Among the nagging questions left in the wake of the terrorist attack against our special mission compound in Benghazi, Libya, is whether or not more could have been done to save the lives of the four Americans who were murdered, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Judicial Watch already exposed the Obama administration’s lie that no military help was within striking distance by releasing an unclassified Navy map showing that the military had a multitude of forces in the region surrounding Libya at the time of the attack.
And now we learn through a JW investigation that there were serious concerns about the security detail hired to protect the Benghazi diplomatic facility. Serious enough that the firm was flagged as a “do not hire” by a key State Department security official.
On February 28, 2014 we obtained documents from the U.S. Department of State revealing that Blue Mountain Group (BMG), the security firm hired to protect the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, had lost at least two previous private security contracts in Tripoli and was hired despite a warning from the Embassy Acting Regional Security Officer.
According to the documents, which we received in response to our February 25, 2013 FOIA lawsuit, on June 7, 2012, Tripoli Acting Security Regional Officer (ARSO) Jairo Saravia sent the following email to RSO David Oliveira (Temporary Duty Office to Benghazi at the time) and others:
“Just a quick note in regards to Blue Mountain. The company has lost several security contracts here in Tripoli, including the Corinthian Hotel and Palm City Complex. The latest information is Blue Mountain is not licensed by the GOL to provide security services in Libya. I would advise not to use their services to provide security for any of our annexes and/or offices due to the sensitivity this issue has with the current GOL ….”
A second email that same day, from RSO Greg Levin, apparently responding to the Saravia email, said that BMG did not have a licensing problem, but did not refute that it had lost several security contracts in Tripoli. In fact, additional emails between State Department personnel in Libya sent that day suggest that licensing for security firms had become an acknowledged problem, with one email stating, “We have got to get legal to change how licensing is done for contractors.”
The documents also reveal that in Benghazi in April 2012, there was almost a physical altercation between a BMG supervisor and a member of the Libyan 17th of February Martyrs Brigade, a Libyan militia that was supposed to provide security at the Benghazi compound the day of the September 11, 2012, attacks. According to an April 18, 2012, email from ARSO Teresa Crowningshield to DS Program Manager Norm Floyd:
“At 1130 hours, a verbal altercation occurred between the Libyan February 17th Martyrs Brigade team member and Mr.[REDACTED]. The team member then notified the brigade team leader of the incident, who then went to the gate to speak with [REDACTED]. At that time, a second verbal altercation occurred between the three and [REDACTED] left the compound. The team leader then came to the RSO office and reported the incident.
“The team leader stated that [REDACTED] made an inappropriate comment with reference to Gaddafi. Then when the team leader came to speak with [REDACTED] he made derogatory comments regarding the team leader’s mother. As the situation escalated to the point of a likely physical confrontation, [REDACTED] left the compound.”
So here we have a security detail with a checkered past, to say the least, openly fighting with the Libyan security detail they were supposed to train!
The role BMG played in protecting the security of the Benghazi facility first came to light shortly after the September 2012 terrorist attack when State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphatically denied that State had hired any private firm to provide security at the American mission in Benghazi:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the claim was made yesterday that a company that is a spinoff of Blackwater, in fact, proposed or contracted the United States Government for this particular kind of eventuality, and it was caught up in some sort of bureaucratic –
MS. NULAND: Completely untrue with regard to Libya. I checked that this morning. At no time did we plan to hire a private security company for Libya.
QUESTION: Toria, I just want to make sure I understood that, because I didn’t understand your first question. You said – your first answer. You said that at no time did you have contracts with private security companies in Libya?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
This exchange was one reason we decided to take a look at the Blue Mountain Group. On December 19, 2012, we filed a FOIA request with the State Department seeking, “Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the $387,413.68 contract awarded by the Department of State to an unidentified foreign awardee for ‘Security Guards and Patrol Services.'” When State refused to comply with the FOIA request, JW filed its February 25, 2013, lawsuit, which resulted in the documents revealing the BMG had lost previous security contracts in Libya. (JW earlier obtained the BMG contract itself – the one Nuland said did not exist.)
While JW was exposing the red flags raised by the Blue Mountain Group, acting CIA Director Mike Morell’s testimony before Congress inspired outrage from people who were on the ground in Libya during the attack. Per Fox News:
Sources on the ground in Benghazi during the 2012 terror attack are pushing back hard on former CIA acting director Mike Morell’s testimony on Capitol Hill, where he defended his role in shaping the administration’s narrative and claimed politics were not involved.
As part of Morell’s testimony on Wednesday, the former acting and deputy CIA director acknowledged that he overruled the guidance of the top CIA officer in Libya at the time. That official told Morell the attack was not an “escalation of protests,” but Morell said he had to weigh that against analysts who concluded the opposite. He ultimately went with the analysts — whose assessment later turned out to be flawed — saying the chief of station’s report was not “compelling” and was based on loose evidence.
Folks, something is rotten here.
Why on earth would Morell choose to trust the word of “analysts” over intelligence operatives in the field who had their finger on the pulse of what was happening moment by moment at the Benghazi mission?
And “loose evidence”? Was it any looser than the evidence tying the attacks to an obscure Internet video a ridiculous claim peddled by the country’s Secretary of State during a series of television interviews? That’s the narrative the Obama administration fed us. And based on what?
The fact is, any intelligence officer worth his salt wouldn’t have such a horrible error in judgment. So what conclusion are we supposed to draw about this testimony?
It certainly seems to me that Morell is covering for some political operative inside the Obama administration who made the decision to downplay the terrorist connection to these attacks because it might have disrupted the president’s re-election campaign. Or maybe he is the political operative? Morell did little this week to excuse his false information and obstruction on Benghazi. If it were any other administration, there’d be an independent criminal investigation already underway.
What a mess. A year-and-a half after the attacks and we are all still in the dark about what really happened at Benghazi. Administration officials lied about the terrorist connection to the attack. They lied about the availability of military support that could have potentially saved lives. They lied about the security firm hired to protect our personnel, which we now know had a track record of failure.
And then we have this bizarre testimony from the nation’s former top intelligence officer suggesting he simply didn’t know that it was better to trust intelligence on the ground than “analysts” sequestered in a cubicle.
No wonder we have to battle in court for the most basic information. And it certainly doesn’t help matters that Republicans in Congress have been asleep at the switch, failing to use the full investigative powers available to them to uncover the truth for the American people.
JW, meanwhile, has been all over the Benghazi attack and cover-up, filing multiple FOIA lawsuits, uncovering records no one else could recover, pushing Speaker Boehner for a serious investigation, and issuing a comprehensive report on what our investigators have found. Click here to read all about it.