate this matter in a truly bipartisan manner because our dedicated foreign service personnel and our nation deserve nothing less. With that I yield back.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentlemen. I might note for the record that I said this side of the dais, which is all of us on the dais relative to all of those in the audience.
REP. CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
REP. ISSA: Although you didn’t name a particular rule that you say I violated, do you have a rule that you believe I violated?
REP. CUMMINGS: We will provide you with that. We want to get on with the hearing, but I promise you, I will provide you with it.
REP. ISSA: And with that I’d ask unanimous consent that our colleagues, Mr. Rohrabacher and Ms. Adams be allowed to participate, pursuant to our rules. Without objection, so ordered.
We now recognize the chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security and the individual who first began this investigation, Mr. Chaffetz.
REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT): Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank all on the members on both sides of the aisle for being here today. I thank the chairman for his tenacity in pursuing this.
I believe we have a moral imperative to pursue this. We have four dead Americans. We have others that are critically injured. Our thoughts and prayers on both sides of the aisle are with those people and their families. We can not thank them enough for their service, their dedication to our nation. We also thank the people here on this panel for participating. As I know, all four of you care deeply about this country.
This is a very serious situation. We have to understand how we got here because before 9/11 of — 9/11, 2012 — and after the revolution there in Libya, it was a very tumultuous and difficult situation. I’d ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a document that was provided to us by Mr. Eric Nordstrom. It was dated October 1st. And I –
REP. ISSA: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. CHAFFETZ: I’d like to read, Mr. Chairman, the last paragraph of that statement that he sent to us.
It is, again, 230 security interests — incidents in the country of Libya. Quote: These incidents paint a clear picture that the environment in Libya was fragile at best and could degrade quickly. Certainly not an environment where posts should be directed to, quote, “normalize,” end quote, operations and reduce security resources in accordance with an artificial timetable. End quote.
Of all the things I’ve seen and read, that to me is one of the most disturbing. And I appreciate the guts of those that stood up and will provide us this information, because it does take guts to do it. I’m going to ask that — we have some photos here. I’m going to — we have to understand how we got here. Broad daylight, in June of 2012, two-car convoy carrying the British ambassador was ambushed military- style with a rocket-propelled grenade in Benghazi. Sorry, these pictures are — seem to be out of order.
What you haven’t seen before — there we go. This was an attack literally weeks before what happened in Benghazi. Next slide, please.
And the next. And the next. And the next.
These pictures are of an attack that happened in Benghazi. The first was a so-called fish bomb. This is the compound in Benghazi before it — the attack. Go to the next slide, please.
The second bombing was an improvised explosive device that was placed on the north gate, breaching the wall. It was a test by terrorists and it was successful. And we didn’t respond fully and adequately. We didn’t acknowledge it. We didn’t talk about it. We pretended it didn’t happen. It was a terrorist attack on a U.S. asset in Libya, and it was never exposed. We pretended it didn’t happen. Well, guess what? The third time the terrorists came to attack us, they were even more successful, killing four Americans.
I believe, personally, with more assets, more resources, just meeting the minimum standard, we could have and should have saved the life of Ambassador Stevens and the other people that were there.
Now, this was a massive attack, no doubt about it. We’re getting new details — and I believe, Mr. Chairman, the reason we have those details is because of this hearing. Mysteriously, the State Department decided to give a press briefing last night. We weren’t invited. Certain news outlets weren’t invited.
Any reasonable person looking at the security situation in Libya had to come to the conclusion that it was tumultuous at best. I wish I could tell you everything that I could — I learned. I did go to Libya. I did drop everything. I had the same type of notice that was given to the Democrats. In fact, the State Department sent an attorney to follow me in my every footstep. So to suggest you didn’t have an opportunity to go is absolutely wrong.
I wish I could share everything that I learned there. But we have to be careful about the sensitive secure informations about sources and methods in a classified setting. I think some of the information that the State Department has shared oversteps some of those bounds. Let us be careful today to not reveal some of that classified information. It’s been too hard, too difficult to get basic information.
I will tell you, though, that when I was in Libya, good part of the day, never once did a person ever mention a video. Never. And I am fascinated to know and understand, from the president of the United States, from the secretary of state and from the ambassador to the United Nations, how they can justify that this video caused this attack. It was a terrorist attack. Let’s be honest about it.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the time. I look forward to this hearing. May God bless those men and women who serve us. I thank you for being here, and let’s always remember those who served this nation. I yield back.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman. And the gentleman is correct, both sides were informed once we’d gotten clearance for Libya.
And with that, we recognize the gentlelady from the District of Columbia for a response.
DELEGATE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-DC): Mr. Chairman, the tragic events in Benghazi point up the hazards of serving our country go far beyond the military. I agree with Mr. Chaffetz that perhaps, had there been more resources, we might have had a different result. But I must note that while the Republican budget increases the budget of the Defense Department, it slashes the budget that would have protected these diplomats.
The ambassador, Chris Stevens, and the three others who died were men of unusual courage who died heroically, protecting their mission. The best tribute to the ambassador comes from the mourning in the streets that we saw from the citizens of Benghazi and of Libya.
It must be said that Ambassador Stevens did something that you rarely see in diplomatic work across the world. In little more than a few months after the Arab Spring, he had already established an entirely new and promising relationship between the United States of America and Libya. What an extraordinary man he must have been.
So I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing this afternoon, even in the midst of a campaign. It was and is important to hold a hearing now, when memories are fresh.
And I certainly want to go on record for thanking the State Department, especially Ambassador (sic) Clinton, for what the chairman says has been the very open cooperation of the department with this hearing.
I want to suggest that when there has been loss of life of this kind in service to the United States, there can be no difference between Democrats and Republicans in desiring a hearing to discover exactly what transpired.
That is why I regret that the spirit of bipartisanship and openness that caught — came from the State Department has not occurred here in this committee, that there has not been the sharing of information and witnesses, so that both sides could be prepared to question witnesses and find out exactly what has happened.
I yield the remainder of my time to Mr. Connolly.
REPRESENTATIVE GERALD CONNOLLY (D-VA): I thank my colleague, and I welcome the witnesses here today.
I join my colleagues in expressing the desire for bipartisan inquiry, and I certainly hope that the committee will endeavor to make it genuinely bipartisan. I regret the fact that a trip to Libya occurred with no members of this side of the aisle in attendance.
I had the privilege of going with David Dreier, the Republican chairman of the Rules Committee, to Libya in May. It is an inherently unstable situation. It was then. It is now. It is one we Americans hope will stabilize over time.
I certainly hope that today’s hearing is not going to be perceived as an effort to exploit a tragedy for political purposes 27 days out from an election. I hope in fact it is the down payment of a serious inquiry into how can we make this kind of thing not recur, how can we redouble our efforts to provide security to the brave men and women who serve in our foreign service, how can we make sure that we take a fresh look at the resources required and make sure, on a bipartisan basis, we’re providing them.
So no good is done to the security of the United States to politicize this tragedy, and I can’t imagine that the late Ambassador Chris Stevens would want us to do that. And so I hope that we will proceed in a bipartisan way and get to the bottom of not only what happened but what are the forces at work that led to that; far beyond just the issue of what our failures were, what is the nature of the challenge we face in countries like Libya, post-Arab Spring.
Thank you, and I thank my colleague for yielding.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. I might note that the funding that is currently enjoyed by the State Department was voted — bipartisan, one more Democrat voting for the appropriations than one — than Republicans. So hopefully we now can understand how bipartisan it was.
In fact, it was voted by more Democrats than Republicans.
The chair will now recognize our panel of witnesses. First of all, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood is a member of the Utah National Guard and, I believe, a Department of Interior employee. Mr. Eric Nordstrom is a regional security officer at the United States Department of State. Ambassador Patrick J. Kennedy is undersecretary for management at the Department of State and a frequent witness. Ms. Charlene Lamb is a deputy assistant secretary for international programs at the U.S. Department of State. I want to welcome you. And pursuant to our rules, I’d ask that you rise to take the oath.
Let the record reflect that all witnesses answered in the affirmative. Please take your seats.
Pursuant to our rules and tradition, each witness will have five minutes. Please, when you see your time expiring, wrap up. Your entire prepared statements will be placed in the records.
I’ll take a moment only to admonish that, Colonel Wood, we got yours fairly late, but we understand that this is not a regular schtick for you. For the administration, I am a little disappointed. We do have a 24-hour rule. And Ambassador Kennedy, if you’d take back that — it arrived. It’s in. But we’d appreciate in the future getting it a little earlier because I think members on both sides pore over it.
With that, we recognize Lieutenant Colonel Wood.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL ANDREW WOOD: Thank you.
I am Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood. I’m a member of the Utah National Guard with 24 years of service as a special forces soldier. I was mobilized for the Winter Olympics, 2002; Afghanistan from September of 2003 to May of 2004; and for counterterrorism work in the southern Philippines from August of 2007 to May of 2008. I currently work for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as an Upper Colorado regional security officer. I am responsible to reclamation for a security program that oversees 58 high and significant hazard dams in five Western states, one of which is Glen Canyon Dam, a national critical infrastructure facility.
Upon hearing of the death of Ambassador Stevens, and later the congressional inquiry, I identified myself to my congressional representative’s staff as a person with intimate knowledge of the security situation prior to the attack. I was subsequently contacted and began a dialogue with staff investigators. I made a personal decision to come forward with information and do not represent DOD or any government agency. I had unique access and placement to many government leaders and agencies while working in Libya. I feel duty- bound to come forward in order to inform and provide a portion of ground truth information.
I feel a sense of honor for those individuals who have died in the service of their country. I realize much of what — I realize much of my work in Libya was entangled in sensitive government work, and I must be careful not to betray the trust and confidences that have been placed in me. The killing of a U.S. ambassador is a rare and extraordinary thing and requires our attention as a people. As a citizen, I made the determination that this outweighs all other interests and will risk whatever circumstances may result from my testimony.
I served as site security team commander in Libya from 12 February to 14 August of this year, 2012. I was mobilized from the Utah National Guard in Title 10 status and reported to Special Operations Command Africa, SOCAFRICA, which serves directly under AFRICOM. I was detailed in Title 22 status to the Department of State and assumed command of the SST. The SST element consisted of 16 members. It is my understanding that it was crafted by the National Security Council to meet the demanding security challenges facing the Department of State and their requirement to re-establish diplomatic relations with a post-Gadhafi or free Libya.
The SST loaned considerable support to the Department of State’s security posture in this uncertain and volatile environment. The SST’s mission was to support and answer to the chief of mission in Libya. I worked directly for the regional security officer. We provided security support, medical support, communications support for every facet of security that covered the embassy.
As the SST commander, I had a seat on the country team. I was closely involved with the operational planning and support for the RSO’s security objectives. The embassy staff lived and worked together at two locations, in Tripoli and embassy property in Benghazi. The SST supported security movements for diplomatic officers in and around Tripoli and other parts of Libya as their work required. On two occasions, I sent SST members to Benghazi to support and bolster security at that location. The SST was closely integrated with regular diplomatic security agents working directly for the RSO as well as Mobile Security Deployment teams.
I traveled to Benghazi on two occasions with the RSO, once with the RSO to evaluate the security situation there and once to conduct some work for the defense attache’s office. I was there a second time in June when the U.K. ambassador’s convoy was attacked. I responded with DS agents in order to help provide medical and security assistance to wounded U.K. security personnel. I conducted a post- attack investigation of the ambush or assault.
I regularly met with and held frequent conversations with Ambassador Cretz and Stevens, the other members of the — and other members of the security team. In June, when Eric Nordstrom rotated out, I was the senior member of the country team, with the exception of the — Ambassador Stevens. We lived and worked closely together in an atmosphere that is common to an expeditionary post. Ambassador Stevens was an avid runner and played tennis as well. The SST was heavily involved in performing his security detail when he ran. I ran with him on several occasions.
The SST provided an important link for the country team to SOCAFRICA with its intelligence assets and resources. There was a good — there was a good exchange of information between SOCAFRICA and the RSO. There was a great working relationship between SST and diplomatic security agents and the MSD members of the embassy posts throughout Libya. I reported three times a week through a VT — video teleconference to SOCAFRICA and sent daily situation reports. I had the communications capability to provide a direct link to SOCAFRICA 24/7. I no longer have access to email or documents that I worked with on a daily basis, as much of this was contained on AFRICOM servers and computers that I worked through. My recollection of dates is mostly from memory; I will need to reaccess that information in order to specify dates with greater certainty.
The State Department’s decision not to extend SST’s security work beyond the 5th of August terminated our security work in this capacity. The military members of my team were in the process of changing status from Title 22 back to Title 10 shortly before my departure. The situation on the ground was continuously updated with reports that I sent to my military chain of command and CC’ed the RSO on. The RSO sent information on security and threats in a similar manner up his chain of command.
While the sound of gunfire in and around Tripoli subsided from February to April, the situation remained unstable. Libyans struggled with the transitional government that hesitated to make decisions and forced — and were forced to rely upon local and tribal militias with varying degrees of loyalty. In late spring, the police were allowed to return to work to help with traffic but were limited to that only. Fighting between militias was common when I departed. Militias separated — militias appeared to be disintegrating into organizations resembling freelance criminal operations. Targeted attacks against Westerners were on the increase. In June the ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public announcement that he liked to run around the embassy compound in Tripoli.
When I arrived in February, there were three MSD teams on the ground. Ambassador Cretz was confronted with having to lose one of those teams and requested an equal number of regular diplomatic security agents. The ambassador struggled with renewing the SST beyond April 5th; that’s Ambassador Stevens. The second MSD team was withdrawn shortly after Ambassador Cretz’s departure, and the last MSD team was restricted to performing security work — security work only — restricted from performing security work only and limited only to training local guard force members in July. The remaining MSD was withdrawn at about the same time the SST security work was terminated. The RSO struggled to maintain these losses with regular diplomatic security personnel.
The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there. The situation remained uncertain, and reports from some Libyans indicated it was getting worse. Diplomatic security remained weak. In April there was only one U.S. diplomatic security agent stationed there.
The RSO struggled to obtain additional personnel, but there was never — but was never able to obtain the numbers he felt comfortable with.
I hope the information I provide will be put together with data points from others so an accurate picture can be obtained. We need to be dedicated to the understanding — to understand the problems that surrounded this attack in order to find a solution. Our failure to do so will result in repeated instances and allow our adversaries to take an advantage over us. My purpose in conveying this information is to prevent their ability to take the lives of another ambassador or kill another valuable and talented public servant working for the diplomatic service of their country.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. Mr. Nordstrom.
ERIC NORDSTROM: Good morning, Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Cummings and other distinguished members of the committee.
My name is Eric Nordstrom, and I currently serve as a special — supervisory special agent of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. I joined the department in April 1998 and have served in domestic and overseas postings, including in Washington, D.C.; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; New Delhi, India; and most recently as the regional security officer at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya, a position I held from September 21st, 2011 until July 26, 2012. As the regional security officer, or RSO, at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, I served as the principal adviser to Ambassadors Cretz and Stevens on security and law enforcement matters.
I’m here today to provide testimony in support of your inquiry into the tragic events of September 11th, 2012, including the murders of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
I had the pleasure of working with Ambassador Stevens during the final months of my tour in Libya and would echo what many are saying: The loss of Ambassador Stevens is not only tragic for his family and sad for our country, but his dust — but his death will prove to be a devastating loss for Libya, struggling to recover from its recent civil war. My family and I would like to offer personal condolences to the families of these four patriots who gave their lives in the service of their country.
My contribution to our nation’s efforts in Libya will prove to be only a small part of a wider effort. There are many of us dedicated to the mission in Libya, both at home and abroad. To my colleagues who served with me and to those who are presently there in the aftermath of this attack, you have your country’s sincere thanks and prayers.
Let me say a word about the evening of September 11th. I had not seen an attack of such ferocity and intensity previously in Libya nor in my time with the diplomatic security service. I’m concerned that this attack signals a new security reality just as the 1983 Beirut Marines barracks bombings did for the Marines, the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings did for the State Department and 9/11 did for our entire country. However, we must remember that it is critical that we balance our risk mitigation efforts with the needs of our diplomats to do their jobs. The answer cannot be to operate from a bunker.
Arriving in Tripoli in the midst of the Libyan civil war, it was immediately obvious to me that the post-revolution Libya was a weakened state, exhausted from their civil war and operating under fragmented and paralyzed government institutions. They were barely able to protect themselves from armed gangs, Gadhafi loyalists or roving militias.
As a result, the Libyan temporary government was unable to extend security assets to diplomatic missions in customary ways that we’ve become expect — that we expect around the world. We could not rely on the Libyan government for security, intelligence and law enforcement help to identify emerging threats or to ask them for assistance in mitigating those threats. In Benghazi, however, the government of Libya, through the 17th February Martyrs Brigade, was able to provide us consistent armed security since the very earliest days of the revolution.
Routine civil unrest, militia-on-militia violence, general lawlessness and, surprisingly, motor vehicle accidents were the primary threats facing our mission and personnel during my time in Libya. As Colonel Wood noted, in the spring of 2012 we noted an increasing number of attacks and incidents which appeared to target foreign-affiliated organizations.
In response to these incidents, we implemented a number of changes to our security posture designed to mitigate those threats and disrupt any planning by would-be attackers. Those efforts included reviewing and practicing our emergency preparedness drills, and most importantly, we reiterated our request at all levels of government for a consistent armed host-nation security force to support the mission. We also requested security staffing and extensions of the DOD security support team.
In my opinion, the primary security staffing issue that we dealt with was maintaining U.S. security personnel, whether Diplomatic Security agents or Security Support Team members, for sufficient amount of time to enable the full training and deployment of a local bodyguard unit.
In early July 2012, prior to my departure, post requested continued TDY staffing of 15 U.S. security professionals, either DS field office agents, mobile security deployment agents or DOD SST personnel, plus retention of a six-agent mobile security deployment training team that would work with our newly created bodyguard unit.
Earlier post extension requests for our DOD SS team in November 2011 and March 2012 were approved. Also in March 2012, I requested DS staffing levels in Tripoli of full — five full-time agents to be permanently assigned there, 12 temporary duty DS agents, and six mobile security deployment DS agents; again, to train our newly created bodyguard unit. A request to maintain a level of five TDY DS agents in Benghazi was included in that same March 2012 request.
Our long-term security plan in Libya was to deploy an armed, locally hired Libyan bodyguard unit. Due to Libyan political sensitivities, armed private security companies were not allowed to operate in Libya. That was the case under Gadhafi and that was the case under the free Libya. Our existing uniformed static local guard force, both in Tripoli and Benghazi, were unarmed, similar to our local guard forces at many other posts around the world. Their job is simple: It is to observe, report and alert armed host-nation security or armed response forces, possibly DS agents if that’s the case.
The use of local nationals as armed bodyguards is a routine practice in the department, and we often to do so to comply with the local firearms regulations of the host nation. Local nationals provide us with continuity, local expertise, threat awareness in their community, and language and cultural skills.
I’m confident that the committee will conclude that officers and employees of the Department of State, diplomatic Security Service and Mission Libya conducted themselves professionally and with careful attention to managing the people and budgets in a way that reflected the gravity of the task. I’m proud of the work that our team accomplished in Libya under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The protection of our nation’s diplomats, our embassies and consulates and the work produced there is deserving of the time and treasure invested.
I’m glad to further discuss my experiences and hope it provides beneficial to the committee, the State Department and my fellow DS agents who are protecting and advancing U.S. interests abroad.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee for the opportunity to appear before you today. May God bless our country as we work towards peace in a contentious world. I stand ready to answer any questions that you might have of me.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
Ms. Lamb. Could you turn your mic on, please?
CHARLENE LAMB: Sorry.
REP. ISSA: That’s all right. It’s your first time.
MS. LAMB: Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Cummings, members of the committee, my name is Charlene Lamb. I am deputy assistant secretary for international programs in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the Department of State. I’ve been in law enforcement for 35 years, including 17 consecutive years stationed abroad, as a regional security officer in Nicaragua, Tanzania, Kuwait, Guatemala and Germany. I’m here today to share best information to date about what happened in Benghazi on September 11th.
As you know, there are ongoing investigations and reviews being conducted, and we are speaking today with an incomplete picture.
But as this process moves forward and more information becomes available, we will continue to engage closely with Congress.
Let me begin by describing the actual compound in Benghazi. It is more than 300 yards long and nearly 100 yards wide. The main building was divided into two sections. The public section included common areas and meeting space. The private section was a residential area that included a safe haven. A second building, Building B, housed diplomatic security agents. The tactical operations center occupied a third building. The fourth building on the compound served as barracks for the Libyan 17th February Brigade members.
After acquiring the compound, we made a number of security upgrades. Among other steps, we extended the height of the outer wall to 12 feet with (masonry ?) concrete, barbed wire and concertina razor wire. We increased the external lighting and erected Jersey barriers outside the perimeter. We also added equipment to detect explosives, as well as an imminent danger notification system. We installed security grilles on windows accessible from the ground and included escape windows with emergency releases.
There were five diplomatic security agents on the compound September 11th. There were also three members of the Libyan 17th February Brigade. In addition, a well-trained U.S. quick reaction security team was stationed nearby at the embassy annex.
