(CBS News) One of the men who was in charge of security for U.S. diplomats in Libya says he feared for their safety long before the attack last month on the consulate in Benghazi. Four Americans were killed in the attacks on the Libyan consulate, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The concerned military security officer and Army green beret, Lt. Colonel Andrew Wood, will tell his story to Congress on Wednesday.
Wood first set foot in Libya last February to lead an elite, 16-man counterterrorism team. From the moment he arrived, he says he saw chaos.
“Shooting instances occurred, many instances involved the local security guard force that we were training,” he told CBS News. “Constantly, there were battles going on between militias, criminal activity and that became increasing danger as time went on as well.”
Were you aware that a group called the “February 17 Martyrs Brigade” was tasked with being the ones to be called in the event of security breakdown? Doesn’t particularly inspire confidence in the State Department, eh?
Over the six months leading up to the attack on Stevens, Wood says the security situation in Libya deteriorated. There were 13 threats or attacks in Tripoli and Benghazi. Wood says Stevens and his staff made the case for tightened security in emails and diplomatic cables. But one by one lost three State Department security teams, their only airplane and, eventually, Woods’ squad too.
“There was certainly no disconnect in our transfer of information to them,” Woods said. “They were getting the information from the situation on the ground, and we sent it up through State Department cable, and I sent it up to the military side on the DoD side, so there was awareness of what the situation in Libya was about.”
Woods said he and his team became aware that they would not be allowed to stay through cables and draft cables coming back and forth. The State Department was telling the people in Libya not to continue to ask for help.
“The requests were being modified to say, ‘Don’t even ask for DoD support,’” he said.
This is potentially criminal negligence. State had to have known how dangerous the area around Benghazi was. Every reporter in the area, and the Libyan government, knew the dangers, which included criminal activity targeting Westerners and rising Islamic extremist activity, such as al Qaeda. Yet, the US security was told to stop asking for help.
Wednesdays hearings should be interesting.