8 major warnings before Benghazi terrorist attacks

U.S. security for diplomats in Libya was steadily drawn down in 2012 prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, amid reports of hundreds of security incidents and despite repeated requests for better security from State Department officials in the country. Below are 8 major warning signs.

2011: Ambassador premonition: “…Things could go wrong.”

In 2011, al-Qaeda was known to be in Tripoli to exploit Libya’s unsettled status and to try to obtain some of the thousands of missing MANPADS (man portable air-defense systems): shoulder-fired missiles seized by rebel forces that stormed Qaddafi government bases. U.S. Ambassador Cretz realized there were seriously dangerous tensions among anti-Qaddafi factions: Islamists and secularists. “I think there is a genuine cause to be concerned that things could go wrong,” he told reporters.

Dec. 2011: “Islamic terrorist elements…gaining operational capability.”

Operation Papa Noel, a major terrorist plot targeting foreign diplomatic missions in Libya, was thwarted in December of 2011. Pro-Qaddafi elements had planned to launch a sophisticated attack on foreign diplomatic missions and oil fields in Libya. Later, the written emergency-evacuation plan for the U.S. mission in Benghazi warned, “the majority of Loyalist insurgents tasked with carrying out this plan are still active and free in Benghazi” and “Islamic terrorist elements do exist in this area of the country, and have been reported by open sources to be gaining operational capability.”

2012: In an online posting, al-Qaeda stated its intent to attack the Red Cross, the British, and then the Americans in Benghazi. The goals were accomplished in order.

April 10, 2012: An explosive device is thrown at a convoy traveling in Benghazi carrying United Nations envoy Ian Martin.

May 22, 2012: A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hits the Benghazi offices of the International Red Cross and the agency decides to pull out.

June 6, 2012: An improvised explosive device detonated just outside the Benghazi consulate compound.

June 11, 2012: A rocket-propelled grenade hit a convoy carrying the British ambassador in Benghazi. The U.K. pulled out of Benghazi.

2012: There was an al-Qaeda demonstration right smack in the middle of Benghazi. “They had a parade down the streets. They raised their flag on one of the county buildings,” says one observer.

“We had no actionable intelligence . . . about this threat in Benghazi,” State Dept. Patrick Kennedy later testified to Congress. “And therefore . . . I never went to the secretary of state and told her it was time to leave Benghazi.”

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8 Responses to “8 major warnings before Benghazi terrorist attacks”