All of these measures and upgrades were taken in coordination with security officials in Benghazi, Tripoli and Washington. I work closely with more than 275 facilities around the world determining the right level of security for each one — (is ?) intensive, ongoing, constantly evolving process, one that I appreciate and understand from my own time on the ground as a diplomatic security officer.
That brings me to the events of September 11th itself. At approximately 9:40 p.m. local time, dozens of attackers launched a full-scale assault. They forced their way through the pedestrian gate, used diesel fuel to set fire to the Libyan 17th February Brigade members’ barracks and then proceeded towards the main building.
A diplomatic security agent working in the tactical operations center immediately activated the imminent danger notification system. He also alerted the quick reaction security team stationed nearby, the Libyan 17th February Brigade, the embassy in Tripoli and the Diplomatic Security Command Center in Washington.
One agent secured Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, the information management officer, in the safe haven. The attackers used diesel fuel to set the main building ablaze. Thick smoke rapidly filled the entire structure. The agent began leading the ambassador and Sean Smith toward the emergency escape window. Nearing unconsciousness himself, the agent opened the emergency escape grille window and crawled out. He then realized they had become separated in the smoke, so he re-entered and searched the building multiple times. Finally the agent, suffering from severe smoke inhalation, barely able to breathe or smoke — speak, exited to the roof.
Other agents retrieved their M4 submachine guns from Building B. When they attempted to return to the main building, they encountered armed attackers and doubled back. They regrouped, made their way to a nearby armored vehicle, and then drove over to assist the agent on the roof and search for the ambassador and Mr. Smith.
After numerous attempts, they found Mr. Smith. Unfortunately, he was already deceased. They still could not find the ambassador. The quick reaction security team arrived with 40 members of the Libyan 17th February Brigade. They all continued the search for the ambassador.
Then, at approximately 11:00 p.m., the Libyans insisted, for everyone’s safety, they needed to evacuate the site.
The combined security team made a final search for the ambassador before leaving the annex in an armored vehicle. They took heavy fire as they pulled away from the main building and on the street outside the compound, but were able to make their way to the annex.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Point of order — point of order –
REP. ISSA: The gentlelady — the gentlelady will suspend. The gentleman will state his point of order.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Mr. Chairman, I am concerned that we’re getting into classified issues that deal with sources and methods that would be totally inappropriate in an open forum such as this.
REP. ISSA: The gentlelady, Ms. Lamb, Mr. Kennedy, are — is it your intent to declassify any or all material in Ms. Lamb’s statement?
PATRICK KENNEDY (?): Mr. Chairman, Chaffetz, the information that we are presenting today in open session is entirely unclassified.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Mr. Chairman, I totally object to the use of that photo.
REP. ISSA: The gentleman will state his reasons.
REP. CHAFFETZ: I believe it to be classified information that goes to sources and methods and should not be disseminated in a public manner such as State is doing here today.
REP. CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: Ranking member.
REP. CUMMINGS: I was just wondering, these are people from the State Department. They apparently have clearance to show this information, and they are — I assume they wouldn’t come here unless it was cleared, so I — I’m just –
REP. ISSA: Yeah, I appreciate the gentleman’s comments.
Ambassador, it’s your statement that these either are now declassified, or you are declassifying them at this hearing. Is that correct? In other words, is this clear — is this cleared through your channels to be given here today?
MR. KENNEDY: This information is available, sir, for public dissemination. Yes, sir.
REP. ISSA: OK –
MR. : You can Google this.
REP. ISSA: The — gentleman’s point of order, although noted, it is the prerogative of the executive branch to determine what is not classified. The one thing I would note: My able staff has compared last night’s press conference and the opening statement. And Ms. Lamb, it appears as though her opening statement should have been given to us last night, since it was obviously the one given to the press. We’ll –
REP. CHAFFETZ: Mr. Chairman?
REP. ISSA: We’ll reset –
REP. : Yes, the gentleman will state his point.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Can I make one more comment? I was told specifically while I was Libya, I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, if I might, this is commercial, digital imagery that we — from a commercial satellite source, sir.
REP. ISSA: I appreciate that. Ultimately, I’m going to side with the administration that you have a right to show what you want to show and consider it unclassified. I would, again, recognize that we were shown documents this morning in camera that said unclassified, but they weren’t turned over to the committee. If you have anything else that you intend to use, if it hasn’t been provided to the committee, I would strongly suggest that that binder and other materials be provided at this time. Again, it’s your prerogative to declassify, it’s not your prerogative to selectively tell a member of Congress something is classified, and then come to an open hearing and saying it’s not. Since Mr. Chaffetz visited with your people, people that work for you, Mr. Kennedy, Secretary Kennedy, I would ask that you rectify this in the future.
The gentlelady may — will add –
MR. : Mr. Chairman –
REP. ISSA: I’ve ruled that they –
REP. CUMMINGS: Just had a question, point of order, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: What is your point of order?
REP. CUMMINGS: I actually have one question — (inaudible) — so it will be clear, because we don’t want any misconceptions.
Just, Ambassador, can we get that on Google?
REP. ISSA: This is not a point of order.
REP. CUMMINGS: Just, I want to know — (inaudible).
REP. ISSA: The ranking member does not — (cross talk) — point of order. Thank you. Please reset it to two minutes. If you could finish within two minutes, Ms. Lamb, we’d appreciate it. Gentlelady’s recognized.
MS. LAMB: Yes, thank you. In the early morning, an additional security team arrived from Tripoli and proceeded to the annex. Shortly after they arrived, the annex started taking mortar fire, with as many as three direct hits on the compound. It was during this mortar attack that Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed, and a diplomatic security agent and a quick reaction security team were critically wounded. A large number of Libyan government security officers subsequently arrived and escorted the remaining Americans to the airport. We were then able to confirm reports that the ambassador’s body was at the Benghazi general hospital, and the department coordinated the transfer of his remains to the airport.
Before I close I would like to say, the men and women who risked their lives in the service of our country are heroes. I have served with many of our security professionals around the world.
They are my friends and my colleagues, and I trust them with my life.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
I would direct that that chart be taken down. Upon further reflection, you know, although commercially available, in this hearing room, we’re not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government or more facilities. So you may continue. I respect your right to deliver what you want, but I will caution once again, Ambassador, that that which is told to us on a classified basis needs to remain that way. You can’t have it — one day a classified briefing, which I attended yesterday, and then the same — substantially same material be presented unclassified the next day.
The ambassador is recognized.
PATRICK KENNEDY: Thank you very much.
Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Cummings, distinguished members of the committee, I would like to share a few words with you. Quote, “Libyans face significant challenges as they make the transition from an oppressive dictatorship to a stable and prosperous democracy, but it is clearly in the U.S. interest, and it will be an extraordinary honor to represent the United States during this historic period of transition in Libya.” Those were Ambassador Stevens’ words at his confirmation hearing, and they help us understand why he went to Libya, his passion for the country, its people and the mission. He believed that no challenge was too big or too hard if our national security interest and our values were at stake. And that is what is at stake in Libya.
At your request, in the spirit of cooperation, we are here today to do our best to answer your questions. But I ask you to understand that we do not yet know all the answers or results of ongoing reviews, and there may be, as the chairman had noted, information that is classified and can only be dealt with in classified session.
As Secretary Clinton has said, the American people, especially the families who lost loved ones, deserve a full and accurate accounting. We at the State Department are determined to get this right, and nobody will hold us more accountable than we hold ourselves. We lost friends and colleagues, a cross section of those who put their lives on the line every day in the inherently dangerous work of diplomatic service to our nation.
The secretary has already appointed an accountability review board, and it has begun working to determine whether our security systems and procedures were appropriate in light of the threat environment, whether they were properly implemented as well as any lessons that may impact our work around the world. The secretary has asked it to work as quickly and transparently as possible without sacrificing diligence and accuracy. This is a complicated review that will take time as we learn more about what happened, and thus we are better able to assess the information we have. Until then, it is an incomplete picture, and as a result, our answers today will also be incomplete.
No one in the administration has claimed to know for certain all the answers. We have always made clear that we were giving the best information we have at the time and that information has involved (sic). For example, if any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said. The information she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point. Clearly, we know more about it today than what we did on September after the — Sunday, September 16th after the attack. But we will continue consulting with you throughout this process.
I would like to address a broader question that may be on your minds: Why is the United States in Benghazi when there are real dangers there? This question does go to the heart of what we do at the State Department and America’s role in the world. Ambassador Stevens arrived in Benghazi during the height of the revolution. The city was at the heart of the opposition to Colonel Gadhafi, and the rebels there were fighting for their lives. It was dangerous. A bomb exploded in the parking lot at his hotel. The transitional authorities struggled to provide basic security. Extremists fought to exploit their own agenda.
But Chris understood that the State Department must operate in places where our military cannot or does not, there are no other boots on the ground and where there are serious threats to our security. He understood that the new Libya was being born in Benghazi and it was critical that we have an active presence there. That is why Ambassador Stevens stayed in Benghazi in those difficult days and returned as ambassador as the Libyans began their difficult transition to democracy. He knew his mission was vital to our interest and values and was an investment that would pay off in the strong partnership with a free Libya.
After the September 11 attack, the Libyan people showed how right he was.
Thousands marched in the streets of Benghazi mourning their fallen friend with signs saying: Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans. They overran extremist bases. Civilians insisted that the militia disarm and support the new democracy. They confirm what Chris Stevens knew so well: The United States is better off because he went to Benghazi.
We must review the security procedures in place and improve them, asking ourselves if our people had what they needed and how we can reduce the risk of this happening. But one thing is not up for debate today or any other day: Those who risk their lives in the service of our country are heroes and we must support them, particularly those who provide security in an unsecure environment.
Diplomacy must be practiced in dangerous places. The United States sends people to more than 275 diplomatic posts; no other agency is asked to stretch so far. We do this because we have learned that when America is absent, especially from dangerous places, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer and our security is threatened. As the secretary says, leadership means showing up. That is what we do. That’s how we protect this country and sustain its global leadership.
We can, and we will, reduce the risk to those who serve, but no one can eliminate it. Our facilities must be protected, but not all are fortresses.
I want to be clear: We regularly assess risk and resource allocation, a process involving the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington, using the best available information. The assault that occurred on the evening of September 17th (sic), however, was an unprecedented assault by dozens of heavily armed men.
We must continue deploying our diplomats and development professionals to dangerous places like Benghazi. There is no alternative. As the secretary has said: “We will not retreat. We will keep leading, and we will stay engaged everywhere in the world.” All of us in the State Department will honor our fallen colleagues by continuing their work with the same purpose and resolve they demonstrated.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for this opportunity. The Congress is a crucial partner in providing diplomatic security, so I look forward to working with you and the members of this committee to continue providing America’s diplomats with the support and resources needed to carry out their important work.
Thank you, sir.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. Ambassador Kennedy, yesterday you made a significant press announcement. I want to ask you a couple of questions.
This morning, and only this morning, we were shown — our staff was shown a book — a binder — in camera. The documents in that book all indicate unclassified; are you prepared to deliver those documents to us at this time?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, my understanding is that we did make information available to the committee both last night and this morning, and we have that material still here. We would be glad to meet with the committee or committee staff afterwards.
REP. ISSA: No, we want it for this hearing. The information when looked at in camera was unclassified, but in fact perhaps embarrassing. Will you make that information available at this time so I can circulate it to all the members on the dais?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, the information — while individual pieces may be unclassified, the totality of the information is such that it must be considered in — to be restricted, and the context is all-important.
REP. ISSA: I agree with you. And with that, I now move that the unclassified document of September 11th, 2012, appearing above the signature of the ambassador be placed in the record. Without objection, so ordered. The staff will distribute it — (inaudible).
Additionally, I move that — oops, that’s September 11th again — I move that the document of March 28th, 2012, be placed in the record. Without objection, so ordered.
Additionally — and these will have to be printed — the document of August 2nd, 2012, from the ambassador — or — and of July 9th, 2012, be placed in the record. Without objection, so ordered.
REP. CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman?
REP. ISSA: Yes?
REP. CUMMINGS: Just so that we’ll be clear. You already have the documents? I just want to be clear, that’s all.
REP. ISSA: In real time, a whistleblower has provided us with some of these documents. We confirm that these documents are similar to the documents — or identical to the documents being withheld. It is the determination of the chair that these documents were responsive, unclassified and appropriate for discovery.
REP. CUMMINGS: Chairman, I was just asking if you already had the documents.
REP. ISSA: Well, if you notice, I’m looking at one on an iPad.
REP. CUMMINGS: Yeah; you already have them.
OK? I just — that’s — (inaudible) — I asked.
REP. ISSA: Yeah. We do have them and others, so they will be circulated –
REP. CUMMINGS: To both sides?
REP. ISSA: — to both sides, of course.
REP. CUMMINGS: Thank you.
REP. ISSA: They are now documents of this hearing and of this — and before I do my opening statement or — (inaudible) — before I do my questioning, Ambassador, I don’t like doing this. But ultimately the cooperation we received has caused individuals to say things which are consistent with these documents which are being withheld. And since the documents are unclassified, we can reach no other conclusion but that they’re inappropriate. And quite frankly, after my years in the military and my years on the Hill and my years on the Select Intelligence Committee, to say that a broad array of unclassified documents somehow in totality makes classified is to make everything you do unavailable to the Congress.
With that, we’ll begin the clock.
Mr. Nordstrom, you’ve done a lot of things that I appreciate in communication. October 1st you sent a statement — an email to Mr. Chaffetz. He read it in his opening statement. Do you stand by that statement?
MR. NORDSTROM: I do. That was a response, again, as a follow-up to our meeting on the same day, where we discussed a number of documents that you were interested in getting, specifically the list of incidents that we had discussed.
REP. ISSA: In that statement, basically what you were saying is there wasn’t sufficient resources provided, considering the escalating, the coming together of what could have — could have and turned out to be a catastrophic attack. Would that be a fair paraphrasing of what you’ve said?
MR. NORDSTROM: That was one of the main reasons I continued to ask for those resources, yes.
REP. ISSA: We had an informal meeting with you — bipartisan meeting. In that, you relayed something — I think it’s very important. I asked you about Ambassador Stevens, a very skilled career diplomat, and how he dealt with threats related to security. And you told me — I’m paraphrasing — that for example, when there was a perceived threat in his running, he ceased running. Then, when both you and Colonel Wood were able to come up with an acceptable way that he could continue, by varying where he went and so on, he ran again but only ran again under your authority and your recommendation. Is that correct?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct, Chairman.
REP. ISSA: And I think I asked you: Was he a compliant officer? Did he meet — did he do what you thought when you recommended it, or did he chafe at any time over what you thought was best for his security?
MR. NORDSTROM: At no time did I have any concerns raised to me by Ambassador Stevens. Colonel Wood and I, senior member of the Mobile Security Deployment team, routinely met with him and discussed general threats but also specific concerns that we might have about his schedule, his routine and his meetings. As I noted in that informal hearing, you know, one of the specific threats that we had received that was referenced this morning was a threat that was posted to Facebook. We came across that threat as a result of Senator McCain coming out to post to review the elections that were held in early July.
REP. ISSA (?): OK.
MR. NORDSTROM: There had been some postings about that. But the — my point of it is that he was absolutely responsive, and he deferred to what our concerns were.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
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 he submitted a request, you would not support it. Is that correct?
MS. LAMB: Sir, after our meeting last night, I went back and — at the time –
REP. ISSA: Well, first answer the question; then I’ll let you expand. Did you say that yesterday, that you would not support it if he — if he gave you the request?
MS. LAMB: Under the current conditions, yes.
REP. ISSA: OK. And then last night you discovered what?
MS. LAMB: I went back and reviewed the July 9 cable from which I was referring, and that was not in that cable. I’ve been reviewing lots of documents –
REP. ISSA: Well, we have a July 9th cable — it’s one of them that I put in the record –
MS. LAMB: Yes.
REP. ISSA: — that in fact has the words “request.” It doesn’t meet your standard of perhaps what you call a formal request; you described that. But it does request more assets. If you’ve looked at the July 9, 2012 cable — and this is less than 60 — roughly 60 days beforehand — it says: “Summary and action request. Embassy Tripoli requests continued TDY security support for an additional 60 days.” Now, 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 today that they requested these assets above and beyond what they had on September 11th, rather than that they simply recommended?
MS. LAMB: Sir, we discussed that there was no justification that normally comes with a request. That cable was a very detailed and complex cable outlining what –
REP. ISSA: Right. Well, we’ve now read that cable, and you’re right, it is detailed. And in several more places, it expresses concerns. The September 11th cable from the now-deceased ambassador expresses current concerns on that day. Repeatedly in the cables that were denied to us, what we see is people telling you that al-Qaida- type organizations are 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 with 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 ?). 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. Isn’t that true?
MS. LAMB: Sir, we had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon.
REP. ISSA: OK, my time is expired. To start off by saying you had 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 to the American people.
With that, I recognize the ranking member. Mr. Cummings have you received the copies of the cables yet?
REP. CUMMINGS: Yeah, thank you.
REP. ISSA: OK. Thank you.
REP. CUMMINGS: Mr. Nordstrom, you testified here today — your testimony here today paints a different picture than what has been portrayed in the press. In your testimony, you stated that you were, quote, “impressed with the plans that would send our team into Libya, a massive show of well-organized resources,” end of quote. You further explain that, and I quote, “The Department of State Diplomatic Security Service and Mission Libya officers conducted themselves professionally and with careful attention to managing people and budgets in a way that reflects the gravity of that task. Did you say that?
MR. NORDSTROM: Yes, I did, sir.
REP. CUMMINGS: And you’ve stated that you felt that the vast majority of your resource requests were, and I quote, “considered seriously and fastidiously by DS and the department,” end of quote. Did you say that?
MR. NORDSTROM: Absolutely.
REP. CUMMINGS: Did you mean that?
MR. NORDSTROM: Absolutely.
REP. CUMMINGS: In fact, you list out a litany of security improvements that you were able to make in both Benghazi and Tripoli. I think all of that is helpful to put into context the concerns that you have raised about staffing numbers. In your interview on October 1st, 2012, you told the committee that you thought that there should be five Diplomatic Security special agents stationed in Benghazi and that you sent two cables, one in March and one in July, making that request. Is that right?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct. And if I could add to that point, it was not my decision to come up with the five agents in Benghazi. That number originated from a December 2011 cable detailing the future of operations in Benghazi.
REP. CUMMINGS: All right.
MR. NORDSTROM: That cable was drafted in the department. I had had no time and opportunity to add or comment on that. However, the principal officer in Benghazi had an opportunity to comment on that. It was that number, five, which DS had committed to, which we continued to ask them to meet throughout my time there.
REP. CUMMINGS: Now, we’ve reviewed that July cable, and it states further, “Post anticipates” — and I quote, “Post anticipates supporting the operations in Benghazi with at least one permanently assigned RSO from Tripoli; however, would request continued TDY (ph) support to fill a minimum of three security positions in Benghazi.” So that would be a total of four, is that right?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct.
REP. CUMMINGS: I understand that you left Libya before the attacks, is that right?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s absolutely correct.
REP. CUMMINGS: Ambassador Kennedy, let me turn to you. We have now been told there were in fact five special agents in Benghazi the night of the attack, contrary to the press reports.
Can you verify whether, in fact, there were five special agents in Benghazi on the night of the attack? Were there also any additional armed guards at the compound on the — on that night? Could you answer those two questions, please?
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir. There were five diplomatic security special agents on the compound the evening of the September 11th and there were three additional armed security personnel provided by the government of Libya.
REP. CUMMINGS: Now, Agent Lamb, how do you respond to concerns that you failed to respond to requests for additional special agents in Benghazi? You know, that’s a serious charge there.
MS. LAMB: Yes sir. And we’ve evaluated that. I’ve evaluated it both with Eric Nordstrom and with a senior RSO that spent TDY time there as well. I asked them to do a serious assessment of the numbers that were needed there. When Mr. Nordstrom discussed the duties of the agent out in Benghazi, he was — they were using one agent to drive the vehicle and they were using another agent to watch communicate — classified communications equipment 24/7.
So these are not normally duties that are assigned to DS agents. So we — I just — I asked Eric to review that and then when Rene Crowningshield, another RSO, went to Benghazi, was also asked to review the numbers. And post — Eric worked closely with post management, asked them to hire a driver. And we hired a driver, trained a driver and then the driver took the place of what the DS agent was doing. And then they came up through technical security means, a way around the need to have the 24/7 coverage.
REP. CUMMINGS: One last question. When the ambassador traveled to Benghazi before the attack, could the security team in Tripoli have sent additional agents with them if they thought it was necessary?
MS. LAMB: Absolutely.
REP. CUMMINGS: Very well.
REP. ISSA: Would the gentlemen yield?
REP. CUMMINGS: Yes.
REP. ISSA: Were any of those five DS agents that were there from Tripoli, they’d come down with the ambassador?
MS. LAMB: Two had traveled with the ambassador.
REP. ISSA: OK. So for the record, there were three there and two happen to be there because the ambassador was there. That’s not the same as five being in Benghazi ordinarily.
