It was an intelligence failure. No, wait! It was the fault of Paul Ryan’s Congress, which cut State Department’s budget. No, wait! It is under investigation, so we can’t make any judgments. No, wait! The RSO only requested increased security for Tripoli, not Benghazi.

JESUS, JOSEPH and MARY! I am in primal scream mode. These excuses are so lame and so stupid that I have trouble trying to remain calm. But here goes.

Intelligence failure? No, and hell no. Did the intelligence community provide warnings that Benghazi was a dangerous place or that bad guys, specifically Ansar Al-Sharia, were plotting to attack U.S. targets in Benghazi? The answer is “YES!” We also know that RSO Nordstrom provided a detailed list of attacks in Libya, both Tripoli and Benghazi, which in turn inspired STATE to release on 27 August 2012 the following Travel Warning:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Libya. The incidence of violent crime, especially carjacking and robbery, has become a serious problem. In addition, political violence in the form of assassinations and vehicle bombs has increased in both Benghazi and Tripoli. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated September 22, 2011, and notes the resumption of full consular services to U.S. citizens on August 27, 2012.

Please note. A “Travel Warning” is not a routine thing. It represents serious concern on the part of State Department about security risks in the mentioned country. Please click here to read the litany of attacks and threats that a worried RSO was reporting back to Washington. This is what is known as “raw intelligence.” It is a firsthand report from the frontline.

The RSO specifically warned:

The 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.

You do not have to be a crack intel analyst to understand that. Basic english fluency should suffice.

As the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi unfolded, the intelligence community did not start trumpeting that this was inspired by an anti-Muslim video. Having worked “breaking news crises” like this as both an analyst at CIA and as a Counter Terrorism official at State, the so-called “intel” community is really not consulted or at the forefront of the information flow. That is handled, instead, through action officers and watch centers. In this case, for example, once the attack started on the Benghazi Consulate, someone at that site literally got on the phone and alerted the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Command Post back in DC that an incident was underway. The DS Command Center in turn alerted the State Department OPs Center.

This led to a NOIWON alert. NOIWON is an acronym for the National Operational Intelligence Watch Officer’s Network. The “news” of the attack on the consulate was immediately shared via a secure telephone conference call with reps from the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, DIA, NSA and NCTC. Within an hour of the NOIWON alert, the intel bureaucracy was alerted and preparing briefs for principals.

I know for a fact that the briefs prepared that night, as the attack unfolded, for senior US military commanders, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, specifically identified the group believed to be responsible for the attack and identified prior intelligence pointing to planning by that group. None of those briefs claimed or insisted that this attack was the result of “spontaneous mob violence” in response to some stupid movie. The decision to seize on the riot in Cairo as a pretext to explain the attack in Benghazi was a political decision by the White House. It was not a consequence of “intelligence analysis.”

In fact, when an event like Benghazi is unfolding, the intel community rarely would take a definitive position. It would identify a variety of possible causes or perpetrators. What is stunning about the briefings presented on 9-11 and 9-12 to senior U.S. military officials is that there was a high degree of confidence that the attack in Benghazi was carried out by a group with ties to Al Qaeda.


That’s irrelevant to putting appropriate, requested security assets in place on the ground. A cut in State’s budget does not mean that high threat posts are forced to go without adequate security. The audacity and shamelessness of Obama and his team appears to know no boundary. They try to pin their failure to respond to specific security requests from the Diplomatic Security officers on the ground in Libya by a reduction in State Department’s “security” budget. What the average American does not know is that most of those cuts will fall on programs like the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Training Program. As the former Deputy in charge of the policy of that program I can assure you that it can be cut without jeopardizing US security. That program has nothing to do directly with protecting the Ambassador.


What a crock of crap that is. You do not need an “investigation” to know or understand that Ambassador Stevens was not accorded the type of security normally assigned to any US Ambassador in a high threat post. You do not need an investigation to understand that a complex, organized attack was carried out against US diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi. The fact that the group who carried out the attack knew where the CIA facility was is especially troubling and points directly to inside knowledge and assistance. You do not just run out into the street with a mortar and start firing. The persons who attacked the CIA facility hit it with mortars, which means they knew the location and were able to place precise fire on that facility. Mortars are what killed the two NAVY Seals.

Moreover, there is not substantive investigation underway in Libya. Neither the FBI nor intelligence assets have access to and control of the site. This stands in sharp contrast to the investigations of the bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Those investigations produced immediate, substantive results and led to the capture and arrest of Al Qaeda members. That ain’t happening in Libya. The only investigation of any substance underway is the Accountability Review Board, led by Ambassador Pickering, who will attempt to explain why State was so inept and incompetent.


Another damn, ridiculous lie. As cited above (please follow the link yourself to read the RSO’s warning), both Tripoli and Benghazi were identified as high risk areas. Missing from this discussion is the fact that Ambassador Stevens should have had a Mobile Security Detachment/Team aka MSD or MST. Normally, an MSD/MST is comprised of US military personnel from the Special Operations community. One friend of mine, who served in a high threat post, was accompanied for over a year by an alternating six man team of Black SOF from the Army and the Navy. White SOF, e.g. Green Beret, also are used to provide manpower for these teams.

What is truly shocking is that Stevens did not have a basic six man unit guarding his ass. We still do not know who made that decision, but this much is certain–that decision was made at Main State. It was not because Ambassador Stevens did not want such a team. Ambassadors do not get to make the decisions on what is and is not appropriate security.

And what about the claim that Republicans exposed a CIA cite in Benghazi?

More lies and spin from the Democrats. It was Obama Administration officials who brought the photo identifying the site of the CIA base in Benghazi to the hearing the other day. That was not done by Republicans. In fact, it was brought at the direction of Pat Kennedy. Moreover, it was the NY Times who identified the site in Benghazi as a CIA facility, not the Republicans. Take a look for yourself at the NY Times piece published on 24 September 2012:

Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.

“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” said one American official who has served in Libya and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the F.B.I. is still investigating the attack. “We got our eyes poked out.”

The C.I.A.’s surveillance targets in Benghazi and eastern Libya include Ansar al-Sharia, a militia that some have blamed for the attack, as well as suspected members of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

One final comment. Republicans need to stop the idiotic comment of claiming that this is worse than Watergate. Watergate involved criminal activity and a deliberate obstruction of justice. This incident is not an example of illegal conduct, but of policy stupidity and political ass covering. Let’s leave Watergate out of it. The actions of Richard Nixon and cronies were indefensible. Let’s focus instead that President Obama and Hillary Clinton failed to ensure that American officials in a high threat area were not adequately protected and that they have tried to deceive the American public about the truth of what actually happened because they were afraid of the political backlash.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.