  1. Greg West
    October 22, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

    Hillary Clinton says she was unaware of any need for additional security for diplomatic missions in Libya prior to the attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi. Maybe somebody in her State Department should have listened to what was being briefed and reported on pretty consistently in the months leading up to the attack. Here is just some of that information:
    – April 19, 2012: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signs a cable proposing a plan to decrease security assets for the U.S. missions in Libya, including Benghazi. (NOTE: But when Mrs. Clinton herself visited Benghazi six months earlier, on October 18, 2011, she had the Defense Department pre-position assets off the coast of Libya, in case she encountered danger and needed rescue.)
    – April 25, 2012: A U.S. embassy guard in Tripoli is detained at a militia checkpoint.
    – April 26, 2012: A fistfight escalates into a gunfight at a Benghazi medical university, and a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in attendance is evacuated.
    – April 27, 2012: A courthouse in Benghazi is hit by three IEDs.
    – April 27, 2012: Two South African contractors in Benghazi are kidnapped, questioned and released. After this incident, Eric Nordstrom, former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, states: “It is increasingly likely that our direct-hire employees will face the same challenges in the future.”
    – May 1, 2012: The deputy commander of the local guard force in Tripoli is carjacked and beaten.
    – May 3, 2012: The State Department declines a request from personnel concerned about security at the U.S. embassy in Libya for a DC-3 plane to transport them around the country.
    – May 15, 2012: An unknown attacker throws a hand grenade at the Military Police headquarters in Benghazi.
    – May 22, 2012: Two RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] rounds are fired at the Red Cross outpost in Benghazi, which is located 1 kilometer from the U.S. mission. A pro-al Qaeda group claims credit for the attack. In a Facebook posting that same day, the group says, “now we are preparing a message for the Americans for disturbing the skies over Derma” (a port city in eastern Libya).
    – June 2012: A pro-Qaddafi Facebook page posts photos of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens making his morning run in Tripoli and issues a threat against him.
    – June 6, 2012: An IED is left at the gate of the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Six minutes later, it explodes. An al Qaeda-affiliated group claims credit for the incident. After this bombing, U.S. officials observe that local (unarmed) guard forces working for the Benghazi compound are now “afraid to work.” Assistant Regional Security Officer David Oliveira, who is stationed in Benghazi at the time, says that these guard forces view the U.S. as “a target” and “[don’t] want to work overnight.”
    – June 10, 2012: On or about this date, al Qaeda holds a rally in Benghazi. The event features fighters from Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Mali parading through the streets bearing weapons and black Salafist flags.
    – June 11, 2012: An RPG is fired at a convoy carrying the British Ambassador in broad daylight as he nears the British consulate in Benghazi, which is located 2 kilometers from the U.S. mission in that city. No one is killed, but the British close their consulate soon thereafter. No suspects are identified.
    – June 13, 2012: An aide to a former internal security officer is killed in a car-bomb assassination in Benghazi.
    – June 21, 2012: A former Libyan military prosecutor is assassinated by gunfire in Benghazi.
    – June 22, 2012: Ambassador Christopher Stevens sends a cable to the State Department, noting the continued presence in Libya of Islamist extremist groups “which warrant ongoing monitoring.”
    – Late June, 2012: Another attack targets the Red Cross outpost in Benghazi, this one in daylight. The Red Cross promptly pulls out, making the U.S. mission the last Western outpost in the city.
    – Soon After the June 2012 Al Qaeda Attacks on the British Ambassador and the Red Cross: Green Beret Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood — one of the top American security officials in Libya — is based in Tripol and has been meeting with Ambassador Stevens every day. Noting that al Qaeda has already announced, in an online posting, its intent to attack the the British, the Red Cross, and the Americans in Benghazi, Woods tells a U.S. country team meeting, “You are gonna get attacked. You are gonna get attacked in Benghazi. It’s gonna happen…. Shut down operations. Move out temporarily, or change locations within the city. Do something to break up the profile because you are being targeted. They are — they are — they are watching you. The attack cycle is such that they’re in the final planning stages.” (In an interview conducted at a later date, Wood recalls: “It was apparent to me that that was the case. Reading, reading all these other, ah, attacks that were occurring, I could see what they were staging up to, it was, it was obvious.”) (Source: Lara Logan’s October 27, 2013 interview with Andy Wood, for CBS’s “60 Minutes”)
    – June 25, 2012: Ambassador Stevens issues a cable entitled, “Libya’s Fragile Security Deteriorates as Tribal Rivalries, Power Plays and Extremism Intensify.” In this cable, he indicates that the leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated group have explicitly stated that they are “target[ing] the Christians supervising the management of the [U.S.] consulate.” Stevens adds that a “[Government of Libya] national security official shared his private opinion that the [recent] attacks were the work of extremists who are opposed to western influence in Libya.” Moreover, writes Stevens, “[A] number of local contacts [note] that Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Liya and that the Al-Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings and training facilities in Derna.” According to Stevens, “the proliferation of militias and the absence of effective security and intelligence services” has diminished the Libyan government’s ability to respond to the escalating violence.
    – July 1, 2012: Between 100 and 200 demonstrators storm and ransack the office of the High National Electoral Commission in Benghazi.
    – July 4, 2012: A border-control department officer is assassinated in a drive-by shooting in Benghazi. No suspects are arrested.