MS. LAMB: No, sir.
REP. ISSA: So if in a ordinary course there’d been five, there still would been two more coming down with the ambassador for a total of seven.
MS. LAMB: The post had agreed that three was a sufficient number to have on the ground.
REP. CUMMINGS: So, just one question –
REP. ISSA: Of course.
REP. CUMMINGS: So Mr. Nordstrom, your — the cable we talked about asked for four agents, not five, is that right?
MR. NORDSTROM: If you could you just clarify which cable. As I said, I sent a number of requests back by cable.
REP. CUMMINGS: The July cable.
MR. NORDSTROM: July 9th, yes.
REP. CUMMINGS: It asked for four not five.
MR. NORDSTROM: It asked for a minimum of three, and our plan was, at that time we had three full-time permanently assigned agents in Libya, myself and two assistants.
REP. CUMMINGS: So even so, there were five on the night of the attack. Is that right?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s my understanding, although I was not there, so –
REP. CUMMINGS: All right. Thank you.
REP. ISSA: Thank the gentleman.
We now recognize the former chairman of the full committee for his questions, Mr. Burton.
REPRESENTATIVE DAN BURTON (R-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kennedy on — right after the September 11th attack, you were up here on Capitol Hill giving a briefing to aides and you indicated that — in fact you said that this appeared to be a terrorist attack. Do you stand by that?
MR. KENNEDY: What I said, Mr. Chairman, is that I was — former chairman, Mr. Burton, sir. I would — I am –
REP. BURTON: Huh?
REP. ISSA: Once a chairman, always a chairman.
REP. BURTON: Yeah, right.
MR. KENNEDY: I said — I — the question I recall being asked was, is this — was this a premeditated attack? And I respond — I responded to that that I am not prepared to render a formal opinion on whether or not it was premeditated, but I thought it involved a degree of complexity that was — that was significant.
REP. BURTON: Well, according to people who were there, you called it a terrorist attack.
MR. KENNEDY: Oh, that was in a separate statement. Yes sir, I said –
REP. BURTON: OK. That’s all I wanted to know.
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir.
REP. BURTON: That’s all I wanted to know.
MR. KENNEDY: Absolutely.
REP. BURTON: OK, because today, as I listen to people and you, Ms. Lamb, have said — you have described these attackers in a number of ways, but you don’t mention terrorists at all. Why is that? I mean the compound had been attacked once before and breached. And these people had all these weapons, projectiles, grenades, all kinds of weapons.
Why would you call this anything but a terrorist attack, and why do you call them attackers?
MS. LAMB: Sir, I have just presented the facts as they’ve come across; I am not making any judgments on my own, and I am leaving that –
REP. BURTON: OK. Well, let me ask you a couple of other questions. There were 16 troops that were there at that compound, and they requested them to be kept there. And they sent a suggestion to you that they be kept there, and then you responded saying that if that was presented to you, you would not accept that. Was that your sole decision?
MS. LAMB: Sir, they were not in Benghazi; they were in Tripoli. I just want to make sure that we’re –
REP. BURTON: I understand; go ahead.
MS. LAMB: OK. And what — when the cable came in where RSO Nordstrom laid out all of his staffing requirements and needs, I asked our desk officer to go back and sit down with him — or through emails and telephone conversations — to work out all the details and line up exactly how many security personnel — armed security personnel did he need.
REP. BURTON: OK. Well — well –
MS. LAMB: But –
REP. BURTON: But you didn’t — you did not agree with that assessment that they needed those there?
MS. LAMB: No, sir, we had been training –
REP. BURTON: No, no — I just want to know –
MS. LAMB: — local Libyans to replace –
REP. BURTON: Did you or did you not say that if that was presented to you, you would not accept it?
MS. LAMB: He was –
REP. BURTON: Did you or did you not say –
MS. LAMB: Yes, sir, I said that personally I would not support it. He could request it –
REP. BURTON: OK. Now, why is that? Why is that?
MS. LAMB: Because –
REP. BURTON: You knew about all these other attacks that had taken place; there had been 12, 14.
MS. LAMB: We had been training local Libyans and arming them for almost a year –
REP. BURTON: Well, now, I — OK, well let me just interrupt and say that the local Libyan militia that was there, many of them supposedly were told by friends and relatives that there was going to be an imminent attack on that compound. And so many of them left.
MS. LAMB: Yes.
REP. BURTON: They didn’t want to be involved in the attack. Did –
MS. LAMB: Sir, it would seem –
REP. BURTON: Well — wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
MS. LAMB: OK.
REP. BURTON: Yeah.
MS. LAMB: All right.
REP. BURTON: So I don’t understand why you would say that out of hand, that you don’t think those 16 troops should be there?
MS. LAMB: Sir, with due respect, they are in Tripoli. They were not in Benghazi. And it would not have made any difference in Benghazi.
REP. BURTON: OK. Mr. Nordstrom, do you care to comment on this?
MR. NORDSTROM: I — as DAS Lamb indicated, beginning at about January, February time frame I had a number of conversations with DAS Lamb, with the regional director for Near Eastern affairs and also the desk officer for Libya itself. And a lot of those discussions were specific to determining what exactly our personnel needs were — looking at metrics, looking at what the duties would be that these personnel would be doing, be it DOD sourced or Department of State sourced. The number that we continued to come up with — and it is generally the same number that was requested in March, in my first request — was approximately 12 armed security, with an additional six persons that would be focused on training that local guard unit.
REP. ISSA: Would the gentleman yield?
REP. BURTON: I’d be happy to yield.
REP. ISSA: Isn’t it true — we’ve had this in testimony by the other RSO yesterday, from Benghazi — that they’d have as much as 30 percent turnover per month in these people they were training; that in fact you were not getting, if you will, good career people to come in, but in fact had very high turnover both in the unarmed and to a lesser extent in the armed portion of the training?
MR. NORDSTROM: We had — just in terms of a point of clarification, we did have — the guard force was somewhat confusing. In Tripoli, the guards that we employed were directly hired by the embassy; they were –
REP. ISSA: I’m only speaking of Benghazi.
MR. NORDSTROM: OK. Those were subcontracted. The decision to go with a contractor, Blue Mountain, was largely based on our concern of how long we would be in Benghazi. We were concerned that if we retained or brought on board full-time employees we would have to then find a position for them if that post ever went away. So yes, it’s my understanding that there was a very high turnover with those people.
In terms of the armed security that were there, the 17 February, it was a core group that stayed there largely for the duration.
REP. ISSA: The gentleman’s time has expired, but Colonel Wood, if you want to finish up on anything that’s responsive that’d be fine.
COL. WOOD: Yes, the 16 members of the SST did go to Benghazi on two separate occasions to support movement of the principal officer in the location to bolster the security that was there.
She made a trip to Tobruk and Derna, and they were needed there for the extra — just the extra movement that she had, and to remain to guard the compound and provide a quick reaction force if necessary. We did that on — like I said — two separate occasions to provide that extra support. The SST, a loan to the security force of what goes above and beyond normal, I guess, law-enforcement-oriented security. These individuals were familiar and carried larger caliber, better weapons, and the tactics they would employ would be to counter a military-style attack.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. Ms. Norton?
DEL. NORTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Kennedy, I want to make sure I clarify one of the most controversial parts of this matter, and that is how the public first learned of the first reason given for the disturbances in Benghazi.
Now, I understand that the State Department did not take any position, including the position taken by Ambassador Rice. So I think it’s important to trace how the ambassador came to the conclusions that she reported on television. She said that her information was that the — the Benghazi matters were similar to the protest that had arisen in Cairo. And she referred to extremist elements, the opportunistic elements, taking advantage, essentially, of that protest.
Now, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement that indicated that it had been the source of the ambassador’s statement, and I’d like to read what the national intelligence director said: “In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to executive branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and to provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation, we continued to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving.”
I know, by the way, that, Mr. Nordstrom, you say in your testimony — I’m looking at page 2 — that the ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that he — we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time — my entire time in diplomatic service, indicating that this was something of a surprise attack. And I might say, suggesting that perhaps we should be about rethinking how to protect our outpost, since it’s clear we’re not going to do it with lots of funds.
But what I read as the statement — Ambassador Kennedy, could I ask you — from the national intelligence director — could I ask you if you have any reason to doubt that Ambassador Rice relied on that information from the national intelligence director?
MR. KENNEDY: No, Ms. Norton. When I — when I came up to give a briefing earlier that week, followed by — I think a day or two later — by Ambassador Rice, both of us were relying on the same information that I said in my oral statement, that if I or any other senior administration official, career or noncareer, would have been on that television show, other than Susan Rice, we would have said the same thing because we were drawing on the intelligence information that was then available to us. This has been — as you all know — a very much an evolving situation. What we knew that first week and that first weekend has evolved over time, so we know much more now than we knew then.
DEL. NORTON: And to — the national director issued a statement on the 28th, and he said as we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.
So we see the evolving nature of it.
Look, I have to ask you about — (chuckles) — the diplomats who were stationed in Cairo who were accused of — by Governor Mitt Romney of sympathizing with the attackers. I’d like to know how these — (chuckles) — these diplomats, these personnel in Cairo reacted to that criticism.
MR. KENNEDY: I’m afraid, Ms. Norton, I don’t know. I have not had any conversations with the public affairs section in the embassy in Cairo. But I can assure you, from just my general knowledge of — for 39 years in the foreign service, that there is not a foreign service officer or foreign service professional in our service who at all sympathizes or agree with terrorists.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
We now go to the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Jordan. Could you yield me 10 seconds for a quick question?
REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Sure.
REP. ISSA: Let’s understand, what you’re saying here today is that one piece of intel — one piece of intel got you to guys — yourself and Secretary Rice or Ambassador Rice to make a wrong statement five or six days later and still be making it? Because Sunday is a long time after Tuesday. So you’re saying that it — you got it wrong, and it stayed wrong? You didn’t know any better between the 11th and the 16th, is that right?
MR. KENNEDY: The information that was available –
REP. ISSA: No, no, I just –
MR. KENNEDY: The information that was available from the intelligence community to both myself when — (inaudible) –
REP. ISSA: Ambassador, you’re a great witness historically. I asked you, did you have any contrary knowledge over those five days? That’s all I –
MR. KENNEDY: No, sir.
REP. ISSA: OK, you didn’t know any better for the next five days is your testimony. Thank you.
REP. : Mr. Chairman, may I ask unanimous consent that we give equal time to Mr. Cummings to respond and then give Mr. Jordan his full five minutes?
REP. : Mr. Chairman, on that request –
REP. ISSA: Well, to be honest, Mr. — (inaudible) — are you requesting time?
REP. : On a point of order? On a point of order?
REP. ISSA: OK, I’d ask unanimous — I’d ask unanimous consent that the ranking member have 15 seconds. Without objection, so ordered.
REP. : (Inaudible) — point of order — objection. Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, you just went over –
REP. ISSA: You don’t have to apologize to me.
REP. : With all due respect, you just allowed Mr. Burton to go over by two minutes, and you’re giving Mr. Cummings 15 seconds. You know what I mean? There’s a little bit –
REP. ISSA: (Inaudible.)
REP. : I’m sure you want to balance out the time.
REP. ISSA: No, I understand. And we have gone over, both on witnesses and that — and I will — I’m going to pull it back into five minutes very solidly.
REP. : OK, but just to be fair to the ranking member.
REP. ISSA: Before we get down to your part of the day, yes, I will get there, I promise.
REP. : Thank you, sir.
MR. : Mr. Chairman, can I –
REP. ISSA: Thank you. Without objection, the ranking member is given equal time to ask a question.
REP. CUMMINGS: Yeah, just — I just want to go back to you, Ambassador. I think Ms. Norton and the chairman asked a very critical question. The chairman talked about the five days. Can you give us — can you try to explain that to us, that, you know, during that period of five days or whatever it was, not being able to — not having the information contrary to what Ms. Rice may have said — and I understand that was based on intelligence, but can you explain how that could happen to the public? In other words, were you all still gathering information? Was the State Department in the process of trying to get it right? I mean, what was going on there. Do you know?
MR. KENNEDY: I — Mr. Cummings, we were gathering information. We were closely coordinating with our colleagues in the intelligence community. We wanted to know what was happening more than anyone else because we also had dozens of other embassies that we are concerned about, including attacks on three or four other embassies. So we were looking for every piece of information that we could get from no matter what rational and reasonable source to feed into our consideration of what steps we should take to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad.
REP. CUMMINGS: This is the last question, Mr. Chairman. If it — is it unusual for you all to rely on the intelligence community for these — that kind of information?
MR. KENNEDY: We have a great partnership, Mr. Cummings, with the intelligence community, and we heavily depend upon the information they provide us, just as they heavily depend upon information we provide them.
REP. CUMMINGS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: I thank you.
And now the gentleman from Ohio has exactly five minutes.
REP. JORDAN: Thank you. I thank the chairman.
Lieutenant Colonel Wood, how many months were you in Libya?
LT. COL. WOOD: I was in Libya approximately six months.
REP. JORDAN: Mr. Nordstrom, how many months were you in Libya?
MR. NORDSTROM: Approximately 10.
REP. JORDAN: Ms. Lamb, how many times have you visited Libya in the — how many times have you visited Libya, period?
MS. LAMB: I have not.
REP. JORDAN: None over the last 14, 15 months?
MS. LAMB: No.
REP. JORDAN: None since the 200-plus incidents — security incidents in Libya have you visited?
MS. LAMB: No, sir. Those –
REP. JORDAN: Mr. Kennedy, how many times have you been to Libya?
MR. : None.
REP. JORDAN: OK. Let me go to this process. We had numbers earlier from Mr. Nordstrom. You talked about three slash five (ph) in Libya; then we talked about you wanted 12 plus a backup of six. So I want to know about this process. And actually, I’ll go to Mr. Kennedy first. In your testimony, Mr. Kennedy, you’d say the Department of State regularly assesses risk and allocation of resources for security, a process which involves considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington using the best information available. So that process — I want to know how the decision was made. Are you involved in that process, Ambassador Kennedy?
MR. KENNEDY: In most normal occasions, I am not involved. There’s an ongoing dialogue –
REP. JORDAN: Where does that process go to? Are people in the White House directly involved in that process? Is Secretary Clinton directly involved in that process?
MR. KENNEDY: The — if there are disagreements between the post in the field and the diplomatic security –
REP. JORDAN: Would you classify what — would you classify what took place here as a disagreement, based on what Mr. Nordstrom and Mr. Wood have testified to, what Ms. Lamb has said?
MR. KENNEDY: No, sir. I would –
REP. JORDAN: This didn’t reach the disagreement level?
MR. KENNEDY: I would describe it as a dialogue between the post and diplomatic security — (inaudible) –
REP. JORDAN: But this didn’t reach a — this didn’t reach a level where you needed to weigh in or someone higher needed to weigh in?
MR. KENNEDY: No, sir, it did not.
REP. JORDAN: Anyone at the National Security Council — anyone weigh in there?
MR. KENNEDY: No, sir. No, sir, it did not.
REP. JORDAN: OK. Mr. Nordstrom, let me turn to you then. I want to know, in the email that Congressman Chaffetz referenced earlier — the interview you had with Congressman Chaffetz and Chairman Issa back on October 1st — you stated, this is not an — quote, “not an environment where posts should be directed to normalize operations and reduce security resources in accordance with artificial timeline.” And yet today in your testimony, it was a little different tenor, as I think the ranking member brought out. And you mentioned at one point, the answer should not be to operate from a bunker.
So I want to ask you these questions. First of all, since that interview with Chairman Issa and Chairman (sic) Chaffetz, staff has indicated they’ve tried to contact you six different times via telephone, and you’ve not responded. Is there a reason you did not respond to those telephone calls?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct.
REP. JORDAN: No, it’s correct you didn’t respond. Is there a reason?
MR. NORDSTROM: I had been advised by the Department of State that all inquiry –
REP. JORDAN: And who specifically advised you to do that?
MR. NORDSTROM: Our legislative affairs office.
REP. JORDAN: And did they tell you where that came from? Did Ms. Lamb specifically advise you not to talk to –
MR. NORDSTROM: No, she did not.
REP. JORDAN: Did Mr. — did Ambassador Kennedy tell you to do that?
MR. NORDSTROM: No, he did not.
REP. JORDAN: Did Secretary of State Clinton tell you to do that?
MR. NORDSTROM: No, she did not.
REP. JORDAN: So who was the person who told you not to talk with our staff after you gave this interview where you gave us this information?
MR. NORDSTROM: I was advised by the Assistant Secretary Boswell — (inaudible) — office –
REP. JORDAN: OK.
MR. NORDSTROM: — his staff, that all requests for information and documents would need to be go — would need to be vetted or routed through that office.
REP. JORDAN: Did those same individuals help you prepare today’s testimony?
MR. NORDSTROM: In the sense of providing general guidelines on how –
REP. JORDAN: Did they tell you they wanted to look it over before you came in front of this committee and gave it today?
MR. NORDSTROM: Of course.
REP. JORDAN: And did they — did they write it for you?
MR. NORDSTROM: No, they did not.
REP. JORDAN: OK. Ms. Lamb, I want to go back to — I want to go back to this decision-making process. So is it — is it customary to not listen as — well, I would — I would characterize — (inaudible) — listen as intently as I think you should have to the guys in the field and what they wanted to have happen when they requested the 12 plus the six backup?
MS. LAMB: Yes, sir. I listened intently to those conversations.
REP. JORDAN: OK. Mr. Wood, let me — let me get — bring you into the conversation here. I want your comments on that specifically, the number you wanted to add in Libya plus the additional six.
LT. COL. WOOD: We agreed to the numbers between Eric and I and put forth those numbers. We felt great frustration in the fact that those demands were ignored or in some cases just never met.
REP. JORDAN: So the process we — I was earlier referencing when talking — asking Mr. — Ambassador Kennedy — tell me who you felt was involved in that process. Who were the individuals in Washington — you were the folks on the ground on — at post. Who were the folks in Washington in that process?
LT. COL. WOOD: I heard Eric Nordstrom refer to Ms. Lamb, as far as the deciding authority on providing those additional resources.
REP. JORDAN: Experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington — who were the other experienced professionals in Washington help make that decision?
LT. COL. WOOD: I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t know the answer to that.
REP. JORDAN: Mr. Nordstrom, who else? The — in — because all we got right now — we know the secretary of state wasn’t, we know the White House wasn’t and we know the national security — we know Ambassador Kennedy wasn’t. Somebody had to decide. Someone in Washington was telling you guys you couldn’t get what you wanted. So was it just Ms. Lamb, or were there other people involved in this process? Mr. Nordstrom.
MR. NORDSTROM: Again, I can’t speculate in terms of who was. The person I dealt with was our regional director, Jim Bacigalupo, and then Ms. Lamb.
REP. JORDAN: OK — (inaudible).
MR. NORDSTROM: The ambassador and the DCM, if I could just add, raised the same –
MR. : Yeah, you can finish — yeah, OK.
MR. NORDSTROM: — raised the same concerns. The DCM met with DAS Lamb also in February; raised the same concerns in person. And it’s my understanding that Ambassador Cretz made additional phone calls.
Now, all of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources.
REP. JORDAN: OK.
REP. ISSA: OK, anyone that needs to answer that question, but the gentleman’s time has expired.
REP. JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: Ms. Lamb?
On behalf of Ms. Lamb, Ambassador Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: Now — because I want to make this –
REP. ISSA: Briefly, please.
MR. KENNEDY: Absolutely, Mr. Chairman. I was asked — on a different question, I was asked whether I was going to request a third extension of the SST. I consulted with my colleagues, and because our colleagues had put together –
REP. JORDAN: Wait, but that’s not what you said earlier. You said you weren’t involved, and now you’re telling me you are. Which one is it?
MR. KENNEDY: This isn’t — you asked a specific question.
REP. ISSA: OK. This question, I’m afraid, will get — will be for the next round for both of you.
With that, we recognize the gentleman from Ohio, also, Mr. Kucinich.
REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kennedy has testified today that U.S. interests and values are at stake in Libya and that the U.S. is better off because we went to Benghazi. Really? You’d think that after 10 years in Iraq and 11 years in Afghanistan that our country — that the U.S. would have learned the consequences and the limits of interventionism. You would think that after trillions have been wasted on failed attempts at democracy-building abroad, while our infrastructure crumbles at home, Congress and the administration would reexamine priorities.
Today, we’re engaging in a discussion about the security failures of Benghazi. There was a security failure. Four Americans, including our Ambassador, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed. Their deaths are a national tragedy. My sympathy is with the families of those who were killed. There has to be accountability. I haven’t heard that yet.
We have an obligation to protect those who protect us. That’s why this Congress needs to ask questions. The security situation did not happen overnight because of a decision made by someone at the State Department. We could talk about hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts for funding for embassy security over the last two years as a result of a blind pursuit of fiscal austerity. We could talk about whether it’s prudent to rely so heavily on security contractors rather than our own military or State Department personnel. We could do a he said, she said about whether the State Department should have beefed up security at the embassy in Benghazi.
But we owe it to the diplomatic corps who serves our nation to start at the beginning, and that’s what I shall do.
