ForexTV NewsDesk | October 10 2012 10:35 EDT
ForexTV.com (New York) by R. Rode
WATCH LIVE Coverage of The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the failed security at Benghazi
Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, has told congressional investigators that security at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was “inappropriately low” – and believed that State Department officials stood in the way of his attempts to change that.
Nordstrom and Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, the commander of a 16-member Security Support Team, heard that foreign fighters were flowing across the Egyptian border and were making their way across the border to the Libyan city of Derna – which is to the east of Benghazi — and from there were making their way to Benghazi. But State Department officials seemed oblivious to their Benghazi post’s vulnerability.
In a testimony written by Colonel Andrew Wood to the Committee of Oversight and Government Reform he describes the vulnerability and lack of proper protection for the US Embassy in Benghazi where 4 Americans were murdered including US Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will hold hearings on what went wrong today at noon ET. Nordstrom will testify at that hearing.
I am Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood. I am a member of the Utah National Guard with
24 years of service as a Special Forces soldier. I was mobilized for the 2002 Winter
Olympics, Afghanistan from September of 2003 to May of 2004, and for counter
terrorism work in the Southern Philippines from August of 2007 to May of 2008. I
currently work for the US Bureau of Reclamation as the Upper Colorado Regional
Security Officer or RSO. I am responsible to Reclamation for the security program that
oversees 58 high and significant hazard dams in 5 western States, one of which is Glen
Canyon Dam, a national critical infrastructure facility.
Upon hearing of the death of Ambassador Stevens and later of the Congressional
inquiry, I identified myself to my Congressional Representative's staff as a person with
intimate knowledge of the security situation prior to the attack. I was subsequently
contacted and began a dialogue with staff investigators.
I made a personal decision to come forward with information and do not represent DoD
or any government agency. I had unique access and placement to many government
leaders and agencies working in Libya. I feel duty bound to come forward in order to
inform and provide a portion of ground truth information. I feel a sense of honor for
those individuals who have died in the service of their country. I realize much of my
work in Libya was entangled in sensitive government work and I must be careful not to
betray the trust and confidences that have been placed in me. The killing of a US
Ambassador is a rare and extraordinary thing and requires our attention as a people.
As a citizen I made the determination that this out weighs all other interests and will risk
whatever circumstances may result from my testimony.
I served as the Site Security Team (SST) Commander in Libya from 12 February to 14
August of this year, 2012. I was mobilized from the Utah National Guard into Title 10
status and reported to Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) which
serves directly under AFRICCOM. I was detailed in Title 22 status to the Department of
State and assumed command of the SST.
The SST element consisted of 16 members. It is my understanding that it was crafted
by the National Security Council to meet the demanding security c hallenges facing the
Department of State and their requirement to re-establish diplomatic relations with a
post Qaddafi or Free Libya. The SST loaned considerable support to the Department of
State's security posture in this uncertain and volatile environment.
The SSTs mission was to support and answer to Chief of Mission in Libya. I worked
directly for the Regional Security Officer. We provided Security Support, Medical
Support, Communications Support for every facet of security that concerned the
As the SST Commander I had a seat on the County Team and I was closely involved
with the operational planning and support to the RSO's security objectives. The
Embassy staff lived and worked together at two locations in Tripoli and Embassy
property in Benghazi. The SST supported security for movements of diplomatic officers 2
in and around Tripoli and other parts of Libya as their work required. On two occasions
I sent SST members to Benghazi to support and bolster security at that location. The
SST was closely integrated with regular diplomatic security agents working directly for
the RSO as well as the Mobile Security Deployment teams.
I traveled to Benghazi on two occasions, once with the RSO to evaluate the security
situation there and once to conduct some work for the Defense Attache's office. I was
there the second time in June when the UK Ambassador's convoy was attacked. I
responded with DS security agents in order to help provide medical and security
assistance for wounded UK security personnel. I conducted a post attack investigation
of the ambush or assault.
I met regularly with and held frequent conversations with Ambassador Cretz and
Stevens and other members of the country team. In June when Eric Nordstrom rotated
out, I was the senior member of the Country team with the exception of Ambassador
Stevens. We lived and worked closely together in an atmosphere that is common to an
expeditionary post. Ambassador Stevens was an avid runner and played tennis as well.
The SST was heavily involved in performing his personnel security detail when he ran. I
ran with him on several occasions.
The SST provided an important link for the country team to SOCAFRICA with its
intelligence assets and resources. There was a good exchange of intelligence
information between SOCAFRICA and the RSO. There was a great working
relationship between SST and Diplomatic security agents and MSD members at the Embassy posts throughout Libya.
I reported 3 times a week thru video teleconference to SOCAFRICA and sent daily
Situation reports. I had the communications capability to provide a direct link to
SOCAFRICA 24-7. I no longer have access to email and documents that I worked with
on a daily basis much of this was contained on AFRICOM servers and computers that I
worked thru. My recollection of dates is mostly from memory and I will need to reaccess that information in order to specify dates with certainty.
State Department's decision not to extend SST's security work beyond August 5th
terminated our work in this capacity. The military members of my team were in the
process of changing status from Title 22 back to Title 10 shortly before my departure.
The situation on the ground was continuously updated in reports that I sent to my
military chain and CC'ed the RSO on. The RSO sent information on security and
threats in a similar manner.
While the sound of gunfire in and around Tripoli subsided from February to April the
situation remained unstable. Libyans struggled with a Transitional government that
hesitated to make decisions and was forced to rely upon local or tribal militias with
varying degrees to loyalty. In late spring, Police were allowed to return to work to help
with traffic but were limited to that. Fighting between militias was still common when I departed. Some militias appeared to be degenerating into organizations resembling
free lance criminal operations. Targeted attacks against westerners were on the
increase. In June the Ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public
announcement that he liked to run around the Embassy compound in Tripoli.
When I arrived in February there were 3 MSD teams on the ground. Ambassador Cretz
was confronted with having to loose one of these and requested an equal number of
regular diplomatic security agents. Ambassador also struggled with renewing the SST
beyond April 5th. The second MSD team was withdrawn shortly after his departure, and
the last MSD team was restricted from performing security work and limited to only
training local guard force members in July. The remaining MSD was withdrawn at about
the same time the SST security work was terminated. The RSO's struggled to maintain
these losses with regular diplomatic security personnel.
The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time
there. The situation remained uncertain and reports from some Libyans indicated it was
getting worse. Diplomatic security remained weak. In April there was only one US
diplomatic security agent stationed there. The RSO struggled to obtain additional
personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with.
I hope the information I provide will be put together with 'data points' from others so an
accurate picture can be obtained. We need to be dedicated to understanding the
problems that surround this attack in order to find a solution. Our failure to do so will
result in repeated instances that allow our adversaries an advantage over us. My
purpose in conveying this information is to prevent their ability to take the life of another
Ambassador or kill other valuable and talented public servants working in the diplomatic
service of their country.
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