Early reports of the militant attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans offer a confusing picture of the facts surrounding these murders.
CBS News is reporting that Ambassador Stevens suffocated to death while two Marines and an embassy staffer were shot to death. CBS also reported that more Marines were being sent to Libya. But these reports raise more questions than they answer:
Military officials told CBS News an anti-terrorism team of U.S. Marines was being deployed to Libya to help secure U.S. interests following the attack. The State Department said, however, that no Americans were remaining at the facility in Benghazi. State officials would not confirm how many Americans were evacuated, or to where….
Stevens died of suffocation, while two U.S. Marines sent to Benghazi when the clash erupted were shot and killed by well-armed protesters. It was not immediately clear whether the Marines were part of Stevens’ security detail. The American whose death was confirmed on Tuesday also died of a gunshot wound. He was identified by the State Department on Wednesday as Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.
Security at the consulate was apparently provided by Libyan nationals hired by the United States. While security for American embassies is typically provided by our own Marines, the two Marines reported killed in yesterday’s attacks appear not to have been stationed at the embassy, but were sent there from another unknown location as the violence erupted. There is also no indication if these two Marines were the only American military personnel on site at the time of Ambassador Stevens’s death.
All reports indicate that the security forces at the consulate were overwhelmed by the size of the militant crowds and offered no resistance as they stormed the building, looted it, and killed the four Americans.
As the facts surrounding the destruction of the American consulate and death of Ambassador Stevens become known, investigators will focus on these questions: Did the State Department provide adequate security for our embassy staff there? If not, why not?
And finally, the most important question of all: Where were the Marines?