Prior to the deadly attack on a US consulate in Benghazi this week, there were two other attacks on visiting dignitaries within the last five months. In addition two western outposts were targeted including a bomb attack at the same consulate Ambassador Stevens was visiting when he and three other Americans were killed.
Despite this apparent pattern, US officials maintain there was no reason to suspect elevated security was needed. An unnamed US spokesperson told the Telegraph “there was no information and there were no threatstreams to indicate that we were insufficiently postured.” But a review of little noticed news items over the last 5 months suggests otherwise.
The consulate office in Benghazi was attacked in June of this year. No one was hurt when someone threw a bomb at the outer gate, and the story made almost no news domestically. However, the incident was mentioned in the daily State Department briefing. Deputy Spokesman Toner praised the work of local guard forces and suggested some additional security was being requested:
QUESTION: Do you have a reason to suspect that it was other than al-Qaida?
MR. TONER: At this point, we just don’t know, Said.
QUESTION: But do you have any concern that this may be – may bode very ill for the future security of Libya? I mean, there seems to be a breakdown in security on all levels.
MR. TONER: On the contrary. As I said, our local guard force acted in exemplary fashion. We believe they were very vigilant in seeing this attack as it was taking place and sounding a warning for our mission staff to seek cover. And as I said, we’ve requested additional security. As to whether this bodes ill or well for – on a larger scale, clearly Libya is in transition. It’s grappling with many different issues, important issues right now. Security is a concern, but one we’re addressing, working productively with the Libyan Government.
Less than a week after the June 6 consulate attack, a rocket propelled grenade was fired at a convoy carrying the British Ambassador to Libya who, like Ambassador Stevens, was visiting Benghazi. The ambassador was uninjured but two British bodyguards were hurt. The story was relegated to British papers and the BBC. But even then, both news outlets noticed a pattern of previous attacks involving bombs and western targets.
In May, a rocket propelled grenade was fired at the Red Cross headquarters in Benghazi. The rocket struck the first floor of the building, smashing windows. No one was injured and the story made little news in the US.
In April an improvised explosive device was thrown at a convoy carrying the head of the UN mission to Libya during a visit to Benghazi. The bomb missed its target and exploded a few meters away leaving “a small hole in the road.”
Despite the pattern of attacks aimed at dignitaries from the US, Britain and theUN–all taking place in Benghazi–reports indicate the consulate had just four Libyan guards this week and was overrun within 15 minutes of the start of the attack.
In her statement Tuesday night, Secretary Clinton condemned religious intolerance but went on to say it was no excuse for violence. This was taken as a reference to a You Tube video critical of Islam which was believed to have sparked the protest in Egypt and Libya. However, all of the previous attacks on diplomats and western outposts in Benghazi took place before the film, Innocence of Muslims, was uploaded to You Tube. There is ample reason to think the attack would have happened with or without the pretext of the film.