TEL AVIV, Israel – Just when she thought she had skated by on Benghazi and her email infractions, it now appears that Hillary Clinton’s woes on these issues may be far from over.
There is a largely unknown security scandal emerging, which centers not on the doomed U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, but on the American Embassy in Tripoli about 400 miles away.
This scandal, combined with classified information on Clinton’s private server and sensitive material looted from the dangerously unprotected Benghazi compound, may spell trouble in Hillary Clinton-land, especially in regard to the presidential candidate’s national security credentials.
The larger stack of evidence, presented here by Breitbart Jerusalem, shows the astonishing scope of the Clinton State Department’s apparent failure to protect highly sensitive – at times classified – national security secrets.
In at least one case, sensitive information was likely obtained by our terrorist enemies in Libya, as a federal indictment charges.
In another case, classified communications equipment and hard drives housed at a dangerously insecure U.S. embassy reopened by Clinton were protected, embarrassingly, by a female office manager and other staffers – not by U.S. marines.
Forget Benghazi…take a look at Tripoli embassy security
The U.S. diplomatic facility in Tripoli was first upgraded to embassy status in 2006. Due to security concerns, Clinton temporarily shut it down during the 2011 revolution that toppled Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. In September 2011, after Gadhafi fell, the embassy was reopened.
The story begins in 2012, immediately after the embassy received notice of the first assault on the Benghazi mission.
Largely ignored in the firestorm surrounding the Benghazi attacks is the fact that – like the Benghazi mission – the U.S. embassy in Tripoli did not meet the State Department’s minimum security standards for a diplomatic outpost established without a security waiver from the Secretary of State.
These security standards were established by the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999, or SECCA, which was passed in the aftermath of two embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.
Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), a Benghazi investigator who was the fifth highest ranking member of the House GOP leadership, declared on the House floor on January 15, 2014:
It was known in the State Department and at the highest levels that neither facility in Libya – the one in Tripoli or the one in Benghazi – met the minimum physical security standards set after our embassy was attacked in Kenya in 1998. Who made the decision to put so many American diplomats in those facilities that did not meet that standard?
Eric Allan Nordstrom, a former regional secretary officer in Tripoli who is now the supervisory special agent with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, confirmed that the Tripoli embassy did not meet the minimum standards.
At an October 10, 2012 congressional hearing on Benghazi, Nordstrom said:
Neither the buildings in Benghazi nor the buildings in Tripoli met those standards, nor was there a plan for the next phase of construction, what was called the interim embassy, would they meet the standards either. That interim embassy was scheduled to be on the ground for approximately 10 years. That was a major cause of concern, and that was the main physical security issue that we continued to raise.
Contrary to a misleading claim propagated by Clinton herself, there was no Marine Security Guard (MSG) contingent protecting the Tripoli embassy during the 2012 attacks. They were only deployed in the aftermath of the fatal Benghazi assault.
In her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices, Clinton claims there were marines guarding the Tripoli embassy:
So while there were Marines stationed at our embassy in Tripoli, where nearly all of our diplomats worked and which had the capability to process classified material, because there was no classified processing at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, there were no Marines posted there.
But the former head of Africa Command, General Carter Ham, testified before Congress on June 26, 2013 that “There was no Marine security detachment in Tripoli.”
Breitbart Jerusalem has confirmed with the press office of the U.S. Marines that no marine contingent was deployed in Tripoli on September 11, 2012.
These details are relevant because the primary duty of the MSG is to protect classified information and equipment vital to U.S. national security.
So who was safeguarding the classified information processed by U.S. officials in Tripoli under Clinton’s watch? In one case, it seems, one guard was a female office manager.
‘She was smashing hard drives with an ax’
In May 2013, Gregory N. Hicks – the No. 2 at the Tripoli embassy the night of the attacks – testified before Congress that about three hours after the first attack on the Benghazi mission, his staff in Tripoli was alerted to Twitter feeds asserting the terror group Ansar al-Sharia was behind the attack. Other tweets warned of a pending attack on the embassy in Tripoli.
Hicks described a scene in which the office staff began to destroy classified materials for fear of an attack.
“We had always thought that we were … under threat, that we now have to take care of ourselves, and we began planning to evacuate our facility,” he testified.
“When I say our facility, I mean the State Department residential compound in Tripoli, and to consolidate all of our personnel … at the annex in Tripoli.”
