Today, the Libyan government announced that it had discovered the identity of the terrorist behind the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, resulting in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. According to a senior Libyan official, the FBI has seen a cellphone picture of the mastermind: Ahmed Abu Khattala, leader of the Abu Obeida brigade. That brigade was an element of the rebel forces allied against then-dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Back in July 2011, Abu Obeida was responsible for the murder of Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis, Qaddafi’s former interior minister who had joined up with the rebellion. The group was headquartered in Benghazi.
Here’s where the story becomes shocking: as early as July 2011, the media was reporting that Abu Obeida was responsible for all security in Benghazi. On July 31, 2011, the Sunday Telegraph (UK) reported:
So secretive is the brigade - said to be one of at least 30 semi-independent militias operating in the east of the country - that until yesterday few in the rebel capital had heard of it.
The fact that it takes its name from one of the Prophet Mohammed's most successful military commanders is an indication of its Islamist bent, observers say. Unlike the other militias, the Brigade seems to exercise considerable power within the rebel movement. Since Gen Younes's death, it has emerged that the group was in charge of internal security in Benghazi, essentially operating as a secret police force.
You read that correctly. In July 2011, more than a year before the murder of our ambassador by Abu Obeida in Benghazi, Libya, the press reported that Abu Obeida was “in charge of internal security in Benghazi, essentially operating as a secret police force.”
And yet the Obama administration chose not only to turn down repeated requests for additional security from diplomatic posts in Libya, it recruited security for our ambassador from the local Benghazi population. As Jake Tapper reported, “a local Libyan security brigade in Benghazi consisted mostly of merchants and shopkeepers, and had not received pay in months.” Eric Nordstrom, Regional Security Officer at the State Department, said he had no idea if they would respond to an attack.
Not only did the locals not respond to the attack, they reportedly helped out the terrorists. According to CBS News the day of the attack, Wanis al-Sharef, a Libyan Interior Ministry official, stated that “members of the Libyan security team seem to have indicated to the protesters the building to which the American officials had been relocated, and that building then came under attack.”
There is a reason that local forces helped out terrorists: the town was controlled by terrorists. And the press had been reporting that for well over a year. Yet the Obama administration not only turned down additional security in Benghazi, it recruited from the local population – a population either in league with Abu Obeida or threatened by it.
With the revelation of the identity of the leader of the Libyan attack, all excuses for the Obama administration’s lax security fall apart. The local terrorist leader controlled security in the town; the Obama administration handpicked security from that same population pool, and turned down additional security.
Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, understands the grave nature of the administration’s lax security decision: “There is no question but that the security was inadequate,” said Feinstein today.
It wasn’t merely inadequate. It was purposefully inadequate.
That’s the reason that the Obama administration has insisted for weeks that the Benghazi attack was prompted by a YouTube video. That’s why UN Ambassador Susan Rice insisted repeatedly that the attack was “spontaneous.” The administration has to make the terrorist attack in Benghazi seem unforeseeable, so that they can’t be blamed for not providing better security.
But that attack was anything but unforeseeable; the town’s security was controlled by terrorists. And the Obama administration chose not to provide security for our ambassador anyway.
Security decisions this horrendous must spring from a broader foreign policy of keeping a “low profile,” and not offending the locals. The predictable result: an ambassador dead, along with three other Americans. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have claimed responsibility for the security situation in Libya. The American people must hold them responsible for one of the most inconceivably foolish – and pusillanimous -- security decisions in the history of American foreign policy.