The security threats in Libya, including the unchecked extremist groups who are armed to the teeth, exist because our nation spurred on a civil war destroying the security and stability of Libya. And, you know, no one defends Gadhafi — Libya was not in a meltdown before the war. In 2003, Gadhafi reconciled with the community of nations by giving up his nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the time, President Bush said Gadhafi’s actions made our country and our world safer.
Now, during the Arab Spring, uprisings across the Middle East occurred and Gadhafi made ludicrous threats against Benghazi. Based on those verbal threats, we intervened — absent constitutional authority, I might add. We bombed Libya, we destroyed their army, we obliterated their police stations.
Lacking any civil authority, armed brigades control security. Al-Qaida expanded its presence. Weapons are everywhere. Thousands of shoulder-to-air missiles are on the loose. Our military intervention led to greater instability in Libya. Many of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, made that argument to try to stop the war.
It’s not surprising, given the inflated threat and the grandiose expectations inherent in our nation-building in Libya, that the State Department was not able to adequately protect our diplomats from this predictable threat. It’s not surprising, and it’s also not acceptable.
It’s easy to blame someone else, like a civil servant at the State Department. We all know the game. It’s harder to acknowledge that decades of American foreign policy have directly contributed to regional instability and the rise of armed militias around the world. It’s even harder to acknowledge Congress’s role in the failure to stop the war in Libya, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Pakistan, the war in Yemen, the war in Somalia and who knows where else. It’s harder to recognize Congress’s role in the failure to stop the drone attacks that are still killing innocent civilians and strengthening radical elements abroad. We want to stop the attacks on our embassies? Let’s stop trying to overthrow governments.
This should not be a partisan issue. Let’s avoid the hype. Let’s look at the real situation here. Interventions do not make us safer. They do not protect our nation. They are themselves a threat to America.
Now, Mr. Kennedy, I would like to ask you: Is al-Qaida more or less established in Libya since our involvement?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Kucinich, I will have to take that question for the record; I am not an intelligence expert.
REP. KUCINICH: Oh, you don’t have the intelligence, you’re saying? Well, I’m going to go onto the next question. The next question, are Americans safer, Mr — excuse me?
REP. ISSA: Mr. Kucinich, I think the other two may have an opinion also if you wanted to ask them.
REP. KUCINICH: Well, I wanted to ask Ambassador Kennedy. Next question, Ambassador Kennedy, how many shoulder-to-air missiles are capable of shooting — that are capable of shooting down civilian passenger airlines are still missing in Libya? And this happened since our intervention. Can you answer that question?
MR. KENNEDY: No sir. I’ll be glad to provide it for the record.
REP. KUCINICH: You’re saying that you don’t know?
MR. KENNEDY: I do not know, sir. It’s not within my normal purview of operations at the State Department.
REP. KUCINICH: Does anyone else here know how many shoulder-to- air missiles that can shoot down civilian airliners are still loose in Libya? Does anyone know?
MR. : The figures that we were provided were fluid, but the rough approximation was between 10 and 20,000.
REP. ISSA: The gentlemen’s time has expired. Did you want them to answer anything about al-Qaida growth?
REP. KUCINICH: If they — if anyone there knows the answer.
REP. ISSA: If anyone has an answer on that one, they can answer and then we’ll move on.
REP. KUCINICH: Yeah, is al-Qaida more or less established in Libya since our involvement?
COL. WOOD (?): Yes sir. They grow — their presence grows every day. They are certainly more established then we are.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. With that, we recognize the chairman of the subcommittee and a doggedly determined individual to get to the bottom of this, Mr. Chaffetz.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Nordstrom, as we spoke before and I think is clear on the record, you were asking for more personnel and that was either rejected or denied or just simply ignored. Correct?
MR. NORDSTROM: Actually, to clarify, we were asking just to keep what we had.
REP. CHAFFETZ: And when you weren’t able to just even keep what you had, what happened to your pay and other security officers on the ground?
MR. NORDSTROM: I’m sorry –
REP. CHAFFETZ: As I recall, what you told me is when that was denied, you were given a pay increase. They increased your pay.
MR. NORDSTROM: Ah. OK. What I think you’re referring to is the increase in danger pay for post. As part of normal procedures, we are asked for input at post. I, as part of that process, would provide information on security.
REP. CHAFFETZ: So you — to clarify, you were asking for more assets, more resources, more personnel, that was denied, but the State Department went back and reclassified it as more dangerous. The danger pay, therefore, increased. They didn’t tell you that we didn’t have resources, hey, that Congress just cut your budget. They gave you an increase because the danger was rising. Correct?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct, we received a danger pay increase.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Thank you. Did the buildings in Benghazi meet the so-called Inman standards? After the — after the bombings in Beirut, we went back as a government and formalized some minimum standards. Did they or did they not meet those minimum standards?
MR. NORDSTROM: Neither the buildings in Benghazi nor the buildings in Tripoli met those standards. Nor was there a plan for the next phase of construction, what was called the interim embassy, would they meet the standards either. That interim embassy was scheduled to be on the ground for approximately 10 years. That was a major cause of concern and that was the main physical security issue that we continued to raise.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Thank you. And Mr. Chairman, I would point to an August 20 cable that U.N. officials believed that the — the supreme security council is, quote, fading away, unquote, unwilling to take on, quote, anyone with powerful patrons or from powerful tribes, end quote. This cable back to Washington, D.C. also said that incidents continue in this security vacuum, as they referred to it, in Benghazi.
Mr. Chairman, I would also point to September 4th. In their memo, they highlighted a September 1st, quote, maximum alert. A maximum alert, September 1st. This was the information that was coming.
And what’s infuriating is that we have hundreds of terrorist types of activities. Our consulate is bombed twice. The British ambassador has an assassination attempt and you’re over here arguing about whether the number was five or two or five or three. And the security experts who actually even been to Libya didn’t get the resources that they asked for.
Colonel Wood, did you or — participate, in any way, shape or form, in request for additional personnel in Libya and what was the consequence of those requests?
COL. WOOD: Yes sir, I did. I assisted Eric Nordstrom in preparation of the requests for support, in as much as they dealt with SST support. I reviewed some of those documents and a — and assisted in the preparation of those. I’d like to — I’d like to add also that there was frustration from the beginning.
The initial — or perhaps this — it was the second request for extension that occurred on April 5th — Ambassador Cretz encountered some difficulty in understanding what was going on; he was getting conflicting signals from DOD and DOS. I got him together with General Ham; they worked out a complete understanding. And General Ham made it very clear to Ambassador Cretz that he could have the SST as long as he needed them. This was a great interagency cooperation, and that was made very clear to him.
It was also made clear to Joan Polaschik, who took over as charge d’affaires in between Ambassador Cretz and Ambassador Stevens. He came personally, and told her that.
He also had a VTC with Ambassador Stevens and reiterated that same point — that the SST was his as long as he needed them; all he had to do was request them, and General Ham was perfectly willing to provide that support.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Mr. Nordstrom, did you ever specifically ask Charlene Lamb — or wait, did she, rather — did she ever specifically direct you not to ask for additional DOT (sic) — DOD, SST extension?
MR. NORDSTROM: I recall two specific phone calls, one in the February time frame, one in the July time frame. I had the opportunity to refresh my recollection on one of those phone calls by talking to the two agents who happened to be present in the living room of the ambassador’s residence, which is where we used as our office. In those conversations, I recall that I was specifically told, you cannot request an SST extension. How I interpreted that was that there was going to be too much political cost or — for some reason there was hesitancy on that.
In the first case, in February, the ambassador and DCM and I all felt strongly about the need for that, and we went ahead and requested it anyway.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
And we now go to the gentleman from Massachusetts, and we appreciate his patience, for five minutes.
REPRESENTATIVE STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to thank the witnesses, all of you, for your willingness to come and help the committee with its work. I — obviously, I want to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice of Ambassador Stevens and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, who was a favorite son of Massachusetts, my home state, and as well as communications specialist Sean Smith.
I want to make two points, however. One is, I think the best way to honor the memory of those American heroes is to address the general and global issue of embassy security so that when we do assign other brave Americans to fill these posts, that they do have adequate security.
Now, many members of this committee — both sides of the aisle here — have, you know, traveled to the Middle East dozens and dozens of times. We’ve visited some — and the chairman has mentioned them in his opening remarks — mentioned Damascus, Syria; mentioned Beirut, Lebanon — I just came back from Sanaa, Yemen, where — at least in Yemen, they are — they’re undergoing some structural changes there in response to threats there. But we have some embassies that predate even the attacks on Nairobi, Kenya or Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — so that we’ve got old-world embassies that are located right on the street, right on the souk, in the Middle East, and that are terribly exposed to, you know, to car bombs and to attacks.
So I think the best way, really, to approach this thing is — number one, is take a holistic approach to this and figure out how we can prevent this type of thing from happening again. And I think my second point — really, the easiest way to strengthen embassy security is to get on the same page.
And you know, I have to tell it like it is, and in recent budgets my Republican colleagues have supported cuts — cuts to funding for embassy security. Well, the first thing you got to do to strengthen embassy security is try to meet Secretary Clinton’s request for funding for embassy security. That will help a lot.
Ambassador Kennedy and Ms. Lamb, what would a few hundred million dollars — like was cut from the president’s request and Secretary Clinton’s request for embassy security — what would that mean to you in terms of providing that level of protection that every son and daughter of America deserves when they accept that post to go into a dangerous area, especially some of the spots that we’ve got right now in the Middle East?
What would that few hundred million dollars do to your ability to provide an adequate level of protection on their behalf?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Lynch, if we receive the president’s budget request for fiscal year `13, which is still pending before the Congress, we would be able to construct new facilities and we would be able to upgrade additional facilities to get to the higher standards we seek.
REP. LYNCH: Well, look, I want to go back to the chairman’s point, the situations in Damascus and in Beirut. Obviously Damascus, we’ve withdrawn our embassy personnel, but we’ve still got the same problem there when things get straightened out. We’re still on the main street. We’re negotiating — we were negotiating. We had — I had personal conversations with President Assad a couple of years ago about getting a new facility there.
Do we have — do we have a task force that is looking at providing the set-back that we need to provide that level of protection and to relocate some of these embassies?
MR. KENNEDY: We do, sir. We have a strategic plan. We know which embassies are more in danger than others. We are working through that. But there are limitations on funds. I can only construct so many new facilities each year, depending on the funds I have available to me.
REP. LYNCH: OK. I just want to go back to one point, Ms. Lamb. In your written testimony, page two, first paragraph, you mention that in addition to the security team you had there, there was a — I think you describe it as a rapid response force that was located in the annex.
How many folks are in that rapid — do you know? How many are in that rapid response task force or team that would help? Or Mr. Nordstrom, I don’t know if you know the number of that.
MS. LAMB: Sir, there were seven. And their job was also to hook up with the –
REP. CHAFFETZ: Point of order. Point of order.
REP. ISSA: The gentleman will state his point of order.
REP. CHAFFETZ: Again, I would renew my deep concern that we’re getting into an area that is classified and should be classified. Dealing with the map is one issue. I believe that the markings on that map were terribly inappropriate. But the activities there could cost lives.
REP. LYNCH: Wait a minute.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
REP. LYNCH: All right, on the point of order, let me –
REP. ISSA: Wait a second. I’m –
REP. LYNCH: May I speak on the point of order?
REP. ISSA: You may speak on the point of order, of course.
REP. LYNCH: OK. This whole hearing is responding to allegations that there were not enough people on the ground at the Benghazi facility, those accusations that you made publicly, so that now I’m trying to get an answer to how many people were there. And all of a sudden that’s off the record? That’s classified information? You’ve got to be kidding me. You have got to be kidding me.
REP. ISSA: I’m prepared to rule.
Unless you’re prepared to get clearance to declassify any and all information about additional personnel, this hearing will be limited to the information already given, which is the amount of individuals who responded from that rapid force. This hearing is not specifically about September 11th but is intended to clarify much more prospectively failures, accountability, decisions.
I don’t think that any of us — and I don’t want to overly state this, but I don’t think any of us figure that since four people are dead, something went wrong. Having said that, there has previously been testimony as to the individuals that have responded.
I would certainly recommend the entire committee have a classified briefing as to any and all other assets that were not drawn upon but could have been drawn upon. And I would ask the gentleman to respect that. And I would yield the gentleman an additional one minute to finish his questioning.
REP. LYNCH: OK. Mr. Ambassador, can you clarify any answer around that question that may not violate the –
MR. KENNEDY: Certainly –
REP. LYNCH: OK.
MR. KENNEDY: Certainly, sir. The U.S. government — the U.S. mission, the American embassy annexes from — in Benghazi consisted of two separate compounds, because we could not all fit on one compound. There were security personnel stationed on both compounds.
There was, in effect, a type of mutual assistance arrangement that had been worked out by the regional security officer. So if one compound came under attack, security personnel would flow from one to the other, or vice versa. It’s a common — it’s a common practice.
And so we are very, very interested in making sure that we have the maximum utilization for common U.S. government State Department security personnel in any country, and we do that.
And we are certainly mindful and respectful of the — of the general security concerns.
REP. LYNCH: OK. Thank you. I yield back.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
Only one point of clarification. Mr. Nordstrom, during your time were those other people under any of your control or specific — could you task them?
MR. NORDSTROM: I’m glad you asked that question. Again, in being completely cognizant because I have some of the same concerns, all of the people there were under the chief of mission but not necessarily all the security people fell under my direct operational control.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. I think that clarifies it.
We now go to the gentleman from Oklahoma, Mr. Lankford, for five minutes.
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I need to shift my questions a little bit from what I intended just based on some of the conversation that we’ve — that we’ve had so far.
Mrs. Lamb, can you clarify for me, where you were working September the 11th? Were you in the Washington area? We’re you in the main facility there?
MS. LAMB: Yes, sir. I was in the DS Command Center on the evening of the event.
REP. LANKFORD: You note that in your testimony, that you were in the Diplomatic Security Command Center, and then you make this statement: “I could follow what was happening almost in real time.”
MS. LAMB: That’s correct.
REP. LANKFORD: So once they hit the button in Benghazi, you’re alerted. It says you could have — did you follow what was happening in real time at that point?
MS. LAMB: Sir, what was happening is they were making multiple phone calls and it was very important that they communicate with the annex in Tripoli because this is where additional resources were coming from. So they would hang up on us and then call back.
REP. LANKFORD: But you’re — but you’re tracking it back and forth, what’s going on.
MS. LAMB: Yes, absolutely.
REP. LANKFORD: Then after a very long night for them, they’re evacuated out into Tripoli.
MS. LAMB: (Inaudible.)
REP. LANKFORD: Were they in communication with you then, once they got to Tripoli? This would have been the next morning at that point.
MS. LAMB: No. They — at that point Embassy Tripoli took over communicating.
REP. LANKFORD: So you had no other communication with them after they got to Tripoli? You weren’t aware of that or –
MS. LAMB: No. They notified us when there was wheels down. They notified us when they got to the hospital. They notified us when they were wheels up en route to Germany.
REP. LANKFORD: Obviously, these are your folks.
MS. LAMB: Absolutely.
REP. LANKFORD: I mean, I cannot imagine the emotion of that for you. So you had no other connection to know what happened, the details of that, what occurred? These frantic phone calls and all these things that are happening back and forth — they get to Tripoli and you’re not aware anymore of what actually had just happened?
MS. LAMB: No, sir, we continued to follow them. But half the team had to be rushed to the hospital and treated –
REP. LANKFORD: Right.
MS. LAMB: — and post was — you know, they had just been through a horrific ordeal.
REP. LANKFORD: Oh, it’s horrible. I mean, your detailed account of this just is horrific.
MS. LAMB: And so at this point, providing them the comfort to just come down from the adrenaline and the horror of what had happened — we respected that and we worked through our colleagues at the embassy in Tripoli.
REP. LANKFORD: Right. Here’s my struggle with that. You’re listening in on the command center, you’re in communication as to what’s going on; they get to Tripoli — there’s all kinds of conversations that are happening back and forth as people are checking on them, and yet State Department is testifying still today, five days later, they didn’t know what happened, that that was a coordinated terrorist attack — maybe this was some spontaneous event that occurred — when there was constant communication happening.
Did someone come to you and ask you, from State, was this a protest? Because I would assume you knew pretty quickly this was not some protest that went out of bounds because there was no protest even there that day. So it’s not like there was a big group of people and 24 people jumped out and started shooting. There was no gathering point at all that day, and I would assume you knew that immediately.
MS. LAMB: No, sir, it was not clear. It was a very large compound, and each individual agent was looking at what was happening from a different perspective and a different angle.
REP. LANKFORD: But was it clear — was it clear to you there wasn’t a protest going on outside? I mean, it’s not that large of a compound you can’t see out the front gates and know if there’s a protest or not.
MS. LAMB: No, sir. It happened so fast when they rushed through the gate, it was not clear.
REP. LANKFORD: Oh, I completely understand — 9:40 at night — but the initial reports were this was some large protest that had happened over a video and it kind of birthed out of that were people running out with RPGs and had attacked. And Ambassador Kennedy has said that’s the best we would know even five days later.
I find that hard to believe based on your report that you’re tracking what’s occurring and that individuals, when they get to Tripoli the next morning, are reporting back what happened, that someone didn’t say here’s what occurred and the word protest never came out of it, yet five days later no one knows?
MS. LAMB: Sir, they were all fighting for their lives on that compound and –
REP. LANKFORD: I completely understand that. Your — my question is the testimony seems to be conflicting today.
We’re getting reports from State that this wasn’t them; this was the intelligence community that made this report. But I hear from you, you were aware of what happened and went on, and others around you, and folks at the embassy.
I can’t imagine, five, six, seven days — seven days later, the White House press secretary is standing up and still giving this same report; seven days later that no one has done this.
Now, there are lots of other issues I want to talk about, but I’m kind of amazed at this whole dialogue today, that it seems like no one knew, and there’s this best-case scenario that’s coming out. And I’m struggling with just the basic facts on this.
Now, this is irrelevant to the overall what we’re going to do in the future and what happened in the past. But I can’t seem to put all these pieces together when I’m getting such conflicting stories of people that are listening to it first-hand, what’s happening on the ground.
Ambassador Kennedy, were you wanting to respond to that?
MR. KENNEDY: If I could, sir. There were multiple reports coming out — multiple reports.
REP. LANKFORD: Were any of the reports saying there was a protest?
MR. KENNEDY: There were reports –
REP. LANKFORD: There were reports coming out of Benghazi that there were protests that day?
MR. KENNEDY: There were reports that we received saying that there were protests. And I will not go any farther than that. Those — and then things evolved, period. And –
REP. LANKFORD: That is –
MR. KENNEDY: If I could, one other thing.
REP. LANKFORD: My time –
REP. ISSA: Before the gentleman goes, you said you wouldn’t go any further. I would only ask why you’re not going any further if you want to — if you want to revise and extend other things, that’s fine. But why won’t you go any further?
MR. KENNEDY: Because I don’t want to cross certain lines in open session.
REP. ISSA: OK. So you’re testifying there were multiple reports, but then in this setting you cannot tell us the multiple reports and where they came from.
MR. KENNEDY: In open session.
REP. ISSA: I appreciate that. We’ll arrange for a classified — if the gentleman will conclude.
REP. LANKFORD: Well, just my one issue is there’s ongoing conversation happening. There’s ongoing conversations the next morning, when they’re in Tripoli. I find it very difficult, five, six, seven days later, this same story is coming out when there was constant communication with a group of people. And it just seems like a very difficult story for me to be able to believe.
MR. KENNEDY: If I could –
REP. ISSA: Of course.
MR. KENNEDY: As I said in my opening statement, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Lankford, there were multiple reports. We are trying to reconcile the reports. Because we regard our responsibility to keep the Congress informed, we came up very, very early to talk when we still had multiple threads out there. That — and those multiple — we were not about to precipitously try to reconcile those multiple threats.
REP. ISSA: I appreciate that. And I do appreciate the fact that, two days later, you called it a terrorist attack, well — many days later, others were using other terms.
As I pass over to the minority for a moment, yesterday, in a closed session, I asked you for the 50-minute tape that exists that would allow us to see the video feed that was available. You said it wasn’t available; another part of government had it, even though you had a copy of it.
Have you been able to make that available? Because I think on both of this — this side of the dais, we’d like to see that 50 minutes of video that was turned over by the government fairly quickly.
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, I have made it clear to the other government entity that has this tape — I’ve communicated your request to them.
REP. ISSA: With your recommendation that they do turn it over?
MR. KENNEDY: With — since this is — involves investigative process on their part, I do not feel that I am in a position to make a recommendation about an investigative process.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. And for the ranking member’s edification, I apologize that I only barely learned about that hearing or that briefing in order to get there for a few minutes of it. I want to confirm the FBI is doing the investigation. They do not have custody. Another government agency does. I don’t have any doubt that it’s not the investigating agency, the FBI, that has custody of that tape.
REP. CUMMINGS: At that –
REP. ISSA: Yes, of course, Mr. –
REP. CUMMINGS: — same briefing, did you talk about — we were not — the Democrats on that committee, we weren’t invited.