Hicks said he “immediately telephoned Washington that news afterward and began accelerating our effort to withdraw from the Villas compound and move to the annex.”
He recalled how his team “responded with amazing discipline and courage in Tripoli in organizing withdrawal.”
Continued Hicks: “I have vivid memories of that. I think the most telling, though, was of our communications staff dismantling our communications equipment to take with us to the annex and destroying the classified communications capability.”
“Our office manager, Amber Pickens, was everywhere that night just throwing herself into some task that had to be done. First she was taking a log of what we were doing,” he said.
“Then she was loading magazines, carrying ammunition to the – carrying our ammunition supply to … our vehicles, and then she was smashing hard drives with an ax.”
The vivid scene, however, was not mentioned once during Clinton’s Benghazi testimony last month or during her testimony on the subject in 2013. This despite Clinton being directly asked about the response by the Tripoli embassy during last month’s testimony.
The dramatic incident in Tripoli was also not referenced in the State Department’s own Accountability Review Board probe of the Benghazi attack.
Terror kingpin obtains sensitive documents…why not classified?
Major questions linger about why Hillary Clinton’s State Department did not classify the reportedly sensitive documents and material that ran through the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi. The material was clearly not adequately protected, as the assault on the mission summarily exposed.
During Clinton’s Benghazi testimony to lawmakers last month, Clinton claimed that unlike the Tripoli compound, Benghazi did not house classified material. She conceded that some unclassified material was left behind after the attacks.
It is instructive to focus on what materials were housed in Benghazi, especially in light of a November 2012 report by Fox News quoting sources in Washington and on the ground in Libya, including a witness, confirming computers were stolen during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
Also, two days after the compound was looted, the London Independent reported documents inside the U.S. mission were said to “list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups.”
And the Washington Post three weeks later reported documents inside the U.S. mission contained “delicate information about American operations in Libya.”
The Post revealed that one of its own journalists visited the vacated facility weeks after the attack and personally found scattered across the floors “documents detailing weapons collection efforts, emergency evacuation protocols, the full internal itinerary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip and the personnel records of Libyans who were contracted to secure the mission.”
Stevens’ itinerary at times also reportedly passed through Clinton’s private email server, including his exact whereabouts and movements while he was stationed in the Libya danger zone.
The 2012 Fox News report also divulged that after the U.S. mission was looted, some of the Libyans employed there received death threats via text message. It is unclear whether the threats were prompted by the stolen documents and computers.
Some of the sensitive information was obtained by the Ansar al-Sharia terrorist group, which was implicated in the Benghazi attacks.
Breitbart Jerusalem reviewed the 21-page, 18-count federal indictment against Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the Benghazi-based leader of Ansar al-Sharia.
The extensive indictment charges that Khatallah stole “documents, maps and computers containing sensitive information” from the Benghazi mission. The charge sheet further accuses Khatallah of conspiring to “plunder property from the Mission and Annex, including documents, maps and computers containing sensitive information.”
In other words, according to the federal indictment, Khatallah was partially motivated to storm the Bengahzi compound in order to obtain sensitive documents – materials that were ripe for the plundering in the unsecured Benghazi mission.
Echoing her e-mail controversy, during her Benghazi testimony last month Clinton was confronted about her seemingly ambiguous definition of sensitive and classified materials stored at the Benghazi mission.
One particular exchange on the matter may be telling:
CLINTON: We know it through our own investigation about what documents were at Benghazi, and there were no classified materials, to the best of our information.
POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. Do you know if there was sensitive information?
CLINTON: I suppose it depends on what one thinks of as sensitive information. There was information there and some of it was burnt, either wholly or partially. Some of it was looted. And some of it was recovered eventually.
POMPEO: Madam Secretary, do you know where that material that was looted went? Do you know into whose hands it fell? And do you know the nature and contents of that material? You seem very confident it wasn’t classified. I don’t share your confidence. But nonetheless, do you know where that material went?
CLINTON: I think that it — it is very difficult to know where it ended up. But I want to just reiterate the point that I made. This was not a facility that had the capacity to handle classified material. And there was, to the best of our information, Congressman, no classified material at the Benghazi facility.
POMPEO: Ma’am, the fact that it wasn’t capable of handling classified material doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any classified material there. Is that correct?
CLINTON: Well, the procedure is not to have classified material at such a facility. And again, to the best of our knowledge, there was not any there.
POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. You’re not supposed to have classified e- mail on your private server either.
CLINTON: And I did not, Congressman.