On Thursday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland doubled down on claims that the three week lapse between the September 11, 2012 attack on the American mission in Benghazi and the arrival of an American crime investigation team had not compromised classified information. As The Hill reported:
“This was not, based on what we’ve seen, any kind of breach of classified information,” Nuland told reporters. “If you take a look at those things that were found, they were all unclassified documents. Some of them were, for example, the evacuation instructions for personnel. So clearly these were things that were in use at the time of the attack and frankly, none of us was surprised to – to see them at the site.”
The comments come as the Department of Defense on Thursday revealed that an FBI investigative team had finally made it to Benghazi late Wednesday before heading back out less than a day later. Nuland repeatedly referred to the slow pace of the investigation as “challenges” during her briefing.
Numerous photographs of what appears to be an abandoned Benghazi mission with Libyan civilians wandering through the ruins have done little to quell concerns about the loss of classified American information, despite repeated assurances from the State Department to the contrary.
The Washington Post reported that the American investigative team spent only twelve hours at the scene of the crime in Benghazi on Thursday before leaving. It’s not known when they will be returning.
The Post report also included a disturbing account of infighting between the FBI and the State Department:
The State Department has assigned an independent panel to look into the security procedures before, during and after the attack. That five member accountability review board met for the first time Thursday and compiled documents to go through, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. The board must submit its findings and any recommendations it may have to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton within 60 days, unless it is determined that more time is required. . .
FBI agents had been staying away from Benghazi until the city was more secure, law enforcement officials said. But agents were in other parts of the country investigating the attack since Sept. 18. . .
U.S. officials also suggested that there may have been some disagreement between the State Department and the FBI over whether or not the FBI team would use Libyan security or seek approval for the U.S. military to handle the mission. The U.S. Army Delta Force troops flew into Benghazi with the FBI team on three C-130 transport aircraft.
The State Department’s credibility continues to take a beating in light of new reports from Eli Lake at the Daily Beast that it cut Benghazi’s already weak security prior to the fatal September 11, 2012 attack that killed American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, despite repeated warnings that an attack was imminent.