Indeed, the crime scene itself remains unsecured. While the compound owner has spray-painted his name all over the front gate to let looters know it is not American property, Libyans can walk through the charred buildings unimpeded. Stevens clothes still hang in the closet, and American documents are strewn on the floor.
Because Libya is a sovereign state, American officials must depend on Libyans to make arrests in accordance with local law. But how such a case can be handled when there is no structured legal system and no law enforcement agency is unclear.
Perhaps the most infamous suspect, Ahmed Abu Khattala, remains at large even after witnesses put him at the consulate during the attack, directing fighters. A commander in Benghazis largest revolutionary brigade, the Libyan Shield, acknowledged that everyone is frustrated that Khattala is still allowed to openly operate in Benghazi, boasting about his freedom of movement even as he has denied participating in the attack.
Who is going to arrest him? Who is going to question him? Its the consequences that we fear, the commander said. If we arrest someone, a member of his forces will get him out.
The commander did not want to be named after being publicly identified with helping the Americans recruit members for a counterterrorism unit. Within hours of his name surfacing, he said, extremist groups operating in Benghazi threatened to kill him.
Among the factors limiting an investigation, said Omar al Khadrawry, Libyas deputy interior minister, is that local officials do not recognize the authority of the central government in Tripoli. He said officials whove been fired simply refuse to leave their jobs and cited as examples the citys police chief and the deputy interior minister for Benghazi, who refuse to step down despite having been fired and replaced by the countrys new prime minister.
Saleh Daghman, the newly named deputy interior minister for Benghazi, said he cannot even get to his office because his predecessor is still there. In addition, some of Daghmans officers have charged that he is a member of Ansar al Shariah, the group suspected in the consulate attack. Daghman denies the charge.
The ultimate result, Khadrawry said, is a security problem. It is weak in Benghazi.
In addition, many of those in charge of security have no previous experience. The commander of the Libyan Shield, essentially an army made of up remnants of anti-Gadhafi fighters, was a driving instructor before the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year. The head of Benghazi Supreme Security Council, Fawzi Waniss, was an engineer.
It is unclear how many of the suspected 70 consulate attackers were Libyan. A 31-year-security guard at the consulate that night said he saw Algerians, Tunisians, Egyptians and Turks among the attackers. Many wore turbans and spoke classic Arabic, not Libyas vernacular, he said.
Top security officials in Benghazi said they have not seen any list of suspects.
Meanwhile, what investigation has been undertaken seems to taking place in Tripoli, nearly 500 miles away but where the security situation is relatively better. The consulate security guard said he was flown to Tripoli three weeks after the attack and interviewed by the Interior Ministry and the FBI separately.
Libyan officials are quick to stress that they want to do more but that there simply is no structure for undertaking such a delicate investigation.
We are starting from zero. We are building from scratch, said Langhi of the General National Congress. The Americans know the situation very well, and they will not let the killer of the ambassador go. But they know they have to move slowly and carefully. The Libyan people want to help.
McClatchy special correspondent Ayman al Kekly contributed from Tripoli.