State Department Official Who Wanted Security at Benghazi 'Artificially Low' to Testify Today
On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland confirmed that Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, and Eric Nordstrom, the former State Department Regional Security Officer for Libya, will testify at House hearings today on the attacks that killed American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on September 11, 2012:
QUESTION: Is your expectation at tomorrow’s briefing that a good deal of what is discussed would have to be done in a classified session because there are two ongoing investigations, as you noted?
MS. NULAND: Well, the request tomorrow was to come up in unclassified sessions, so we will do what we can in an unclassified setting. We’ve also been responsive to those staff members, et cetera, who have asked for classified briefings. In fact, we’ve had both Pat Kennedy and Eric Boswell up on the Hill this morning in classified sessions with staff who have requested to see them on both the House and the Senate side.
QUESTION: Is there any reason why Mr. Boswell or Mr. Kennedy are not testifying; it’s someone lower in rank who is actually appearing tomorrow?
MS. NULAND: Well, the folks who we are sure are going up from State are the two that were specifically requested by the committee: Charlene Lamb, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security – she is Mr. Boswell’s deputy – and Eric Nordstrom, who was a regional security officer, who had been in Libya earlier in 2012. We’re still talking to the Hill about the full complement for the hearings, and we’ll just see how that turns out over the course of the day.
Lamb is the State Depart Official who wanted to keep Benghazi security "artificially low," as ABC's Jake Tapper reported on Tuesday:
Charlene Lamb, in Nordstrom’s view, wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi “artificially low,” according to a memo for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.
Tapper turned up the heat on the contradictory statements coming out of the White House and the State Department about the Benghazi attacks, and Lamb's opposition to bolstering Benghazi security looms large in his reporting :
ABC News has learned that Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, has told congressional investigators that security at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was “inappropriately low” – and believed that State Department officials stood in the way of his attempts to change that.
Nordstrom and the commander of a 16-member Security Support Team, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, heard that foreign fighters were flowing across the Egyptian border and were making their way across the border to the Libyan city of Derna – which is to the east of Benghazi — and from there were making their way to Benghazi. But State Department officials seemed oblivious to their Benghazi post’s vulnerability.
Nordstrom was worried -he did not know how much the Americans could rely on members of a local Libyan militia in Benghazi that provided security — the “17th of February Martyrs Brigade.” Mostly merchants and shopkeepers before the war, they seemed eager, but they hadn’t much experience and other than a daily $30 stipend for food from the U.S. Embassy, they hadn’t been paid in months.
Nordstrom had “no idea if they would respond to an attack,” he told investigators.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will hold hearings on what went wrong today at noon ET. Nordstrom will testify at that hearing.
Nordstrom twice wrote to the State Department – in March and July 2012 — to beef up the presence of American security officers in Benghazi, but neither time was there a response. At no point from December 2011 through July 2012, when he left Libya, were more than three Diplomatic Security Service agents permanently and simultaneously stationed at the Benghazi post.
Nordstrom wanted at least five personnel to be stationed at Benghazi, but the State Department would not allow it. There were American security officers, however, at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, including three Mobile Security Detachments, which were part of the DSS, and a 16-member Security Support Team detailed from Special Operations Command AFRICOM, commanded by Wood. But the State Department would not give him permission to deploy them to be stationed at Benghazi. . .
Wood, a former Green Beret, told ABC News that he and other members of the Security Support Team wanted to remain in Libya past their deployment was scheduled to end in August, and that Ambassador Stevens wanted them to remain as well. Nordstrom has said that Lamb told him not to request for the Security Support Team to be extended again. (Its deployment had been previously extended in February 2012.)
Lamb will testify before the House committee later today.
“I do recall one conversation with her where she (Lamb) said that since we now had a residential safe haven in Benghazi that she didn’t seem to have a problem with having no agents on the compound because if something happened then personnel could simply go to that residential safe haven,” Nordstrom told investigators.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Lamb's responsibilities, according to the State Department website, include the following:
As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, Ms. Lamb is a key member of the [Diplomatic Security] management team, responsible for providing strategic planning, management support, and establishing budget priorities to senior [Diplomatic Security] management. Ms. Lamb manages more than $1.2 billion in security assets and programs and thousands of personnel dedicated to that purpose. She is also responsible for the safety and security of over 285 overseas Embassies and Consulates and oversees the 550 special agent/security professionals posted at those locations.
Lamb reports to Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell, who reports to Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, who in turn reports directly to Secretary of State Clinton. A primary responsibility of Boswell and Lamb in Libya was enforcing the "No Marines, No Bullets" State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya document signed by Secretary Clinton some time within the past year and a half after the fall of Khadafi's dictatorship in Libya.
On Tuesday Breitbart News reported that Under Secretary Kennedy briefed Capitol Hill staffers on September 12, 2012 that the Benghazi attacks of the previous day had been carefully planned.