REP. ISSA: No. And I apologize.
REP. CUMMINGS: We didn’t even know about it.
REP. ISSA: Well, no, your committee did know about it.
REP. CUMMINGS: But we weren’t invited.
REP. ISSA: Neither –
REP. CUMMINGS: Were you invited?
REP. ISSA: I learned about it in a discussion with the secretary of state, and so I went up there, only discovering that they were surprised to see me. But I was glad I went there and I was glad to have the opportunity to confirm the existence of a 50-minute tape that has been floating around that is not needed by the FBI, but, in fact, is in the custody of another government agency.
REP. CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, I would — just one more thing. I think that you would agree that if — we don’t want to do anything to interfere with an ongoing investigation, do we?
REP. ISSA: I would like this committee to have that 50-minute tape before the press has it. And quite frankly, we should have had it before today to see it.
It is not interfering with an investigation in testimony, the last two days, that both of our committees had.
We were told, for example, that when the wall was blown up some months earlier, they didn’t see it blown up because they didn’t have the video equipment to do it and it was pointed the wrong way. They told us they didn’t have enough people to man the TOC, so they in fact were not there being able to pan and look for it. They told us they didn’t have the people inside. And much of that perhaps is beyond the scope, but since people told us what assets they didn’t have with specificity — and that will be in our report — yes, I would like to see what that tape — what those tapes did discover.
Ms. Lamb told us that there was somebody monitoring the TOC. Quite frankly, we were told that they slept there and there were not people to constantly be panning those cameras. So I’d like to see when they began panning them, for example.
And there is multiple evidence that we haven’t gotten. We’re not going to get it here today. I just wanted to make sure that the State Department would be clear that they had no objections to us having it.
Is that right, Mr. Kennedy?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Cummings, Mr. Chairman, we defer to the law enforcement and investigative elements on this matter.
REP. ISSA: The FBI told me they don’t have it and it’s not theirs and they don’t need it. So hopefully you’ll stop using law enforcement, another part of government –
REP. CUMMINGS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
We now go to the very patient gentleman from Tennessee for five minutes.
REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER (D-TN) (?): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
All Americans mourn the loss of the four brave Americans who died in Benghazi. It’s important, I think, that we put their sacrifice, their tragedy in context, particularly historical context. Serving America abroad is dangerous, and certainly every U.S. veteran knows that freedom is not free. Our State Department personnel know that too, but sometimes civilians, comfortable here at home, forget. And sometimes these terrible incidents are not covered as they should be, but sometimes we’re focused on other things.
I’d like to read an honor roll of the fallen from a previous time. These men — in some cases, women — died as victims of terrorists. It was in a different time, when we had a great president, Ronald Reagan, who was particularly known for his strength on national defense.
I was only able to find a database of the Navy and Marine victims, but there are 56 dead, 46 wounded. And a lot of us, you know, remember that as more or less a peaceful time. It was not.
So let me read: Master Boatswain’s Mate Sam Novello, killed by Turkish leftists, Istanbul, Turkey; three Marines wounded in a terrorist attack in Costa Rica; one crewman killed, three wounded, from the USS Pensacola, attacked by terrorists in San Juan, Puerto Rico; one U.S. embassy Marine security guard wounded, Beirut, Lebanon; terrorist bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon; Lieutenant Commander Albert A. Schaufelberger, killed by terrorists, San Salvador, El Salvador; Corporal Guillermo San Pedro, killed in a terrorist attack in Cyprus; Captain George Tsantes, shot by terrorists near Athens, Greece; Lieutenant Corporal Rudolfo Hernandez (ph), killed in a terrorist attack, Germany; Hospitalman Carl P. England (sp), wounded, Beirut, Lebanon; Petty Officer First Class Michael R. Wagner, assigned to the Defense Attache Office, killed; Civil Engineer Corps Builder Harvey L. Whitaker, killed; Builder First Class Steven E. Haycock and four Marine security guards wounded in terrorist bombing of U.S. Embassy Annex, East Beirut, Lebanon.
Seabees Steelworker Second Class Robert Dean Stethem of Underwater Construction Team One, killed by terrorists, Athens, Greece; off-duty Marines assigned to Marines Security Guard Detachment San Salvador, killed by terrorists armed with automatic weapons at a cafpounds in San Salvador; 37 killed, five wounded, when the USS Stark was struck by Iraqi missiles, Persian Gulf; Terrorist grenade attack at the USO Club in Barcelona, Spain; Colonel Rich Higgins, killed by two pro-Iranian terrorists; USS Samuel B. Roberts, struck by an Iranian mine, Persian Gulf; Japanese Red Army terrorist bombing of the USO club in Naples, Italy; loss of an attack helicopter during operations against Iranian naval forces; and Captain William E. Nordeen (sp), defense and naval attache, killed by a terrorist car bomb, Athens, Greece.
That was just during one administration of a president known for his strong defense policy.
So we should be thankful for the sacrifice of our men and women abroad. As you pointed out, Ms. Lamb, you’re in charge of 275 posts around the world. Too many Americans can’t find these places on a map, much less appreciate the sacrifice and the risks involved of serving in many lawless zones. So I appreciate Lieutenant Colonel Wood and Mr. Nordstrom in particular for helping supervise our security needs in these posts because the dangers are incredible, especially when we can live in comfort here at home. So thank you for your service and sacrifice.
REP. ISSA: Chair — the gentleman’s time has expired; the chair recognizes Mr. Gosar of Arizona.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, my family would like to honor the memory of our fellow patriots who have lost their lives in this senseless and preventable act of violence committed in Benghazi on September 11th, a date that will forever be regarded as a day of unity for America’s citizens and a warning.
And with that, I’m going to come back — in an interview with the committee yesterday, Ms. Lamb said that in May 2012, Embassy Tripoli had come back and said things were going so great the RSO gave up six of the 16 SSTs. I just assume that if the RSO, Nordstrom, was willing to give up assets and not ask for replacements, that he didn’t need them. But again, the functions that they were being used for — but again, the functions that they were being used for were being slowly filled by local national employees.
Lieutenant Wood, is it true in your time in Libya that things were — that things were going that great? And would you describe the conditions from Libya from your personal point of view?
MR. NORDSTROM: Yes, sir. From my personal point of view, things in Libya always remained difficult and uncertain and could devolve at any moment into further problems and result in loss of life almost at any minute. SST members were fully integrated with the diplomatic security people there and worked through and under all these difficult circumstances.
Have a couple things here I’m trying to find. (Chuckles.)
There were numerous incidents. Lawless situation was pretty much the norm. There was assassinations that went on of lots — of Gadhafi loyalists and back and forth. Insurgent activity continued along the border town of al-Kufra, where it drained a lot of the meager resources of the fledgling government to go down there and try to put down rebellious and insurgent activity going on down there. There was no control of the borders or weapons smuggling in and out of the country. There was a loss of control of weapons types previously mentioned here, the shoulder-fired missiles. And tanks and anti- aircraft guns could be found in the possession of almost anyone anywhere in Libya.
Tribal interests frequently competed with each other and resulted in firefights, and it was common occurrence. When I first arrived on the ground in Tripoli, I got to where I could recognize celebratory gunfire from actual gun firefights; they were shooting at each other. That did die off a little bit; however, we did notice an increase in targeted attacks toward Americans.
These indicators spelled out to me that the country was far from secure and that the SST, as it had been originally conceived, was still in need at that location.
REP. GOSAR: Well, in a document that was produced in late July — and I have that document right here; that has over — documents over 230 events in Libya since June of 2011.
Mr. Nordstrom included this in his part of the general assessment on the security environment.
In fact, prior to this attack on our embassy, didn’t the Red Cross and the British consulate move out of — out of Libya?
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes, sir, that’s entirely correct. The British consulate moved out when I was there, and they actually had an MOU with us to leave their weapons and vehicles on our compound there in Benghazi. They would come back and occupy at times, draw their weapons and vehicles, and then do their work and then return them and leave.
The attack on the International Red Cross was another attack that also involved us and threats to the compound there in Benghazi. The threats were made on Facebook to both the remaining Western influences there in Benghazi, being the Red Cross and the U.S. embassy compound. The Red Cross was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades in early June. And when it was attacked a second time, I believe, they made their decision they were going to give up and leave Benghazi.
When that occurred, it was apparent to me that we were the last flag flying in Benghazi; we were the last thing on their target list to remove from Benghazi. I voiced my concern to the country team meeting. Although it was a difficult thing, the country team was left with no options at that point to — to try and change the security profile there in Benghazi. The resources had been withdrawn. The decision to not renew the SST was pretty much a foregone conclusion by that point in time, but I urged them to do something and anything, to include withdrawal from Benghazi, although I knew that was impossible at the time.
REP. GOSAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: Would the gentleman yield to me?
REP. GOSAR: I would happily yield to the chairman.
REP. ISSA: Colonel Wood, you weren’t there on September 11. Mr. Nordstrom, you weren’t there on September 11. My understanding is several Americans successfully got out alive. The three, you know, armed individuals who represented Libyan nationals survived.
From your experience, from your combat experience, from your training, both of you, what is the marginal difference between everybody getting out and half or so getting out? In other words, the State Department has been saying, effectively, nothing could have stopped this; this was so overwhelming. My question is, was it — what would it take? Would one more armed agent hae made a difference that everyone would have gotten out? Would two more? Would three more? I understand we’ll never know for sure, but what is the difference between chaos and control in a firefight?
LT. COL. WOOD: Superior weapons and superior tactics. That’s what the SST brought to the table. Those were the qualities and attributes and the bolstering effect that they added to Diplomatic Security in this type of environment. When they were on the ground, those resident qualities were there for the use of the RSO, and when we left, they were no longer available to him as a –
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
LT. COL. WOOD: — (inaudible).
REP. ISSA: And Mr. Nordstrom, you’d agree that they did bring that to the — if it became necessary?
MR. NORDSTROM: Absolutely. In Tripoli, where we had the — with the SST, I was never concerned that we would be able to repel any sort of assault there with the 16 and the additional DS agents.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
We now go to Mr. Connolly.
REP. CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman?
REP. ISSA: Yes.
REP. CUMMINGS: I ask unanimous consent just for one minute? He went 2 1/2 minutes over. Just a minute and a half.
REP. ISSA: Would the gentleman from Virginia yield? I’d ask unanimous consent — the gentleman from Virginia have six minutes. Would the gentleman from Virginia consider yielding to the ranking member?
REP. CONNOLLY: I was hoping that the chairman was going to say that he asked unanimous consent to give a minute and a half to the ranking member, and I gladly would wait for that request, sir, and support it.
REP. ISSA: Take what you get.
REP. CONNOLLY: (Laughs.)
REP. ISSA: Without objection, so ordered. Six minutes.
REP. CUMMINGS: Thank you. Just one — the gentleman would yield. Thank you very much.
I just want to go back to something that you wrote in your statement, Mr. Nordstrom, in reference to the question that the chairman just asked you. And I quote you. I’m reading from page two. You said, quote, “Having an extra foot — extra foot of wall or extra half-dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault.”
Did you write that?
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes I did, and I still believe that.
REP. CUMMINGS: OK. I just — thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE GERALD CONNOLLY (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the ranking member. I just want to say, picking up on my friend from Tennessee’s remarks, I was a young professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the early ’80s when Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and our Marine amphibious unit was attacked by a truck bomb at the Beirut airport, and dozens and dozens of young Americans were killed.
I had just been to Beirut on a Senate staff study, and shortly after I returned, our embassy was bombed in downtown Beirut, killing many more Americans, including a good friend of mine who worked at that time for USAID. It is very serious business. When tragedies occur in a dangerous world, to attempt to exploit it politically — and I know we’re not trying to do that here 27 days out from an election.
Colonel Wood, you testified that you had concerns and you approached — you are with the Utah National Guard, is that correct?
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes, sir.
REP. CONNOLLY: And you approached your congressperson with these concerns. I assume that’s our colleague, Mr. Chaffetz?
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes, sir. Initially I tried to make contact with Senator McCain, because he had made several visits to Tripoli. I was unable to get a response from his office.
REP. CONNOLLY: I thank you. And about what time did you approach your congressperson with these concerns?
LT. COL. WOOD: I sent an email on Sunday — I believe it was the 28th of September.
REP. CONNOLLY: Of September, so fairly recently.
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes, sir.
REP. CONNOLLY: Are you aware of the fact that the Democratic side of this aisle made several attempts, including an email to you last weekend, to try to contact you and to have some opportunity to explore with you the nature of the those concerns you shared with Mr. Chaffetz and possibly to understand what you might be testifying to today, a common, by the way, practice?
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes, sir. I assumed that the information I was giving would be shared to the whole committee at some point. I wasn’t sure when.
REP. CONNOLLY: Ah. So that’s why you did not respond to the emails from Democratic staff members?
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes, sir.
REP. CONNOLLY: You weren’t in any way, to pick up on Mr. Jordan’s questioning of others on the panel, you weren’t in any way encouraged or discouraged from talking to the Democratic side of the aisle in preparation for this hearing?
LT. COL. WOOD: No, sir. It was simply easier for me to just — to talk to one point of contact. With everything else I had going on –
REP. CONNOLLY: OK.
LT. COL. WOOD: — it was just easier to do.
REP. CONNOLLY: I thank you.
Ambassador Kennedy, is there an ongoing investigation into what occurred in Benghazi?
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Connolly. There are actually two ongoing investigations, one being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and another being conducted by the Accountability Review Board, which is a congressionally mandated process that comes into being after a tragedy of this nature.
REP. CONNOLLY: And when do we expect those investigations to be completed and a report provided?
MR. KENNEDY: I cannot — I cannot speak to the FBI investigation, sir. That is beyond my ken, but I know that the secretary has asked the Accountability Review Board to proceed as expeditiously as possible while making sure that they are thorough and accurate.
REP. CONNOLLY: So we’re having this hearing as those investigations have not completed their work or provided their findings?
MR. KENNEDY: That is correct, sir.
REP. CONNOLLY: I see. One of the things, if I’m understanding, is it’s awfully hard for me and others, I think, to follow what’s at — what we’re trying to get at here. Would you agree, Mr. Nordstrom, that — certainly the Libya I experienced briefly — I was in Libya about the same amount of time I believe our colleague Mr. Chaffetz was, and I don’t know. Did he go to Benghazi? I don’t think he went to Benghazi, did you, Mr. Chaffetz?
REP. CHAFFETZ: No, I was not allowed to go.
REP. CONNOLLY: Right, so he and I both went to Tripoli. I was there in May, and it — and it seemed a very volatile situation in terms of too many people with too many weapons, lots of militia, trying to keep control over who was a good guy and who was a bad guy. No matter how many security personnel we might have had in the field, that was a problem at that time, and I gather is still. Would that be an accurate assessment, Mr. Nordstrom?
MR. NORDSTROM: It was. That was one of our main struggles is just trying to figure out who was who.
REP. CONNOLLY: Right. And so inherently unstable as we’re trying to transition from Gadhafi to something we hope is more democratic — a lot more democratic and more stable?
MR. NORDSTROM: (Fair ?), correct.
REP. CONNOLLY: OK.
And Ambassador Kennedy described it not so much as a dispute as we’re going back and forth about needs assessment. And it was your recommendation that the site security team be extended a third time, is that correct?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct.
REP. CONNOLLY: And Mr. Ambassador, your view was — or your colleague’s view was, actually, we’re trying to graduate from that, and we think we’ve got the assets to do that, therefore, for whatever reason, that request was not honored because it was felt that it wasn’t needed, or what?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Connolly, what we were trying to do is build in a State Department capacity to replace the personnel we had borrowed from the Department of Defense. The SST was great. We really appreciated the assistance they were providing. They provided some airport analysis that the airport was finished. They provided medical capability. The State Department replaced it with its own medical capability. They provided communications capability. We replaced that with a State Department communications capability. And then they also provided direct security assistance personnel, wonderful colleagues from that unit.
We were also, though, replacing them, as we do all over the world, by building an inherent State Department capability. And my colleagues believed that we had achieved that right balance between what the State Department could provide and what the — and what the military had been providing to us when we were not ready to assume those responsibilities.
REP. CONNOLLY: Thank you.
My time is up, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: Oh, the best part is you got that extra 30 seconds — (laughter) — and something you wanted very artfully.
REP. CONNOLLY: You are — you are always generous. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: And with that, we go to the gentleman from Idaho, Mr. Labrador.
REPRESENTATIVE RAUL LABRADOR (R-ID): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
One of the most difficult jobs I have as a congressman is to call the families of the men and women who lose their lives in service of this country. And I take that responsibility very, very seriously.
I’m looking right now, and I’m really confused, Ambassador Kennedy, by some of the statements that you’re making today, in particular the statement that has been addressed before. You said, for example, if any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said. The information she had at that point from the intelligence community — and I see how specific you’re being — from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point. Can you explain to me how it was that on September 12th, you told congressional aides that you believed it was a terrorist attack?
MR. KENNEDY: Congressman, I told them that that was my personal opinion and that I also believed that it was — because of the nature of it and the lethality of it, that it was a complex attack.
REP. LABRADOR: Well, how can you say here today that — when you — the following day you had an idea that it was a terrorist attack. In your opinion — I understand you’re not — you claim you’re not a security expert, but in your opinion, if it was a terrorist attack, how can you claim today that you would have made the same statements that Ambassador Rice would have made on TV?
MR. KENNEDY: Ambassador Rice was asked — was asked certain questions about information that she had in her possession, and that was the same information I had in my possession.
REP. LABRADOR: Well, you came to a different conclusion from your information.
MR. KENNEDY: No, sir. No, sir, I did not.
REP. LABRADOR: Yes, you did. I mean, your — the statements are clear. But let me just ask you, you said today that there were multiple reports, and you didn’t want to specify what those multiple reports were, about what happened on September 11th. Can you tell us at least when those multiple reports came out?
MR. KENNEDY: I would have to go back and refer to notes, sir. I don’t — I didn’t bring — (inaudible) –
REP. LABRADOR: Did they come out a day after the incident, two days after the incident?
MR. KENNEDY: I will be glad to get that information for the record.
REP. LABRADOR: But that’s crucial. You knew — you knew you were coming here to testify before Congress, and you’re coming here to tell us that there were multiple reports. You cannot tell us when those reports came out.
MR. KENNEDY: As I said earlier, Mr. Labrador, there was — were an evolving series of reports over every day since the 12th of September.
REP. LABRADOR: Thank you. So –
REP. ISSA: Would the gentleman suspend?
REP. LABRADOR: Yeah.
REP. ISSA: Ambassador Kennedy, I want to make it clear. The gentleman’s asking a reasonable question. To the best of your ability, approximating — we know that seven days after the attack, there were in fact false statements made. The gentleman’s only trying to figure out how many reports continue to come to you — seven days, six days, five days, four days. Give us your best, you know, estimation, and then we’ll let you be accurate for the record exactly.
The gentleman may continue.
REP. LABRADOR: OK, can you answer that question?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Labrador, I am — I am not going to speculate on numbers that I don’t have firmly in my head, sir.
REP. LABRADOR: Can you tell me if there was at least one report before September 16th that contradicted what the intelligence community was telling you and Ambassador Rice? Can you answer that question?
MR. KENNEDY: I don’t remember a — I don’t remember a report that contradicted what the intelligence community was telling us. No sir, I do not remember such a report –
REP. LABRADOR: Well, you just told us here there were several reports, and you said there were multiple reports that had different conclusions.
MR. KENNEDY: As I said in response to an earlier question, you are asking me to go into the nature of classified reports, and I cannot do that in this session.
REP. LABRADOR: That nothing — OK, it’s pretty clear that you’re coming here with information about reports that you’re unwilling to say, and I think we’re going to have to have a classified hearing at some point.
I just have a quick question for Lieutenant Colonel Wood and Mr. Nordstrom. Given the information that you saw on TV and your knowledge of the situation in Libya, did you come to a conclusion as to whether this was a terrorist act or whether it was based on some film that was on the Internet?
Lieutenant Colonel Wood.
COL. WOOD: It was instantly recognizable to me as a terrorist attack.
REP. LABRADOR: Instantly recognizable?
COL. WOOD: Yes, sir.
REP. LABRADOR: And why is that?
COL. WOOD: Mainly because of my prior knowledge there, I almost expected the attack to come. We were the last flag flying; it was a matter of time.
REP. LABRADOR: Mr. Nordstrom, same question.
MR. NORDSTROM: The first impression that I had was that it was going to be something similar to one of the brigades that we saw there; specifically, the brigade that’s been named in the press that came to my mind was Ansar al-Sharia. It was a unit or a group that Lieutenant Colonel Wood’s personnel and I had tracked for quite some time, we were concerned about. That specific group had been involved in a similar but obviously much smaller-scale incidence at the end of June involving the Tunisian consulate in Benghazi where they stormed that facility, and it was in protest to what they claimed was an anti- Islamic film in Tunis.
REP. LABRADOR: So — thank you very much. I just want to make it clear for the record that on September 16th Ambassador Rice went on TV — and I’m assuming it was at the direction of this administration; she was not there on her own, I’m sure she has better things to do on a Sunday morning — and she went to specifically tell the American people that all of the intelligence information led to only one conclusion, when it is clear that intelligence experts, security experts and even Ambassador Kennedy, looking at the information that was happening on TV, could have concluded something different. I think that’s outrageous and it is shameful.
