by David Rohde at Rueters November 16, 2012
Amid the politicking, there’s an overlooked cause of the Benghazi tragedy
For conservatives, the Benghazi scandal is a Watergate-like presidential cover-up. For liberals, it a fabricated Republican witch-hunt. For me, Benghazi is a call to act on an enduring problem that both parties ignore.
One major overlooked cause of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is we have underfunded the State Department and other civilian agencies that play a vital role in our national security.
Instead of building up cadres of skilled diplomatic security guards, we have bought them from the lowest bidder, trying to acquire capacity and expertise on the cheap. Benghazi showed how vulnerable that makes us.
Now, I’m not arguing that this use of contractors was the sole cause of the Benghazi tragedy, but I believe it was a primary one. Let me explain.
The slapdash security that killed Stevens, technician Sean Smith and CIA guards Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty started with a seemingly inconsequential decision by Libya’s new government. After the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s interim government barred armed private security firms – foreign and domestic – from operating anywhere in the country.
Memories of the abuses by foreign mercenaries, acting for the brutal Qaddafi regime, prompted the decision, according to State Department officials.
Once the Libyans took away the private security guard option, it put enormous strain on a little-known State Department arm, the Diplomatic Security Service. This obscure agency has been responsible for protecting American diplomatic posts around the world since 1916.
Though embassies have contingents of Marines, consulates and other offices do not. And the missions of Marines, in fact, are to destroy documents and protect American government secrets. It is the Diplomatic Security agents who are charged with safeguarding the lives of American diplomats.
Today, roughly 900 Diplomatic Security agents guard 275 American embassies and consulates around the globe. That works out to a whopping four agents per facility.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the State Department relied on hundreds of security contractors to guard American diplomats. At times, they even hired private security guards to protect foreign leaders.
After Afghan President Hamid Karzai narrowly survived a 2002 assassination attempt, the State Department hired security guards from DynCorp, a military contractor, to guard him. Their aggressiveness in and around the presidential palace, however, angered Afghan, American and European officials. As soon as Afghan guards were trained to protect Karzai, DynCorp was let go.
But the State Department’s dependence on contractors for security remained. And Benghazi epitomized this Achilles’ heel.
Wired’s Danger Room September 17, 2012
The State Department signed a six-figure deal with a British firm to protect the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya just four months before a sustained attack on the compound killed four U.S. nationals inside.
Contrary to Friday’s claim by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland that “at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya,” the department inked a contract for “security guards and patrol services” on May 3 for $387,413.68. An extension option brought the tab for protecting the consulate to $783,000. The contract lists only “foreign security awardees” as its recipient.
The State Department confirmed to Danger Room on Monday that the firm was Blue Mountain, a British company that provides “close protection; maritime security; surveillance and investigative services; and high risk static guarding and asset protection,” according to its website. Blue Mountain says it has “recently operated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the Caribbean and across Europe” and has worked in Libya for several months since last year’s war.
A representative for Blue Mountain, reached at its U.K. offices Monday, said no one was available to comment.
The State Department frequently hires security companies to protect diplomats in conflict zones. It usually is done through what’s known as the Worldwide Protective Services contract, in which a handful of approved firms compete to safeguard specific diplomatic installations. In 2010, State selected eight firms for the most recent contract. Blue Mountain wasn’t among them, and the State Department did not explain why the Benghazi consulate contract did not go to one of those eight firms.
CNN September 14, 2012
Tyrone Woods became a Navy SEAL after his mother suggested he join the military. Friday afternoon, Cheryl Croft Bennett will attend a ceremony to honor the life of her son Ty and grieve his loss after his death along side three other Americans in Tuesday’s assault on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
Woods, who had retired from the Navy, handled security for diplomats and perished with fellow former SEAL Glen Doherty, computer expert Sean Smith and U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens
On Thursday, a U.S. official confirmed Woods was among the dead. “Tyrone’s friends and colleagues called him ‘Rone,’ and they relied on his courage and skill, honed over two decades as a Navy SEAL,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement.
“In uniform, he served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected American diplomatic personnel in dangerous posts from Central America to the Middle East. He had the hands of a healer as well as the arm of a warrior, earning distinction as a registered nurse and certified paramedic. All our hearts go out to Tyrone’s wife Dorothy and his three sons, Tyrone Jr., Hunter, and Kai, who was born just a few months ago.”
Civilian Contractor Glen Doherty, former Navy SEAL, ID’d as one of four victims in Libya U.S. Consulate attack
The 42-year-old was part of private security detail and was protecting Ambassador Chris Stevens; also worked against proselytizing by troops
New York Daily News August 13, 2012
Glen Doherty, 42, of Winchester, Mass., was working a security detail in the volatile nation when he was killed Tuesday, The Boston Globe reported.
Doherty was protecting Ambassador Chris Stevens and aiding the wounded after the consulate was blasted with rocket propelled grenades during a four-hour firefight, Quigley said.
Stevens and 10-year diplomatic veteran Sean Smith were also killed in the attack. A fourth victim of the attack remains unidentified.
Doherty was a lifelong thrill seeker whose past included stints as a ski instructor and at a flight school.
He spent seven years in the Navy, and belonged to a group that fought against religious proselytizing by U.S. troops.
He left military service to join a company that provides security for U.S. officials overseas, his sister said.