    – July 6, 2012: A Libyan Air Force helicopter is struck by gunfire from an anti-aircraft weapon and is forced to land at Benghazi’s Benina Airport. One staff member of Libya’s High National Election Commission is killed in the attack, and one is wounded. No suspects are arrested.
    – July 21, 2012: In a memorandum to the State Department, Eric Nordstrom, former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, warns: “[T]he risk of U.S. mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, and businesspersons encountering an isolating event as a result of militia or political violence is HIGH. The Government of Libya does not yet have the ability to effectively respond to and manage the rising criminal and militia related violence, which could result in an isolating event.”
    – July 31, 2012: Gregory Hicks arrives in Tripoli to begin serving there as deputy chief of mission.
    – August 2012: Ambassador Stevens reports that the security situation in Benghazi is deteriorating. He informs the State Department of a “security vacuum” that is being exploited by independent extremists. Nonetheless, the 16-man Site Security Team of Special Forces assigned to Libya is ordered out of the country, contrary to the stated wishes of Stevens.
    – August 6, 2012: An attempted carjacking of a vehicle with U.S. diplomatic plates is carried out in Tripoli.
    – August 15, 2012: An emergency meeting is convened at the U.S. mission in Benghazi to discuss the threat posed by the area’s 10 active Islamist militias, including al Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia.
    – August 15, 2012: The U.S. Mission in Benghazi sends a cable (marked “SECRET” and signed by Ambassador Stevens) to “The Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” The cable says that the State Department’s senior security officer, also known as the RSO, does not believe the mission can be protected against a “coordinated attack.”
    – Early September 2012: Unarmed Libyan guards (employed by British contractor Blue Mountain Group) at the U.S. mission in Benghazi are warned by their family members to quit their jobs because of rumors of an “impending attack.”
    – September 6, 2012: Al-Entisar, a Libyan-flagged ship, docks in the Turkish port of Iskenderun. Its 400 tons of cargo includes Russian-designed, shoulder-launched missiles known as MANPADS, rocket-propelled grenades, and surface-to-air missiles—precisely the types of weapons that had previously made their way into Libya when Qaddafi acquired many thousands of them from the former Eastern Bloc countries, and precisely the types of weapons the Syrian rebels have been using in their military campaign against Syrian President Assad. Al-Entisar’s cargo ultimately ends up in the possession of those same Syrian rebels. The main organizer of this shipment of weapons is the al Qaeda-linked Abdelhakim Belhadj, who previously worked directly with Ambassador Stevens during the Libyan revolution against Qaddafi. As journalist Clare Lopez explains, these facts confirm “the multilateral U.S.-Libya-Turkey agreement to get weapons into the hands of Syrian rebels—which were known to be dominated by Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood elements—by working with and through Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist figures like [Abdelhakim] Belhadj.”
    – September 8, 2012: A local security officer in Benghazi warns American officials that security in the area is rapidly deteriorating, and that violent unrest is a distinct possibility.
    – September 8, 2012: A member of the February 17th Martyrs Brigade (F17MB) warns Alec Henderson, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the State Department compound in Benghazi, that the militia will no longer protect the movements of Americans diplomats in the city. Specifically, F17MB cites its dissatisfaction with working hours and pay (from the State Department). The RSO asks specifically if the militia would be willing to provide additional support for Ambassador Stevens’ pending visit, slated for September 10, and is told no.
    – September 9, 2012: Alec Henderson relays the F17MB warning to John Martinec, the RSO in Tripoli.
    – September 9, 2012: The U.S. State Department now has credible information that American missions in the Middle East may be targeted by terrorists, but diplomats are not instructed to go on high alert or “lockdown.”
    – September 10, 2012: Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri—vowing to avenge the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a high-ranking al Qaeda official killed by an American drone attack three months earlier—issues direct threats against Americans in Libya. Notwithstanding these threats, the Obama administration deploys no U.S. Marines to guard the mission in Benghazi.
    – Summation: As a result of the foregoing incidents, the U.S. mission in Benghazi made repeated requests for increased security prior to September 11, 2012, but these requests were denied by the Obama administration. One U.S. security officer, Eric Nordstrom, twice asked his State Department superiors for more security at the Benghazi mission but received no response. In making his requests, Nordstrom cited a chronology of more than 200 security incidents that had occurred in Libya between June 2011 and July 2012. Forty-eight of those incidents were in Benghazi.
    What difference does it make Hillary? Had you been more proactive and responsible in managing your State Department the lives of four Americans would have been totally different because they likely would be alive today!

  2. Bookdoc
    October 24, 2015 at 1:39 am #

    One more thing I wonder about. Way back, shortly after the killings, Canada Free Press reported on the CIA arms smuggling out of Benghazi. It also talked about the lack of security as deliberate to allow the kidnapping of the Ambassador so he could be exchanged for the blind sheik and only killed him when the ex-Seals started shooting. I am not normally one to believe in conspiracy theories but all the pieces fit. A gay ambassador in a muslim country with unarmed local security on the 9/11 anniversary? I wish someone would think of looking at this.

  3. delete kik
    June 28, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    Interesting – read “Bob’s” account/comments. He was inconsistent when defending himself – came across as a very weak individual who was in leadership. He will have to live with himself (along with those who selected “Bob” to be the one in charge). So scary that individuals like this are in charge.making decisions/problem solving when major events need clear minds to brainstorm solutions. If the “Bob’s” of this world are examples of who is leading is it any wonder the U.S. is in trouble world-wide and in the United States? Yipes!


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