REP. ISSA: Thank the gentleman. We now go to the gentleman from Illinois, who’s been patiently waiting, Mr. Davis for five minutes.
REPRESENTATIVE DANIEL DAVIS (D-IL): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank all of the witnesses for participating by appearing here with us today. I also want to commend all of the brave men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis by serving in these high-risk areas. I also extend my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives or were injured during this tragic attack.
Following the death of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, Libya and its citizens entered a critical transition period. Ambassador Stevens once described this period as — and I quote — “a time of great excitement, as the Libyan people first experienced freedom, but also a time of significant trepidation of what might come next.” Ambassador Stevens, I think, obviously was correct.
Ambassador Kennedy, Benghazi was the cradle of the revolution. Could you explain to us the importance of the diplomatic mission in Libya and the special post in Benghazi?
MR. KENNEDY: Thank you much, sir. Absolutely, Benghazi was the cradle of the revolution. There is essentially two major parts of Libya — east and west. In order to help the Libyans move forward, to help the Libyans take advantage of their newfound freedom and to build the democratic structure we all wish for any nation to have, we could not hunker down, we could not stay out.
As I mentioned earlier, the State Department has to go into harm’s way. If we are going to advance U.S. national security interests, we cannot retreat. We have to go — to use a colloquialism, we have to go where the action is. We will take every step we can to mitigate the risk to our personnel abroad, but we cannot end those risks. We cannot stay out of the action. We have to go there. And because, as you — as you correctly posit, sir, because of the importance of Benghazi in the development of the new Libya, we had to have a forward-operating location there, and we had to have visits there by Ambassador Stevens.
REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.
Mr. Nordstrom, on the other side of this, can you describe some of the challenges faced by security officers in analyzing security risks while allowing the diplomatic mission to interact with the local leaders and individuals in the population and still be effective?
MR. NORDSTROM: Absolutely. That was one of the tensions that we always had. We obviously understood the need to engage across a wide spectrum of programs. That was one of the main reasons we wanted that security resources so that we could deploy sufficient resources to respond when there was a problem.
There was not open warfare at all times in Libya. Generally speaking, we saw a lot of improvements. It was fairly permissive during the daytime. Things started to heat up after hours. We had sort of a joke — I saw that it was in the newspaper, but — that we had a saying that it was — in Libya, you would be fine until you’re not. Our problem was, if someone found themselves in an — in an issue — we had three officers specifically trapped in the prime minister’s building when it was stormed by some fighters protesting a pay issue — were we going to have sufficient people who could respond and navigate their way in and extricate those people? With time and with less resources, we were not going to have that.
One of the frustrating things that I found early on — and as I mentioned in my testimony, I was extremely pleased with the planning to get us into Libya — the frustrating thing that I found is once the first teams and the first TDYers started to expire at 60 days, there was a complete and total absence of planning that I saw in terms of what we were supposed to do from that point on. So when I requested resources, when I requested assets, instead of supporting those assets, I was criticized. And somehow, it was my responsibility to come up with a plan on the ground and not the responsibility for DS. I raised that specific point in a meeting with the DS director in March, that 60 days, there was no plan, and it was hope that everything would get better.
REP. DAVIS: Mr. Chairman, could I ask for unanimous consent for 15 additional seconds?
REP. ISSA: Without objections, so ordered.
REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.
Ambassador, could you tell us how security risks at a post are evaluated? And when are requests for increased staff or resources justified?
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, sir. We have a formula that we try to use. It is — it is not a — it’s not a quadratic equation, but we look at — we look at the stability of the government, the threats against us post-government counterterrorism capability, the setback, the physical plant that we can — that we can muster, the ability to get sufficient local guard capability there. We put all that together.
But in the end, this is an inherently risky operation. We cannot withdraw always to fortresses. We look at this, and then we try to place, as we believe we placed in Libya, on the basis of all the information we had to date, all the information we had, we put a security program into effect. That is what we call risk mitigation. We cannot end the risk. If we cannot achieve that level of risk mitigation, as we did in Damascus or as we have done in other locations, we simply remove our personnel from there because we cannot achieve that level of risk mitigation.
REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much. (Off mic.)
REP. ISSA: Happy to do it. With that, as a friend — as a favor to the former chairman of the full committee, I’d ask unanimous consent he have two minutes to speak out of order. Without objection, so ordered.
REP. BURTON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank my colleagues. I’ll be real brief.
First of all, Colonel Wolf (sic/Wood) and Mr. Nordstrom, you said that al-Qaida is growing and it’s even exceeding our goals in Libya right now; is that correct?
COL. WOOD: Yes, sir, I would make that assessment.
REP. BURTON: OK. And Mr. Nordstrom, you said Ansar al-Sharia, which is another terrorist group loosely affiliated with al-Qaida, is very active there, too, and was involved?
MR. NORDSTROM: Interestingly, I would not say it was necessarily affiliated; it was actually one of the brigades which fell under the control — well, if you want to call it that, of the — of the Libyan government.
REP. BURTON: But it’s a terrorist — it’s a terrorist organization, as well.
MR. NORDSTROM: Not according to the Libyan government. It was actually one of their pseudo-militias.
REP. BURTON: What is your assessment?
MR. NORDSTROM: Well, it certainly — what I — we were concerned that it was an extremist organization that wanted to bring –
REP. BURTON: (Laughs.) Don’t split — don’t — (laughs) — split words. It’s a terrorist organization.
OK. Ms. Lamb, there were three Mobile Security Detachments; 18 people, six in each one of those detachments. And they were supposed to be — supposedly asked to stay — the leadership did — and you were required to make a decision. They left, and they were not replaced; they were supposed to be backfilled by diplomatic security agents. The 16 troops that — and you said you were watching in real time, incidentally; it’s very interesting — but the 16 troops that were replaced or were supposed to be replaced or were going to be requested to be replaced, you said no.
And then you said, well, they were going to be in Tripoli, but the fact of the matter is they not only worked in Tripoli, but when needed they went down to Benghazi. Is that not right?
MS. LAMB: I believe they made two to three trips –
REP. BURTON: I know, but they were — they did go to Benghazi and they could have gone to Benghazi.
MS. LAMB: Yes. There are –
REP. BURTON: But they weren’t there, so they were gone. And you decided that you thought that they shouldn’t be redeployed.
MS. LAMB: No, sir. As Undersecretary Kennedy has stated, the specialized skills that they brought when they came originally had been backfilled by other parts of the State Department, and the specialized skills were no longer –
REP. BURTON: But not with U.S. military?
MS. LAMB: No, sir.
REP. BURTON: OK, that’s all I need to know. And I really appreciate you folks taking all the time you have today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman. Colonel Wood, would you just respond — you looked like you were chomping at the bit when Ms. Lamb talked about specialized skills. She made an assessment; would you agree with that?
COL. WOOD: No, sir, I would not agree. A special forces soldier is way above the skill level of a hired local national armed with a pistol or even the MSD agents that were on the ground there, as well.
REP. BURTON: Thank you.
REP. ISSA: Thank you. And I think I remember the quote: Never take a knife to a gunfight.
With that, we go to the gentleman from Connecticut, Mr. Murphy.
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER MURPHY (D-CT): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I add my gratitude to those members of the diplomatic corps and military who are putting their lives on the line for this country, and of course my sympathies to the families of those that were lost.
Mr. Chairman, I think you had maybe one of the most important lines of questioning about 20 minutes ago when you were inquiring as to what level of security might have really been necessary to repel this attack. And I maybe wanted to pursue that one step further with you, Mr. Nordstrom –
REP. ISSA: Would the gentleman yield for a second?
REP. MURPHY: Sure.
REP. ISSA: Your characterization’s almost exact. I was actually talking about in order to extricate successfully –
REP. MURPHY: Correct.
REP. ISSA: — those who otherwise died. Ultimately, I think, it was made clear that you can’t repel forever, typically, that size force.
REP. MURPHY: Correct. And I simply want to expand on that line of questioning with Mr. Nordstrom, because you very clearly do say in your testimony that the numbers that we’re arguing about today — one or two additional unarmed security forces; six or seven armed security forces — may not have made the difference.
When you — you didn’t really get the chance to answer that question fully, so I wanted to pose it again to you: When you look back on this attack and you look at what was requested versus what would be necessary to either fully extricate everyone or to fully repel an attack such as this, do you think there is any amount of, sort of, reasonable numbers that could have been present on the ground there today — there at the time that would have prevented this attack and this tragedy?
MR. NORDSTROM: Again, I’m just hesitant to speculate on specific numbers, but I think it goes without saying that having more resources on the ground is generally not something that you’re going to turn down in a firefight.
I would rather have more guns, I would rather have more special forces soldiers that have combat experience, and I’d rather have more armed DS agents on the ground. Certainly, the more of those that you can bring to bear, I think the outcome is going to tip in your favor.
REP. REP. And, sir, a similar question to the ambassador. You know, we shudder at the notion that an attack like this could happen in the future, that this exceptional event in which 120 attackers armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades could pose a threat to another installation. What is our position on trying to equip our outposts with the kind of armor and staffing that would be necessary to repel an attack of this size? Is that possible? And does this attack reframe your position and our country’s position in terms of the resources that we give our outposts?
MR. KENNEDY: Sir, I — we are never going to be able to achieve a defense of an American facility abroad against that level of lethality with internally generated resources. What we try to do, and we have done it in many please round the world, and we’re still constructing more and more, is we construct new embassies and we build into those new embassies physical protections that we hope will be — permit the — our personnel who will (if/have ?) withdrawn into that building with the capability to wait until the host government — as they’re required to do under the Vienna Convention and diplomat law — responds to our attack.
But an attack of that kind of lethality, we — we’re never going to have enough guns. We are a diplomatic service. We have, I think, some of the finest law enforcement professionals in the world in the Diplomatic Security Service, but we are not an armed camp ready to fight it out, as the U.S. military does if there was an attack on a U.S. military facility in Afghanistan, using that as a current example.
REP. MURPHY: So let me just ask a variant of that question to you, Ambassador. What we have we learned, and what has potentially changed? If we can’t repel this kind of lethal attack, are there changes that you can share with us — some of them may be classified — as to how we protect our installations abroad?
MR. KENNEDY: The Accountability Review Board now, which is currently meeting, is going to — is going to judge whether our security there was adequate for the information that was available to us, whether we implemented it correctly and whether or not there are lessons learned.
REP. MURPHY: So they will make recommendations — (inaudible).
MR. KENNEDY: They will make recommendations, yes, sir.
REP. MURPHY: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
I — the chair would announce that we know that there are some members who will have flights to catch, since we’re not in session broad today. If anyone needs to go first, if you get close to your deadline, please inform the chair and we will reserve the right to take people out of order.
But for now, we go to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Meehan.
REPRESENTATIVE PAT MEEHAN (R-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Nordstrom, you made a comment, complete and total absence of planning.
Lieutenant Colonel Wood, you were brought in the first place to the country, part of a team that was in place to both be responsive but to provide security, one of the three teams of 16 people associated with the Department of Defense, not coming from the budget of Mrs. Lamb, but nonetheless providing. And I see a tale of two cities; that while you are in — have that kind of force early on in the process, notwithstanding your requests, continuously that group is worked down from three teams to finally one team towards the end; instead of 16, your final request, in which it is eight.
At the same time, we see a worsening of the circumstances. I see — this is a draft from Joan Polichik (ph) in February of the month: Overall security conditions continue to be unpredictable. Large armed groups not under the control of the central government. (Continued ?) presence of security support teams was essential to provide static security in the absence of an appropriate local guard force.
Now, we saw, with this — with a litany of issues — the IED thrown into the diplomatic post in Benghazi, the RPG attack on the Red Cross, the IED attack — a second one on the — we see a litany.
Colonel Wood, was there the capacity to be able to provide the kind of security that you thought was necessary while things continued to get worse?
LT. COL. WOOD: Yes, sir. I thought that was the genius behind the design and construct of the SST. It brought all the elements of government power together for the embassy — the diplomatic, the informational, military and economic. It gave them the military side of that — of that governmental power that we could project abroad.
It gave them the expertise of some of the finest-quality soldiers in the world and the backup resources that they could tap into at SOC Africa, and AFRICOM as well, to provide them with all the intelligence and additional capabilities. Why they would turn that asset down is best answered by themselves.
REP. MEEHAN: Let me ask you about this process called normalization. There was an effort during this period of time as well to transition from people who were trained here by the United States — our soldiers, et cetera, who were in country — and to transition to trained locals, largely Libyans.
As I understand it, there was a posting that would be put out where they just asked for people to apply for those positions. You were there. Part of your responsibility was to train those locals to be able to do the work that they — from your professional opinion, were they sufficiently — were there sufficient numbers sufficiently trained to be able to provide the kind of security that should have been necessary in the circumstances?
LT. COL. WOOD: Sir, I think Eric Nordstrom can back me up on this. The individuals that were trained were local Libyans that we had hired. Indeed, you’re correct that way. The SST participated with MSD in training some of those individuals. But the caliber and quality, I think, was subject.
I can see where they’re dealing with numbers on this end of the table, adding up numbers on a piece of paper. I think it reflects, from the description of the Benghazi compound, not being accurate in the fact that the RSO security agents there had to sleep with their weapons, with the secure communications. They didn’t have a complete understanding of how difficult it was, or failed to recognize that.
REP. MEEHAN: Ms. Lamb, why your response that this needs to be something in which these professionals need to be replaced by locals who, in my professional opinion, aren’t sufficiently trained to do the work?
MS. LAMB: Sir, this is the same model that we used in Sanaa. It’s been very successful. These trained guards protected –
REP. MEEHAN: Did you take any time to listen to the reports that were coming up during the period of time that the events were getting worse? Not the same model, but was there specific attention paid to the events in country?
MS. LAMB: Yes. And at the same time, posts had reduced their travel policy. Instead of moving with full motorcades, they were allowing personnel to go out with an embassy driver in a hard car. So the positions that were being filled by this team and by our team members had been reduced. They were using a quick-reaction force that was available for multiple people to be moving with drivers, and it reduced the numbers that were needed at post.
When asked to do a function earlier in his testimony today, Eric Nordstrom cited the fact that he had requested 12 armed plus six more. In essence, we had actually worked out — with his desk officer, they had outlined a program that he needed 21 armed security personnel. We had made a commitment from Washington that we would provide him with 23. It has not dropped below that number since that commitment was made.
REP. MEEHAN: Mr. Chairman, may I ask one just additional question, not in response –
REP. ISSA: Briefly.
REP. MEEHAN: Reports came — Mr. — Ambassador Kennedy, reports have been made, public reports, in which it has been stated that the imprisoned Omar Abdel-Rahman Brigades — this was on CNN — is believed to have possibly been one of the groups that is suspected of carrying out these terrorist attacks. CNN has reported that.
Are you aware of any determinations at this point in time in which there’s been any discussions within the State Department for the potential transfer or release of the blind sheikh from American security?
MR. KENNEDY: I am unaware of any such discussion, sir.
REP. MEEHAN: It says the State Department — this was in September — the State Department said that the topic had not come recently from any senior official and Egyptian authorities. So you’re aware of no discussions whatsoever that involved the State Department for any kind of a transfer or release of the blind sheikh from incarceration or otherwise?
MR. KENNEDY: That is correct, sir. I am unaware of any such discussion.
REP. MEEHAN: Are you prepared on behalf of the State Department to make an unequivocal statement that there will not be a release of Abdel-Rahman?
MR. KENNEDY: I’m not going to appear to avoid that question, sir, but that is — I am the undersecretary of State for management. I have a series of responsibilities, and that is a question I will be glad to take for the record to get a complete State Department position for you.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Nordstrom, you were trying to answer the previous question. Do you want to respond on that?
MR. NORDSTROM: Yeah. I would like to actually, if I could make a couple of points on that.
DAS Lamb mentioned that we had shifted to a, quote, “lesser security profile.” I would like to point out that that was done in March. That was done because we had 18 DS agents and we were told that it was going to move to 12 — three MSD teams down to two MSD teams. There was an emergency action cable dated in March that specifically references that, and if I recall in general recollection, that the tone of that was that since we had no choice because we did not have the assets, we had no other option but to move to a model not unlike in basketball, moving from man-to-man defense to a zone defense. So I think that’s an important point to make.
The other point that was made earlier about the reduction of SST by six persons — that’s something that Colonel Wood could back me up on as well. Those six SST did not leave country. Those six SST were still there on compound, could provide us internal defense support. What they were doing was involved with training and liaison with Libyan Special Forces.
Now, why were we doing that? Because, as I’ve testified before, we had absolutely no ability to call upon a host nation force in the event that we were attacked. Our conclusion was the Libyan Special Forces was one such force that we might be able to count on. So we saw that very much as bolstering our internal defense and our footprint and not a reduction.
REP. ISSA: Mr. Nordstrom, we placed in front of you something that a different whistle-blower gave us. Is that the document you were referring to, on May 28th — or March 28th? I’m sorry.
MR. NORDSTROM: This was — this was the specific one in terms of a follow-up for support, but there was an earlier document in March where we adjusted our movement transportation because we simply would not have the bodies to provide a security agent in each vehicle.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
Ambassador Kennedy, I’d now request that that earlier document that’s been testified to be taken out of the — your in-camera review and delivered to us. Would you do that?
MR. KENNEDY: I will take that request, sir. Yes, sir.
REP. ISSA: No, no. I’m asking you now.
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, I have not had — I have not had a chance to review the document. I have not had a chance to — I’m unable to –
REP. ISSA: Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait, wait. Wait a second. You can’t come to a hearing and tell us that you haven’t reviewed the documents you were going to allow in-camera review of and you have allowed it. Somebody on your staff has.
At this point I will enter into the record the March 28, 2012 and specify that the earlier document is being withheld by the State Department. I regret that. Hopefully you’ll reconsider so it can be put in the record reasonably close to real time.
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, if I might — I did not say I was denying it. I was simply saying that since I do not have the document in front of me, I have not had a chance –
REP. ISSA: David, would you put the document in front of the ambassador, please? You have it, don’t you? It’s in the in-camera. Would you put it in front of the ambassador at least so he could see it in-camera? You’ll have to remove it — it’s an unclassified document — so that the ambassador can see it.
And with that, would you — would the staff please make sure this one’s being distributed while we’re seeing whether we’ll get the other one? OK. It’s been distributed. OK.
Not wanting to delay this any further, we’ll come back to this, Ambassador.
With that, we go to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Kelly, for five minutes. And I thank him for his patience.
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE KELLY (R-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank all of you for being here today.
The question, really, isn’t about the patriotism and the heroics of the people that lost their lives that day. It’s really, what can we do to prevent that from ever happening again? And I am — I’m kind of surprised. You know, I come from Western Pennsylvania. And people look at things maybe in little different fashion. But I’m not down here in Washington, D.C., amid all these brains and all the intelligence. And you get back home, and you talk to people.
If I were to say to you, Lieutenant Colonel Wood, what does 9/11 mean to you?
LT. COL. WOOD: This last 9/11?
REP. KELLY: Just — no, just any — just 9/11. Like, I would say, December 7th, what is December 7th? 9/11, you — (inaudible) –
LT. COL. WOOD: It’s an attack upon the United States of America.
REP. KELLY: Mr. Nordstrom.
MR. NORDSTROM: The same.
REP. KELLY: Ms. Lamb.
MS. LAMB: The same.
REP. KELLY: Ambassador.
MR. KENNEDY: Absolutely, sir.
REP. KELLY: OK. So if you can all connect the dots right here, why in the heck did it take so long for all these highly briefed and intelligent people to try and figure out that it actually wasn’t a 15- minute YouTube video, it actually was a 9/11 event, a terrorist attack?
Now, I don’t know that — this stuff about what’s classified and not classified is getting confusing for me because I sat in a members- only briefing, and I — and Mr. Chairman, I asked you — and this is on September the 20th with Secretary Clinton and some other personnel; is that something we’re allowed to talk about or not allowed to talk about?
REP. ISSA: If it was in a classified setting, the only thing that I would think would be appropriate is any inconsistencies you’ve seen in testimony today, you could relate. Otherwise, the specifics, I couldn’t judge it.
REP. KELLY: OK. Well, it comes down to this: What caused this?
And Ms. Lamb, I read your testimony. It had to be horrible to sit there and watch it in real time what was going on.
And I read another account where — this is kind of strange — that same night — this is about the ambassador — at 8:30 p.m. the ambassador said good night to a visiting Turkish diplomat outside the compound, and the streets were empty. But at 9:40 p.m. noises, gunfire and an explosion were heard by the agents located in the TOC building and — TOC and Building B.
It is absolutely preposterous to me that we would watch Ambassador Rice go out and say what (happened ?) five days later, that I would sit in a briefing, and it was — no, you have it all wrong. This is not a terrorist — this is a result of a 15-minute YouTube.
