Published October 09, 2012
The U.S. mission in Libya recorded 230 "security incidents" over a one-year period between 2011 and 2012, according to a State Department document that provides the most expansive view yet of the concerns on the ground in the run-up to the deadly Sept. 11 consulate attack.
The document was obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is preparing to hold a high-profile hearing on Wednesday featuring security officers who served in Libya.
One of them, Eric Nordstrom, claimed in an Oct. 1 email -- obtained by Fox News -- that he had argued for additional security, citing the "number of incidents that targeted diplomatic missions."
However, Nordstrom suggested the U.S. government was eager to give the impression that Libya was safer than it was and declined.
"These incidents paint a clear picture that the environment in Libya was fragile at best and could degrade quickly," he wrote. "Certainly, not an environment where post should be directed to 'normalize' operations and reduce security resources in accordance with an artificial time table."
The account is similar to that of Lt. Col. Andy Wood, the former head of a Special Forces security team who has also agreed to testify. He has given similar accounts in the media of being rebuffed in calling for more security.
The testimony is sure to fuel the firestorm on Capitol Hill over the administration's handling of the attack -- both in terms of security before the attack and the public explanation afterward of what happened.
Pushed on whether security was pulled back before the Sept. 11 strike, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to get into specifics.
"I'm not going to go into all of these kinds of timeline details as to what we had when and where," she said.
Nuland said that in advance of the Sept. 11 anniversary, the department evaluated the "threat stream" and determined "security at Benghazi was appropriate for what we knew."
The document on the 230 incidents, which spans June 2011 to July 2012, goes well beyond high-profile attacks, like the attempted assassination of the British ambassador in June, to include gunfights, the murder of foreign nationals and an explosives attack on the Benghazi consulate on June 6.
In one June 26 attack, the Tunisian consulate was targeted by a "crude IED," though no one was injured, the report said. A border security officer was assassinated in Benghazi on July 4. The report detailed a string of kidnappings later that month.
A "general assessment" at the end of the document then states: "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."
A senior Republican with the House oversight committee says there's a pattern -- one where help was requested by teams in Libya and consistently denied.
"It seems to be a coordinated effort between the White House and the State Department," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who visited Libya over the weekend.
"They wanted the appearance of ... 'normalization' there in Libya," he said. "And building up of an infrastructure, putting up barbed wire on our ... facility would lead to the wrong impression."
Ahead of Wednesday's hearing, Democrats were accusing Republicans of exploiting the situation for political purposes.
A memo by Democrats on the oversight committee reportedly accused Republican leaders of keeping them largely out of the loop on "unverified allegations," as well as the fact-finding trip.
One Democratic aide also stressed "GOP cuts in spending for embassy security" ahead of the attack.
Four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed in the attack.
An independent investigation launched by the State Department is under way -- it presumably will examine why the administration at first claimed the attack was a "spontaneous" reaction to protests in Egypt over an anti-Islam film despite evidence of terrorism.
A law enforcement investigation is also underway.
New details, confirmed by Fox News, show the attack on the consulate and nearby annex used by the CIA unfolded over five hours. In addition to rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and assault rifles, the terrorists used gun trucks and mortars.
After Republican Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who traveled to Libya, confirmed to The Washington Post that U.S. agents were analyzing security camera video from the consulate, Attorney General Eric Holder suggested lawmakers pull back on their public discussion of the investigation.
Holder urged "people in Congress" to be "a little mindful of the fact that there is an ongoing investigation and not reveal anything that might compromise our law enforcement investigation."
Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.