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Benghazi security was adequate: State Dept.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
A congressional hearing is held regarding security levels at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

A congressional hearing is held regarding security levels at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The State Department told Congress that security levels at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya were adequate at the time of the Sept. 11 anniversary.

Senior officials testified Wednesday, saying the number of U.S. and local security guards at the compound was consistent with what had been requested by the post. This testimony comes after allegations that security failures at the consulate led or contributed to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

"We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11," said Charlene Lamb, the deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security in charge of protecting American embassies and consulates around the world.

On the other hand, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that in hindsight "there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from happening."

According to Lamb, there were five diplomatic security agents at the consulate at the time of the attack, along with additional Libyan guards and a rapid response team at a nearby annex.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has criticized the administration's early response to the attack and has made it a campaign issue, saying Monday that President Barack Obama has led a weak foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer in Libya, said previously that he had requested more security but that request was blocked by a department policy to "normalize operations and reduce security resources." Under questioning, however, he said he had sought mainly to prevent any reduction in staff, rather than have a big increase.

Also, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, former head of a 16-member U.S. military team that helped protect the embassy in Tripoli, told the committee that the security in Benghazi "was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there." He said at one point in April, only one diplomatic security agent was stationed in Benghazi.

However, Lamb and Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy stressed that the regional security officer's requests for personnel had been met.

Kennedy said the State Department assesses risk and allocates resources with the best information available, but added that the Sept. 11 attack was "an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men."

Though both Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton initially gave credence to the notion that the attack was related to protests about an anti-Islam video, the State Department asserted on Tuesday that it never concluded that the Sept. 11 attack stemmed from protests over the film.

Some Republicans have focused on the shift, suggesting that the administration was trying to cover up that it was unprepared for the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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