Now, we’re either in denial, or unfortunately — and I know some of the members are concerned, because I got to tell you, it’s very unfortunate that terrorists don’t recognize that this is an election year, and they tend to just do what they want anytime they want to us. And when we have a weakened position around the world, and when we leave our embassies and our consuls and our people as unprotected as we do, and then we say, you know what, this is terrible because this is 27 days before an election, why are we bringing it up now — and I ask the same question. Where the heck were we before 9/11, this 9/11? Why weren’t we questioning it then? My goodness, 230 security incidents in Libya between June 2011 and July 2012. Out of those attacks, 48 took place in Benghazi, two of which at the U.S. diplomatic compound in the scene of the September 11th, 2012, terrorist attacks, and we are still staying, I think it’s a result of the video that was YouTube. And this based on intelligence.
Now, you listen, I got to ask you, Ambassador Kennedy, because you say you couldn’t possibly have had a different idea about it than Secretary Rice did when she went before the nation on September the 16th. I’m going to tell you, this thing smells. From every single — it’s — listen, you know, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. And for you to come in here and say, well, it was based on some of the things I knew, but I can’t tell you all that I knew –
We’ve got four Americans dead. And I got to tell you, it’s very upsetting for me to go back home and look at those people in the eye, people who don’t do what we do here with all of the briefings and all the intelligence, just guys that go out and work every day and women that go out and work every day, and they can come home and they can figure it out, but we’re still trying to figure it out and piece it together and you watch it in real time. In the account — (inaudible) — the ambassador that night saying goodbye to a Turkish friend outside the gates, and everything was quiet. But my goodness, those terrorists got a hold of that — those Islamic extremists got a hold of that video, and between 8:30 and 9:40 they decided to just go crazy. And Africa is on fire.
And Mr. Nordstrom, thank you for pointing out, as Mr. Romney did, that hope is not a strategy. And I feel sorry for you and Lieutenant Colonel Wood to have to come here because it is you who were on the ground. You’re not watching in some faraway room in real time. You people are there in real time. We’ve watched our colleagues be killed.
And the question doesn’t become, what is it that we didn’t know? It is because we have become lax. We have dumbed down. We’ve turned down the — (inaudible).
You know, by the way, the same time — and I know it’s about the money to some degree, right?
Although I saw a whole list of the things that we were able to do — (inaudible) — apparently, it wasn’t for the money there. Do you know that at the embassy in Vienna in early May, we did a beautiful, beautiful presentation of the embassy going green, spent $110,000 on a little electrical thing to plug the cars in, had two Volts there, had a hundred people there, were sipping champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres. And my goodness. My goodness.
On September 11th, we had a tough day. And a couple bumps in the road.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
REP. KELLY: I got to say, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate it. I know I’m going over. But the people of America should be outraged to have to sit here and listen to what we’re saying and say, what are we doing to protect the other embassies and our — they are — they are true patriots. But you know what they rely on? The State Department for their security. And we let them down.
REP. ISSA: Thank you, Mr. Kelly.
MR. KENNEDY: Mr Chairman?
REP. ISSA: There was no — there was no question there, Ambassador. I perceived no question. The gentleman felt he had no question.
With that, we go to the gentleman from Florida for five minutes, Mr. Ross.
REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS ROSS (R-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. Nordstrom, earlier in your testimony, you were discussing your recollection of the conversation that you had had with two agents in the room regarding the denial of the extension of the SST. Now, and you — it was your understanding that you were not to request an extension at that point, is that correct?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct.
REP. ROSS: And who was on the other end of the line that told you that?
MR. NORDSTROM: I was on the telephone call with DAS Lamb.
REP. ROSS: Was Ms. Lamb on the phone call with you?
MR. NORDSTROM: That is — DAS — I’m sorry.
REP. ROSS: OK. So she did tell you that?
MR. NORDSTROM: That’s correct.
REP. ROSS: OK. Now, she, just the other day, in an interview with the committee, indicated that — on your July 9th cable to Washington requesting security personnel, you didn’t formally request an SST extension. In fact, he just made a recommendation. Can you explain if there’s a difference between recommendation and request?
MR. NORDSTROM: I, in post, felt that was a pretty clear request for resources.
REP. ROSS: Have you done it before, with the idea that it was a request?
MR. NORDSTROM: I believe it was also titled “Request for Continued TDY Staffing.”
REP. ROSS: And it was a denial of that extension?
MR. NORDSTROM: Well, actually, I — we never actually received a response to that cable.
REP. ROSS: Other than that phone conference? Other than that phone conference that you were on?
MR. NORDSTROM: Correct. I never received a response — (inaudible) –
REP. ROSS: And as a result of that phone conference where you were denied, did you seek any further effort to follow up or make a re-request?
MR. NORDSTROM: I believe, actually, to clarify, the telephone call was prior to sending in the cable. What we decided, since we continued to get resistance, instead of specifically asking for SST or MSD or whatever, we just said, you know what, give us the 13 bodies, wherever you come from, and that’s the way in which we crafted the cable.
REP. ROSS: Now, Mrs. Lamb, you testified in an interview with this committee that you trusted your RSOs in the field, such as Mr. Nordstrom. Now, how do you square that statement with you telling Mr. Nordstrom that you would not support an extension of the SST?
MS. LAMB: The cable that he sent in indicated that any of the categories –
REP. ROSS: But before the cable, with the phone conversation.
MS. LAMB: That’s correct.
REP. ROSS: And you wouldn’t support his request or his recommendation at that time.
MS. LAMB: Because we had Department of State Diplomatic Security assets that could do the same functions of the remaining –
REP. ROSS: And that was explained to him as well?
MS. LAMB: Yes, sir.
REP. ROSS: Now, Lieutenant Colonel Wood, I understand that you were the senior officer of the SST team. Is that correct?
LT. COL. WOOD: That’s correct, sir.
REP. ROSS: And do you have any reason to believe that if you go up your chain of command at AFRICOM for a request from the State Department that they extend the tour of duty of an SST that the — your chain of command would not grant that?
LT. COL. WOOD: Absolutely. The — General Ham was fully supportive of extending the SST as long as they felt they needed them. He –
REP. ROSS: So the resources were available for the SST?
LT. COL. WOOD: Absolutely.
REP. ROSS: And had they been there, they would have made a difference, would they not?
LT. COL. WOOD: They made a difference every day they were there when I was there, sir. They were a deterrent effect.
REP. ROSS: Thank you.
Now, Ambassador Kennedy, just real quickly — and everybody’s been beating this, and I understand it, but I just want to reconcile in my own mind. Here we’ve got the official statement of the State Department that this protest, this attack was all as a result of a video that was controversial, but yet the next day the president of Libya comes out and says, well, it was not a result of a controversial video. In fact, he had no doubt that it was an act of terrorism. And so I guess my question is is the Libyans’ intelligence so superior to the American intelligence that they knew within 24 hours that it was a terrorist attack, and within six days we’re still saying that it was the result of a video?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Ross, I’m going to take a liberty here, and I’m going to correct one point, if I might. You asked the colonel, would his team have made a difference? In –
REP. ROSS: No, sir, you’re in my time right here. So I have to control this.
MR. KENNEDY: His team was not –
REP. ROSS: I’m –
REP. ISSA: The gentleman from Florida controls the time for the questions he wishes to ask.
MR. KENNEDY: Very good, sir. On your other –
REP. ROSS: So the intelligence between the Libyans and the Americans just wasn’t the same. Apparently they were more superior. Now if they were more superior in their intelligence, and you testified just earlier that you were still gathering information, that’s why you didn’t say it was officially a terrorist attack, then why in the world did you say it was anything at all when you put Jay Carney out there and Ambassador Rice to say that this is a result of an inflammatory reaction to a controversial film? Sir, it begs the question. What happened — was it as a result of political pressure trumping professional protocol?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. –
REP. ROSS: Was it not?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Ross, I have been a career foreign service officer for 39 years. I have served every president since Richard Nixon.
REP. ROSS: And I — (inaudible) — your service.
MR. KENNEDY: I have directly served six secretaries of state, Democratic and Republican. On my honor, no — none — political pressure was applied to me in this case by anyone in the State Department, at the National Security Council or at the White House.
REP. ROSS: Then it was professional protocol malpractice.
I yield back.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
We now go to the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Gowdy.
REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, for almost a year there was an escalating pattern of violence directed towards the United States and to other Western targets in Libya — attacks on consulate in Benghazi, attacks and assassination attempts on the British ambassador, attacks on the International Red Cross, attacks on courthouses, judges assassinated — culminating on September the 11th in the murder of four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya.
Before those four murders, Mr. Chairman, just a few weeks before that, our embassy in Libya said this to the Department of State: The security condition in Libya remains unpredictable, volatile and violent.
So, Mr. Chairman, despite what would appear to any reasonably objective observer as an escalating pattern of violence, including sophistication, coordination and management, this administration blamed the murder of our ambassador and three others on a video.
Don’t take my word for it, Mr. Chairman. Let’s look at what Ambassador Rice herself said. Our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, quote, “in fact initially a spontaneous reaction.” I don’t know what the phrase “in fact” means in diplomatic legalese. I can tell you what it means in a courtroom, Mr. Chairman. It means (it’s/there’s ?) a fact. And she went on national television and she said, not as this ambassador has said, that I’m not going to speculate, that I’ve got to get all the information; she said in fact this was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpires (sic) hour — hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted of course, Mr. Chairman by a video, is what she said. And then she proceeds to say the attack was spontaneous. I can think of few things, Mr. Chairman, more antithetical to spontaneity than a 12-month-long prologue of violence in Libya.
And then she said she relied solely and squarely on the information in the intelligence community to provide — and Mr. Chairman, I would like to have another hearing where we can ask Ambassador Rice, under oath, who told you what when?
You’re going blame the Intelligence Committee (sic), you come before this committee and you tell us who told you it was a video, who in the intelligence community said it, who in the diplomatic community blamed this on a video!
And then we move to Jay Carney, who’s the spokesperson for the leader of the free world! This is what he said, Mr. Chairman: I’m saying, based on information that we — our initial information that includes all information — we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a preplanned or premeditated attack. What we saw was evidence that it was sparked by reaction to this video. And that is what we know thus far, based on evidence, concrete evidence, close quote.
Mr. Chairman, you know that in former life I spent a little time in a courtroom. So when I hear the phrase “concrete evidence,” it means something to me. That’s even stronger language than simply saying something is in fact.
So two representatives of this administration gave demonstrably false statements not just to us but to our fellow citizens on national television.
Now, is the explanation for those demonstrably false statements — as my colleague from Florida just asked, was it negligence? Was it just a reckless disregard for the truth? Or was it more nefarious than that?
Mr. Chairman, the American people are reasonable. People understand investigations take time. People don’t expect you to speculate until you have all the facts. What they will not forgive, Mr. Chairman, is being misled. We want our questions answered, and I want them answered by the people that went out before the American people and sought to mislead them by blaming this on a video when there is no evidence, concrete or otherwise, to support the assertions made by this administration.
Mr. Chairman, I just had a conversation with Jason Chaffetz out back, and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this. He still gets emotional talking about what he saw in Libya. There were four brave Americans who died under circumstances that we can scarcely fathom the terror, the fear, the anarchy of being killed in that fashion. They did what their country asked them to do. They stood post under dangerous circumstances even after requests for security were denied. They stood their post. The least we can do is stand this meager post that we’ve been assigned and demand that this administration speak the truth to the people it’s supposed to serve. This was never about a video. It was never spontaneous. This is terror. And I want to know why we were lied to.
And I yield back.
REP. CUMMINGS: Mr. –
REP. ISSA: The ranking member — yeah –
REP. CUMMINGS: I have to — as an officer of a court, I have to — I’m looking at the transcript from the date — and I’ll read it if you want. I mean, to sit here and accuse one of our fellow citizens in Secretary Rice of lying — that’s a very, very serious statement. And I have — and I — and I’m very concerned about that, because, I mean, she made it clear over and over again that she was dealing with the information that she had at that moment. And she said it over and every — I’ve looked at every single interview. And I think we have to be very careful — just as the gentleman talks about he wants the truth and all that to come forth, I’d be happy to join and have Ms. Rice come up here. But I think we’ve got to be careful with distinguished attorney, a distinguished woman, to see — and she made an emphatic — she said, this is the information I have at this moment.
REP. ISSA: OK. I appreciate the gentleman’s comment. I would inform the committee that the ranking member and I will be requesting a classified interview at the earliest possible date, perhaps as early as next week, that would be similar to the one that Ambassador Kennedy was in yesterday. And I’ll — we’ll inform both sides as soon as that’s been granted.
Additionally, it is our intention to follow all of the clues to where they lead, including how a week after this people could still say with certainty that in fact something was true that we now know not to be true. And I appreciate the ranking member’s statement.
REP. CUMMINGS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: And I thank the gentleman from South Carolina.
With that, we now go to the ever-patient senior member of the — oh, I’m sorry. We now go to the equally patient gentleman from Texas, Mr. Farenthold.
REPRESENTATIVE BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R-TX): I’m not sure my wife would agree with you on patience. But –
REP. ISSA: Well, she’s actually more patient than you. We’ve met her.
REP. FARENTHOLD: Anyway, after listening to Mr. Gowdy, you know, we have — we have a list of four brave Americans who gave their life for this country: Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. And I think Mr. Gowdy hit it on the head: At best, this is negligence. We have an ongoing pattern of requests for more help and it not going up the chain of command. How many more people are we going to have to add to this list? And that’s what I want to pursue in this line of questioning.
And I’ll start with Mrs. Lamb and Ambassador Kennedy. Are there other embassies similarly situated or other State Department outposts that are asking for more help because of volatile situations that are not getting it?
MS. LAMB: In volatile locations, no, sir. RSOs just need to confer with their post management because it’s a matter of bed space and logistical issues in the request and the justification for what these personnel will do. And it’s granted — if we don’t have permanent assignments to put there, we immediately put temporarily assigned agents there.
REP. FARENTHOLD: So there’s not a budget problem. It’s not you all don’t have the money to do this?
MS. LAMB: Sir, it’s a volatile situation. We will move assets to cover that.
REP. FARENTHOLD: But would you have considered — at the time, did you consider Libya to be a volatile situation?
MS. LAMB: Sir, absolutely. And the desk officer sat — talked and sent emails and came to an agreement with Eric Nordstrom. We were trying to get a clearly defined list of exactly what he needed out there.
REP. FARENTHOLD: So how long does this have to get tied up in bureaucratic red tape? To me it’s like saying we’re on fire; let’s figure out how many firemen to send. Let’s just send some.
MS. LAMB: Sir, we did provide everything that he asked for.
REP. FARENTHOLD: All right.
MR. KENNEDY: Sir, do you want my response –
REP. FARENTHOLD: Yes, please.
MR. KENNEDY: — to that too? Thank you very much, sir.
The answer is we did provide resources. And as a point of clarification, following on your question, there’s been a large discussion here about the SST team headed by Colonel Wood. The SST team was the Tripoli team. It was –
REP. FARENTHOLD: OK, well, I want to go to Mr. Nordstrom, because he was there on the field. You guys are — I was talking to you guys about what was happening in D.C. Do you think it was on fire and you needed more people, and you communicated that urgently up the chain of command?
MR. NORDSTROM: I think that my cables stand as they are in terms of addressing the assertion from DAS Lamb that there wasn’t a specific or detailed list. For the members that are here, they can see that it’s more than detailed. I also have a number of memorandums that went back as far as February detailing not just the numbers we needed, but the specific hours those people would be working and the duty.
REP. FARENTHOLD: And you didn’t get them.
MR. NORDSTROM: Well, I think the question to be asked is, again, as was asserted after my July 9th cable, that the plan was to source our security needs from the Department of State rather than from the Department of Defense. I think the question is –
REP. FARENTHOLD: Right. I mean, you –
MR. NORDSTROM: — were those resources ever provided?
REP. FARENTHOLD: And –
MR. NORDSTROM: And I think the answer is no.
REP. FARENTHOLD: OK. Do you have anything to add, Lieutenant Colonel Wood?
LT. COL. WOOD: No.
REP. FARENTHOLD: OK. I realize you guys don’t — Lieutenant Colonel Wood and Mr. Nordstrom, you all don’t have the level of information that Ms. Lamb and Ambassador Kennedy have. But having been in the biz, so to speak, do you think there are other embassies out there and other State Department facilities similarly situated to what we had in Libya that are at risk today?
LT. COL. WOOD: Sir, it is my impression that a cookie-cutter approach or some sort of a plan was being applied to us. That was what we felt down there in the field as we tried to work this situation. And certainly Libya met none of those requirements.
REP. FARENTHOLD: You know, as a former military person, historically it’s been the Marines that have protected our embassy and for a variety of political situations. And I need to point no further than Iraq, with the huge amount of money we’re spending to protect our embassy with contractors when, for political reasons or whatever, we are not putting Marines in. Do you think that’s a good idea that we’re doing that; we’re not relying on the Marines?
LT. COL. WOOD: Sir, I think there’s definitely a place for it. It needs to be studied. And I think each location is going to present you with a different situation that needs to be looked at for the merits — on its own merits.
REP. FARENTHOLD: And I think, as we have the Arab spring coming and we have the freedom and democracy coming to these Arab states, we have got to be aware that sometimes there are going to be times of transitions when the countries are not stable.
There may be election results that we don’t like, when people who don’t like us are elected. And I think we need to take this as a lesson that we need to be much more proactive and project more strength so this doesn’t happen in times that can change literally in a matter of hours.
I see I’m out of time, so I’ll yield back.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
And with that, we’re going to go to our very patient invited members of Congress, starting with the senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rohrabacher.
REPRESENTATIVE DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
As chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of Foreign Affairs, I appreciate you taking the lead and making sure that we are deeply — getting deep into an issue that’s important to the American people.
It has been suggested that budget cuts were responsible for a lack of security in Benghazi. And I’d like to ask — Ms. Lamb, you made this decision personally. Was there any budget consideration and lack of budget which led you not to increase the number of people in the security force there?
MS. LAMB: No, sir. And it was –
REP. ROHRABACHER: OK, that’s all I need. Thank you very much.
OK. So it wasn’t a lack of money, as we’ve heard by some people trying to — (laughs) — suggest that. Was it a lack of intelligence? Was this a failure of intelligence, or was it a lack of confidence? Or was this just something that will happen? No matter how we try, how competent we are, we’re going to lose lives like this.
MS. LAMB: Sir, this was an unprecedented attack in size and ferocity, as the words of RSO Eric Nordstrom. And as long as we have the need to be outside of the wire in these volatile countries –
REP. ROHRBACHER: OK.
MS. LAMB: — we can’t — (inaudible) — that.
REP. ROHRBACHER: OK. Well, let me just note that I do not believe that that’s the case, but I think that you honestly believe that. There are other factors involved here that make us vulnerable or not vulnerable to these type of evil forces that are in the world. So I’d like to — I know we’ve touched on these issues of preparedness, et cetera, and the bureaucratic things that people go through to make sure that we don’t have these — this type of suffering and loss of life.
But I’d like to focus on not the bureaucratic planning and what could have been done and not done. I’d like to focus on one other area. We heard from one of our colleagues a list of names of those killed during the Reagan administration who were killed by terrorists.
I worked in the Reagan administration, and I can tell you not once when all of these Americans were being killed by terrorists did the administration in any way try to excuse or in any way — these murderous attacks as some sort of spontaneous outrage due to something that the administration had done or an American citizen had done. Big difference. We’re talking about a — we’re talking about a mindset that may encourage evil forces in the world to kill Americans.
This administration has been bowing and scraping to try to prove its sincerity and friendship-seeking to the Islamic world since day one. It has projected not strength but weakness, and has demoralized our friends and emboldened our enemies, which perhaps had something to do with people who took a long term — a long time to plan out this kind of attack.
This mindset might be seen in a psychological minimizing of the threat of radical Islam in general, and maybe even specific situations. This mindset might also be seen in situations like this, when we’re trying to describe and come to the realization of what happened in a horrific terrorist attack on our people.
For example, there is a mindset that might lead people over here testifying not even to use the word terrorism in their testimony when we’re talking about a terrorist attack that murdered our ambassador. That’s not your fault, but there’s a mindset there somewhere that says those — the word terrorism doesn’t come into your written testimony.
I would also suggest that we need to — that mindset may be when people jump to the conclusion, because it’s an easy conclusion, to blame a filmmaker and let terrorists off the hook for responsibility of these terrorist acts.
Yeah, that mindset of minimizing the threat of terrorism and blaming it on us — freedom of speech in America — we permitted a film that created outrage overseas — instead of putting the blame where it belongs. And that’s where the testimony from Mr. Kennedy comes in.
Mr. Kennedy, we need to understand that whole scenario after this event to understand the mindset that may be at play here. We need to understand the scenario of what happened.
Six days afterwards we know the American people were given false information about who was responsible. You are here today and you’re unable to give us a view of how that came about. And the fact is, as far as this member of Congress is concerned, you are engaged in stonewalling or a cover-up or whatever it is.
Let me ask you that flat out: Did anyone tell you not to answer this question?
MR. KENNEDY: Absolutely no one.
