In the email, Nordstrom noted that his security incident list included the targeting of foreign embassies, underscoring “the GoL’s (government of Libya) inability to secure and protect diplomatic missions.”
He wrote that the Libyan government’s problems in protecting embassies “was a significant part” of arguments that he and the embassy made to the State Department in opposing the decision to withdraw State Department and Pentagon security personnel.
“The GoL was overwhelmed and could not guarantee our protection,” he wrote. “Sadly, that point was affirmed on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi.”
The American security personnel to whom Nordstrom referred came from the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security and a Special Security Team of 16 U.S. special forces. They were pulled out of Tripoli in August despite requests that their tours be extended by 120 days, according to a congressional aide who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
In addition to protecting Stevens and other embassy personnel, the U.S. special forces also were training Libyan security guards to take over from them, he said.
He quoted Nordstrom as telling the committee in an interview that the State Department extended the Special Security Team’s tour from February, and then informed the embassy, “We do not want to see you make another request for an extension of the SST.”
The State Department wanted the embassy to stick to an “overly aggressive timetable . . . not fitting with the situation” for the Libyan guards to take over from the SST, he quoted Nordstrom as saying.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House committee, said in a statement that the email showed “a clear disconnect between what security officials on the ground felt they needed and what officials in Washington would approve.”
“Reports that senior State Department officials told security personnel in Libya not to even make certain security requests are especially troubling,” he continued. “It is important for the committee to determine if the State Department is taking appropriate steps to address systemic deficiencies.”
The State Department has declined to respond to questions about security at the U.S. consulate, saying it was deferring answers until an internal investigation is completed. The FBI also is conducting an investigation.