It has long been known that the Benghazi, Libya consulate had less-than-adequate security given the various threats facing the diplomatic staff, but what was unknown until now was how Hillary Clinton’s State Department silenced contractors about those security lapses after the 2012 attack.
The contractors, Brad Owens and Jerry Torres of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, spoke exclusively with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about the issue, and Fox News ran an exclusive story detailing the contractors’ account. The two revealed that they faced pressure from a bureaucrat under Hillary Clinton’s Department to stay on the same page as the State Department following the attack.
The two arrived at the consulate two weeks before the attack, but had previously bid for the security job in the spring of 2012. However, Clinton’s Department awarded the contract to a little known and very inexperienced U.K. company called The Blue Mountain Group. When Owens inspected the security detail there, he was simply appalled by what he saw.
“Blue Mountain U.K. is a teeny, tiny, little security company registered in Wales that had never had a diplomatic security contract, had never done any high threat contracts anywhere else in the world that we’ve been able to find, much less in high threat areas for the U.S. government. They had a few guys on the ground.”
Not only that, but the guards that Blue Mountain used were hired through another company, and they were not even armed.
Problems soon arose. One month before the attack — in August 2012, with The Blue Mountain Group still in charge of compound security — Ambassador Stevens and his team alerted the State Department via diplomatic cable that radical Islamic groups were everywhere and that the temporary mission compound could not withstand a “coordinated attack.” The classified cable was first reported by Fox News.
By Aug. 31, 2012, the situation had deteriorated to the point that Owens and Torres said the State Department asked them to intervene – as Owens put it, an “admission of the mistake of choosing the wrong company.”
“They came back to us and said, ‘Can you guys come in and take over security?’ Owens said. “So we were ready.”
Owens had previously appealed the State Department’s decision to hire the U.K. company, but an official stated that the Department has the latitude to chose who will provide security. That fact is not something that can be really disputed, but there is a difference between latitude and wisdom within that latitude.
The State Department plainly made a huge mistake. The agency should have hired a firm that had experience in Libya, and was equipped to deal with the threats coming from the jihadists in the nation. Keep in mind, it was hardly a year since the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed, leaving a massive power vacuum in Libya.
That vacuum attracted jihadists from across the Middle East, and the contractors knew it. Nonetheless, the State Department did not provide security accordingly, and just 12 days after Owens and Torres received orders to ship out to Benghazi, the consulate was attacked.
“There was nothing we could’ve done about it. If we’d had one month warning … who knows what might’ve happened,” Owens said.
The days that followed the attack were just as frustrating, if not even worse; especially after the administration blamed the attack on a YouTube video, which was a blatant lie and the White House knew it. As a former Green Beret, Torres was stunned and said he expected better.
“Coming from a military background, I would expect the administration to tell the truth. So I bought into it for a minute. But I didn’t believe it in the back of my mind.”
In early 2013, a State Department official, Jan Visintainer, called Torres from overseas and in a meeting told him not to speak with the media about the events leading up to or after the attack.
“[Visintainer] said that I and people from Torres should not speak to the media, should not speak to any officials with respect to the Benghazi program,” he said. With that veiled threat, he became fearful for his company, which employs about 8,000 people.
“We had about 8,000 employees at the time. You know, we just didn’t need that level of damage because these guys, their livelihood relies on the company,” he said. “I trust that our U.S. government is going to follow chain of command, follow procedures, follow protocols and do the right thing.”
One of the other things that stuck out to him during that interview was Visintainer’s statement about security as a whole for U.S. embassies.
She stated that “in her opinion, that guards should not be armed at U.S. embassies. She just made that blanket statement. … And she said that they weren’t required in Benghazi. So I was kind of confused about that. And she said that she would like my support in saying that if that came up. And I looked at her. I just didn’t respond.”
The entire handling of the attack, before, during, and after, was a mess; almost nothing was done right in order to protect the people on the ground. But what is even more disconcerting is the coordinated effort to silence those who were there, and the fact that many of the same practices still exist even under a new administration.