REP. ROHRBACHER: So you’ve taken it upon yourself not to answer what is a simple scenario — when did you first know about this — or as they said during the Nixon years, when did you know — what did you know and when did you know about it? But you’re not able to give us that answer.
MR. KENNEDY: Let — if I could respond, sir?
REP. ISSA: The gentleman’s time is expired, but the ambassador may respond.
MR. KENNEDY: Let me quote exactly what Susan Rice said on that Sunday talk show: But our current assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is — is that in fact what this began as was spontaneous, not premeditated.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Right.
MR. KENNEDY: She said, very specifically, based on our current assessment.
REP. ROHRABACHER: OK. Mr. Chairman, the retort to that is we’re not just talking about her one statement. This — if you notice, this innuendo and this blame for the time immediately after was what — we heard — all heard about it. It was the film. How many times? Didn’t the secretary of state use the word “the film”? So it’s not just one speech that you’re talking about, which you may or may not be correct. This is something that we need to get at the heart of the matter.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ISSA: I thank the gentleman.
We now go to the gentlelady from Florida, who is extremely familiar with law enforcement and how it is to be worked. Ms. Adams.
REPRESENTATIVE SANDY ADAMS (R-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank the committee for allowing me to sit here today.
Ms. Lamb, I am a former law enforcement officer, as I know you’ve stated you are, so I’m going to go along that line. As my colleague who’s a prosecutor, we tend to listen very intently, and are trained to do so, so I believe you’ll understand some of the questions I’m going to ask you. And yes or no is fairly easy on some of them.
Like Mr. Burton asked you was it your sole discretion to deny the extra manpower. Yes or no? (Pause.) Your sole discretion. Was it your sole discretion to deny the request from Mr. Nordstrom?
MS. LAMB: No.
REP. ADAMS: Who above you had to approve that?
MS. LAMB: The response cable would be approved by two senior –
REP. ADAMS: And who are they?
MS. LAMB: The director of diplomatic security and the assistant secretary.
REP. ADAMS: Names, please.
MS. LAMB: Scott Bultrowicz and Eric Boswell.
REP. ADAMS: Thank you.
Now, as a former law enforcement officer, I recognize there are certain dates that law enforcement across our great nation prepare for because we believe they are significant to certain groups, one of which is September 11th. And it is significant to which group, Ms. Lamb? Which group would make that significant?
MS. LAMB: I’m not sure I’m following your –
REP. ADAMS: Which terrorist group finds September 11th significant?
MS. LAMB: I’m sure all terrorist groups would find –
REP. ADAMS: But mostly al-Qaida, would you not agree? (Pause.) Yes or no? If you don’t agree, then say you don’t agree.
MS. LAMB: Yes, I’m sure.
REP. ADAMS: Thank you.
So we have requests, over 230 clear incidents, we have, you know, bombings that have already entered our compound, yet multiple requests, over 230 clear incidents, violence erupting everywhere around, and you and your agency deny the security personnel that they have requested. And then on September 11th, which is known to be one of those dates that all law enforcement and many people around the world look at — and I hope you helped her out, Mr. Ambassador; I’m watching very closely and intently, as I was earlier — why is it that after all of that, that we have our ambassador to the U.N. go to the talk shows on the Sunday afterwards, and many other people from your agency, even here today that say well, with the information that we had — why is it that they said it was a film, when everything all my law enforcement training taught me that it was pointing quite differently?
Can you ask me — answer me did you believe — you, on September 11th and the morning after — did you believe that it was a video and not a terrorist attack?
MS. LAMB: Yes, just — with 35 years of experience, I choose to wait until the investigation is complete before drawing a conclusion.
REP. ADAMS: Well, that’s good because that’s the other thing that I wanted to ask about, too. With my investigation experience, I also know that you follow the leads very carefully, and you don’t go out and immediately claim one thing until you do have the facts, Mr. Ambassador.
So on September 14th, Ms. Nuland from your agency said that we have an open FBI investigation on the death issue — death of these four Americans; we are not going to be in a position to talk at all about the U.S. government may or may not be learning about how any of this happened, not who they were, not how they happened, not what happened to the — to Ambassador Stevens, not any of it until Justice Department is ready to talk about the investigation.
So you did talk about it yesterday, so did the Department of Justice say that they’re ready to talk about it and you therefore can go ahead and give up that information?
MR. KENNEDY: What we talked about –
REP. ADAMS: I’m asking Ms. Lamb.
MS. LAMB: I’m sorry; I thought you were speaking with Ambassador Kennedy.
REP. ADAMS: Did Department of Justice say, OK, our investigation is at a point you can now release this information, yes or no?
MS. LAMB: No.
REP. ADAMS: So you went ahead, and on September 14th, three days after the attack, said you wouldn’t release it, and then yesterday you did release it, but the Department of Justice did not.
MS. LAMB: I’m — the FBI has cleared everything that we’ve said here today.
REP. ADAMS: And yesterday also?
MS. LAMB: I was not in the briefing yesterday.
REP. ADAMS: Mr. Ambassador, yesterday also?
MR. KENNEDY: The material we used yesterday we drawn from the same pool that the FBI cleared.
REP. ADAMS: The Department of Justice said it’s OK to release that information?
MR. KENNEDY: We presented — we presented in a closed session to the Congress.
REP. ISSA (?): Is the gentlelady referring to the press — (inaudible)?
REP. ADAMS: I am, Mr. Chair.
REP. ISSA (?): I — (inaudible) — your press conference in which I sort of stated a lot of things categorically for I guess everybody except Fox.
MR. KENNEDY: I think the distinction — (inaudible) — think the distinction I would draw, Congresswoman, is that there is a difference between the investigation to determine who the perpetrators were, and a — and a rendition of the facts that we now know (ran out ?). So there is the timeline, and then there is the cause. And that is the distinction I humbly am making.
REP. ADAMS: But your spokesperson said you would not — who they are, who they were, not how they happened, not what happened to the ambassador, not any of it, until Justice Department is ready to talk. Is the Justice Department ready to talk on this?
MR. KENNEDY: The Justice Department is certainly not ready to talk about –
REP. ADAMS: So then –
MR. KENNEDY: — (inaudible) — of the — of the –
REP. ISSA: The gentlelady’s time is expired, and I don’t think you’re going to get an answer of the gentleman on that subject. But I appreciate your effort.
The Chair would inform everyone that we’re not terribly interested in a second round. I’m going to ask a couple of quick, very quick clarifying questions, and then if anyone really has a burning desire, they may, otherwise we’ll conclude. Everyone’s been very generous with their time.
And it really boils down to — there was a statement that hasn’t been covered any further, Ambassador Kennedy, that the DC-3, an aircraft that was available, was taken away because, quote, commercial airline capacity was created. Correct?
MR. KENNEDY: Correct.
REP. ISSA: OK. So why are there five fixed-awing aircrafts, at least one of them very big, quite — (inaudible) — big, and 35 helicopters in Iraq, even though they have commercial aircraft?
MR. KENNEDY: There is no safe commercial air service available within Iraq. There is safe commercial air service available to and from Libya, sir.
REP. ISSA: OK. So Libya is safe; Iraq isn’t.
MR. KENNEDY: In terms of air service, specifically to move people in and out of the country.
REP. ISSA: OK. I just want to make it clear.
Additionally — and I’m not trying to unreasonably use a prop, but I was given it and I used it in an earlier hearing, everyone that goes to Iraq gets one of these, or at least an opportunity. This is from a brigade-sized force of diplomatic security personnel. Thank you. It looks better this way. Do you recognize — have any of you seen it in Iraq? Ambassador?
MR. : Ms. Lamb –
MR. KENNEDY: I’ve never seen that, sir.
REP. ISSA: It’s been told to us in testimony that between 80 and 100 diplomatic security personnel are — have been working in Iraq over the last year. Is that roughly right?
MS. LAMB: Eighty-eight. Yes, sir.
REP. ISSA: OK. So Iraq, a place that the war is supposed to be over, it’s safe, has, like, 6,000 contract personnel, 14,000 of our government employees, direct and indirect, and 80 DSS, but you couldn’t spare six more for Libya. Is that correct?
MS. LAMB: Sir –
REP. ISSA: Or you didn’t see the need for them.
MS. LAMB: No, sir, I’m not sure where the number six is coming from.
REP. ISSA: Well, that was the difference between two crews and three crews. It would have been a difference of similar numbers had you backfilled with military personnel that were available and offered to you by General Ham.
MS. LAMB: OK, sir, if — as I said, Eric Nordstrom and the desk officer agreed on a number. We fulfilled that number. If he needed six additional people — and August 29th –
REP. ISSA: OK, but Mr. Nordstrom, you’re saying you don’t agree on that number. That’s probably the most important to get here straight. You did not — the number available on September 11th is not consistent with what you thought was the need when you were last in country, is that correct?
MR. NORDSTROM: Whether or not the numbers were agreed upon, when I left, we did not have the 12 numbers that were, quote-unquote, agreed upon.
REP. ISSA: Thank you very much. I want to thank all of the witnesses — OK, then I won’t close at this point. I recognize the ranking member.
REP. CUMMINGS: Just a few questions. Just following up on what the chairman just talked about, Ambassador, what is the budget for Iraq’s embassy? Give me just an estimation.
MR. KENNEDY: I think — I think the budget is probably up close to 7(00 million dollars), $800 million run rate.
REP. CUMMINGS: And what about Libya? The –
MR. KENNEDY: Much smaller than that, sir. I’ll have to get — I didn’t bring that exact number with me.
REP. CUMMINGS: Ms. Lamb, you have been — you know, I’m just — I listened to the description that you gave, and — of what happened, and somebody asked the question a moment ago, basically, why you made the decisions that you did make. And I’ve got to ask you, I mean, I’m assuming that you were always concerned about the safety of the folks that were there. Is that right?
MS. LAMB: Absolutely.
REP. CUMMINGS: And you — I assume you used your best judgment trying to make those decisions?
MS. LAMB: Absolutely. In fact, we sent an email to post right before the last MSD team left offering to leave them there to continue training even though they didn’t have the full complement for another class of armed bodyguards, and basically, we gave post two options. If they needed them, they could keep them there, we’d be happy to train a lesser class, and then we also gave the option that we could come back a month later and train a full class, and post chose to allow the MSD team to leave and come back at a later date. And these are assets that would have been on the ground there as well.
REP. CUMMINGS: The reason why I’m asking you these questions is because — I’m just trying to put myself in your place right now, and the implications that you are either incompetent, that you didn’t give a damn or you’re some kind of scrooge — and I don’t think you’re any of those. And I just want you to just — you know, I’m just giving you an opportunity to respond to that.
MS. LAMB: Sir, we do have limited resources, and it is very important that we have our regional security officers, in coordination with their emergency action committees at post and with their ambassadors, clearly lay out and articulate exactly what they need and why they need it. And Eric Nordstrom did a fantastic job. He had a very difficult job as the first RSO going in there. And sometimes putting pen to paper and sitting down and coordinating a transition exit strategy, especially for the SST, was very difficult, and we engaged him on a regular basis to try to come up with this exit strategy that we could all agree upon and to move into it gradually. Every time a mobile security division left — there were three. Before each team left, they spoke with RSO Nordstrom and they spoke with the ambassador at post, and they reviewed everything they have accomplished and what the post’s needs still were going forward, and they got permission to leave before they left post.
REP. CUMMINGS: Are you satisfied with your decisions?
MS. LAMB: With — I made the best decisions I could with the information I had, sir.
REP. CUMMINGS: Thank you very much.
REP. ISSA: Thank you.
Mr. Kelly, you wanted to make a brief statement — closing.
REP. MIKE KELLY: I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. And all of you, thanks for being here.
Listen, I know there’s incredible pressure put on you, but you’re all part of the executive branch. Not so much the two officers, but you know, there is a time — and I said earlier, these things come at a bad time, and people talk about it being 27 days before the election, but every once in a while you have to worry more about running the country than running for re-election, and you have to make the decisions as the executive, and you have to make sure that the staff you have on board is really somebody that you can rely on all the time.
But these folks have to rely on you to make the decisions. While we can do some of — some things with appropriations and some oversight, it does come from the executive branch that all these things fall into place. If you look at the organizational chart of this government, the State Department, secretary of state has a great, great deal of responsibility.
We lost four American lives, and I would think that as we go on, we have to ask these type of questions, and we have to ask, what did we learn from the losses? And if we do have people out there that are in harm’s way, are we protecting them the way we should? Are we making the commitment to them that — (inaudible) — to us? I mean, they put their lives on the line, and then I keep hearing about why we didn’t have the resources. But that’s not true. It’s priorities that count. How do you prioritize those, those monies that you have?
And I got to tell you, I’ve watched this thing now since September 11. I’m trying to understand why in the world we’ve sat back and we’re continuing to find — try to find out who to blame. The blame is that there is a group of people in the world that are really bad people, but we have to be able to deal with them.
The other question is we put our people in harm’s way. Did we do the best job we could to protect them? They put their lives on the line. Did we do everything we could to protect them? And after what’s happened in Benghazi, what have we learned from that? And I know I saw — you’re in law enforcement? And I would tell the CSI Benghazi, there is not a crime scene that’s been more contaminated than the one that’s there right now. How would we learn from that after what we’ve allowed to have happen?
So I know that this has been a long day for all of us, for you in — specifically, but for those four Americans and the families that lost those lives, it’s a much longer day. And for those, Lieutenant Colonel Wood, Mr. Nordstrom, those are your colleagues. It hits you deeper than any of us. So I do appreciate you being here. I know how difficult it is.
But I would like to say that as elected officials, we have a commitment to do what we — when we took our oath of office. It has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. It has to do now with Americans and patriotism, and we better start to be able to look at this and place emphasis on where it needs to be.
And Mr. Chairman, I thank you very much.
REP. ISSA: I thank you. Mr. Jordan.
REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I’ll be brief here. You know, in a 13-month time frame, we had 230 security incidences (sic; incidents) in Libya. When the 231st happens, the administration blames it on a video. We got two guys on the ground who repeatedly ask for additional security personnel and are denied, denied by people who’ve never been to the country they’re — they’ve been in for months at a time.
There’s a process in place, according to Ambassador Kennedy’s testimony and statements, where professionals come together and they make assessments and decisions about what the field is requesting. Earlier, not in my question with you, ambassador, you said, factors that you look at, and I didn’t get all of them listed, but three that I did jot down: stability of the government, threats against it and facility concerns.
Well, certainly in those three, there was nothing in Libya that would — that would say, they shouldn’t get what they’re asking for. The stability of this government: it’s a transitional government. That’s the name of it. Threats against us: we had 230. Facility concerns: you’ve admitted that in testimony. The facility wasn’t up to code.
So I guess I just — it seems to me that the $64,000-question is what would it have took to give the guys on the ground who’ve been there for months where you haven’t been, what would it have took to get the additional security personnel? Would it take 232, 250 incidences (sic; incidents)? Would it — what — would it take a government that had been in power eight months, not five months? What — I mean, what would it have took to do what the professionals in the field felt needed to be done to protect American assets and the lives of these four individuals?
And we’ll start with you, Ambassador, and then Ms. Lamb.
MR. KENNEDY: We do — we do assessments every day of security around the world. We look at every — we look at every location. There were 234 incidents. Only 20 percent of them were in Benghazi. The rest of them were in Tripoli or elsewhere. There had not been a single incident in Benghazi –
REP. JORDAN: Were the more serious ones in Benghazi?
MR. KENNEDY: No, they were elsewhere.
REP. JORDAN: OK, OK.
MR. KENNEDY: They — there was not ever a single incident in Benghazi of the lethality, of the nature of the armed attack, which, I pointed out, is almost unprecedented. Therefore we then worked very, very carefully. We cannot end the risk to our people overseas. We — the State Department must go into harm’s way. We attempt to mitigate that level of threat, and if we cannot mitigate the level of threat, we will withdraw our people –
REP. JORDAN: But it — but I –
MR. KENNEDY: — as we’ve done –
REP. JORDAN: I mean, the British ambassador, the — was it — was it assassination — what — the — our embassy was bombed twice.
I mean, I guess, what — what does it take to — again, this is not Congress saying, oh, you need to say — this is the — these are the professionals in the field who say we need more security personnel in Libya. OK, maybe all over the — this is for Libya, the whole country, and you guys say no.
And you allude to in your testimony this process of “considered judgments of experienced professionals in Washington.” Well, I want to know what those “considered judgments of experienced professionals” — 234 incidences in the country, violent attacks on our embassy, on ambassadors — what does it take?
MR. KENNEDY: We — it’s what I said, Mr. Jordan. There was not any actionable intelligence, as the director of national intelligence had said –
REP. JORDAN: What do you mean? Do you — do you — do you — are these guys professionals, these guys can do their job right — do you — would agree with that? These guys said they needed more help.
MR. KENNEDY: If I could finish my statement, sir, please –
REP. JORDAN: All right, and then I want to go to these guys.
MR. KENNEDY: There was no actionable intelligence that was available that indicated that there was –
REP. JORDAN: The word of Mr. Nordstrom and Lieutenant Colonel Wood is not good enough?
MR. KENNEDY: There was no actionable intelligence indicating that there was a plan or any indication of a massive attack of the nature and lethality. Yes, absolutely, there was a rocket — a single rocket-propelled grenade fired at the Red Cross. There was an attack on the British compound. We analyzed those things. I should also note that, for example, the French and the Italians looked at — and the United Nations looked at that same (threat ?) — (inaudible) –
REP. JORDAN: Mr. Nordstrom, do you — do you — Mr. Nordstrom, do you think — do you think they were ever going to give you what you wanted? Do you think — well, what do you think would warrant, actually, them saying, you know what, these guys know what they’re talking about; we’re going to — we’re going to meet their request?
MR. NORDSTROM: Thank you for asking that question. Actually had that conversation when I came back on leave, and for training in February, and I was told by the regional director for Near Eastern affairs that there had only been one incident involving an American, where he was struck by celebratory fire; it was one of Colonel Wood’s employees.
The takeaway from that for me and my staff, it was abundantly clear: We were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. And the question that we would ask is, again, how thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?
REP. JORDAN: If I could, Mr. Chairman. Lieutenant Colonel Wood –
REP. ISSA: The gentleman — Mr. — Colonel Wood, you can answer also.
COL. WOOD: Yes, sir, I agree with Eric Nordstrom. Not only did we have an individual struck by a bullet, but we also had individual members on the SST that had a firing — shooting incident just before we terminated our duties there — again, pointing to the instant ability for anything to happen there. It was a(n) attempted carjacking, and there was shots fired, going both ways.
MR. KENNEDY: If I could, Mr. Chairman, Lieutenant Colonel and — Colonel Wood and Mr. Nordstrom.
Were you pulling your hair out? Were — I mean, were you just flat flabbergasted that — well, like, what can we do, what can we say, what can we put in writing, what can we say on the phone, what can we — what else can we do? Was that your sense and attitude when you got the answers from Washington that you did?
COL. WOOD: We were fighting a losing battle. We couldn’t even keep what we had. We were not even allowed to keep what we had.
MR. NORDSTROM: If I could add to that, it was — and I told the same regional director in a telephone call in Benghazi after he contacted me when I asked for 12 agents; his response to that was, you’re asking for the sun, moon and the stars. And my response to him — his name’s Jim — I said, Jim, you know what makes — most frustrating about this assignment? It’s not the hardships, it’s not the gunfire, it’s not the threats. It’s dealing and fighting against the people, programs and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. And I added it by saying, for me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.
REP. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, I want to thank our witnesses, in particular Mr. Nordstrom and Colonel Wood, for coming forward. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
REP. ISSA: I want to thank all of our witnesses additionally. In the case of Lieutenant Colonel Wood and Mr. Nordstrom, if as a result, perceived or actual, of your testimony here today you’re in any way approached or anything happens in your professional lives with the United States government that you have any questions about, please come to this committee. We take the work of whistleblowers and people who give testimony very seriously. You’ve been critical to bring out things that would not have come out of the ordinary course of the administration.
I’m going to close only with two comments that I took away from today. One is that you don’t reduce security at the same time as you’re increasing hazardous-duty pay. It doesn’t make sense. I haven’t heard that question asked and answered; I’ve only heard that it occurred. And I think the State Department should take away from today an understanding that that sends a message that says, we’ll pay you for the risk; we will not pay to have you made safer. That’s the impression that anyone would get if you reduced the staffing below recommendations or request and then increased the pay. I don’t think that’s what the men and women who serve us overseas want. I know that pay and compensation for hardship is important, but safety comes first, especially on these unaccompanied assignments.
Lastly, Colonel Wood, I have a Marine fellow that works for me. Actually, I have a Marine — a former Marine fellow on the — on the side there. The United States military very generously delivers people for other branches, for their needs. And in return those individuals come away understanding and more able to do a variety of jobs. Your time working with the State Department is invaluable as you continue your career.
I would only say that, whether you’re talking to your National Guard commanders or the SECDEF or others, that we do appreciate the fact that our men and women have varied careers in which they can assist others with assets that would not be available and then take that back to their units. And I want to thank you for your service and use you as a conduit for so many men and women who, around the world, have added to what otherwise would not be there in the way of security and protection.
And with that, we stand adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)