Since going into the security business, Doherty was sent back to Iraq and Afghanistan — and worked in Israel and Kenya, his sister told the Globe.
The family received word of his death on Wednesday afternoon.
igley said she believed the attack was not prompted by an anti-Islamic movie but was premeditated and timed to coincide with Sept. 11.
“Glen was highly trained,” she said. “He was the best of the best. He wouldn’t have gone down for some protest over a movie. This was serious, well-planned, well-executed.”
Reuters September 12, 2012
BENGHAZI, Libya – The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff (Shaun Smith) were killed in a rocket attack on their car, a Libyan official said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.
Gunmen had attacked and burned the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, a center of last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, late on Tuesday evening, killing one U.S. consular official. The building was evacuated.
The Libyan official said the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.
“The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them,” the official in Benghazi told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department in Washington. U.S. ambassadors in such volatile countries are accompanied by tight security, usually travelling in well-protected convoys. Security officials will be considering whether the two attacks were coordinated
Abandoned weapons that were once part of toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s arsenal pose an ongoing and serious threat to civilians in Libya, warned a report published by Harvard University on Thursday
Times Live August 2, 2012
“These weapons may have been abandoned, but their ability to harm civilians remains intact,” said Bonnie Docherty, leader of the research team sent to Libya by Harvard Law School and partner organisation CIVIC.
Weapons left behind after last year’s conflict range from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles, creating an “explosive situation” in a country with a weak central government, the report said.
“The sheer scale of weapons here is shocking,” co-author Nicolette Boehland told AFP in Tripoli.
“Arms are spilling out of hundreds of inadequately secured bunkers. Other weapons have spread across the country to militia stockpiles in urban centers, museums, fields and even homes,” she added.
Threats to civilians include stockpiles at risk of explosion in or near populated areas, civilian curiosity and access to contaminated sites and munitions, plus the harvesting of abandoned weapons for sale or personal use.
Civilians are endangered during the clearance of munition by local communities that lack professional training and the display of weapons as mementos of war, the report found.
In one instance, in the western town of Dafniya, where a brigade kept weapons in some 22 shipping containers, an explosion spread so much dangerous material that it endangered the whole community.
Steve Joubert of JMACT (Joint Mine Action Coordination Team) was quoted as saying that there are “now more weapons than people in Misrata,” in reference to Libya’s third-largest city, which suffered a brutal siege in 2011.
The report noted that the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and international organisations have shouldered the brunt of the work in clearing ordnance and advising local communities on stockpile management.
Citing UNMAS, Boehland said that as of June, there had been at least 208 casualties, including 54 fatalities, from explosive remnants of war. The toll included 72 children either wounded or killed.
“Children are especially attracted to weapons because they are brightly coloured or look like toys,” she said, noting that the number of casualties is likely to be higher than those documented so far.
The report called on Libya’s newly elected authorities to develop a national strategy to secure leftover ordnance and manage stockpiles. It urged international organisations, notably NATO, to help out.
NATO’s bombings of ammunition bunkers during the conflict last year “spread ordnance across open fields, thus creating a more dangerous and difficult problem,” it said.
The New York Times Africa June 25, 2012
The release by NATO of a list of unexploded munitions from the alliance’s military action in Libya has been both welcomed as a step toward postconflict accountability and criticized as a half-measure that falls short of protecting civilians and specialists trying to rid the country of its hazards.
The United Nations said this month that NATO, in an exchange not publicly disclosed, had shared details of 313 possible sites of unexploded ordnance from the alliance’s action against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government last year. The alliance provided the latitude and longitude for each site, the weight of the ordnance and a description of the means of delivery (fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter gunship or naval vessel).
With the widespread use of sophisticated targeting sensors, with which aircrews record infrared video of the impact of a missile or bomb, air forces have a greater capacity than ever to know exactly where weapons struck and when they have failed to function properly. Such data is routinely gathered as part of what militaries call battle damage assessment. It is used to determine whether a target has been destroyed or should be hit again, and to assess the reliability and effectiveness of various missiles and bombs.
The data also presents options for humanitarian and cleanup efforts. When shared, it can allow for governments and mine-clearing organizations to alert residents of specific risks at specific places, and to focus efforts on removing high-explosive remnants of war. Its existence also suggests an opening for Western militaries to adopt a new standard for responsibility in air campaigns.
For these reasons, the United Nations, which had asked NATO for the data last year, welcomed the list, even though it contained limited information.
The New York Times June 13, 2012
The death of an Estonian explosive ordnance disposal technician in Libya this spring illustrates the continuing problem of loose weapons stockpiles almost a year after Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was driven from power.
The technician, Kaido Keerdo, died in March while examining unexploded munitions scattered near a police compound and checkpoint in Ad Dafniyah as part of his work for the nongovernmental group Danish Church Aid.
The checkpoint had been fought over by rival Libyan militias three nights before. The groups were quarreling over access to 22 shipping containers of Qaddafi-era munitions, according to the aid group’s investigation, the findings of which were described this week to The New York Times.
One of the containers was struck during the fighting and caught fire. The explosion that followed ruptured at least 11 containers, heaving into the air a poorly stored collection of grenades, rockets and mortar rounds, some of which landed almost 500 yards away.
The munitions, once seen by Libya’s armed groups as instruments for breaking free from internal repression and making the country safe, were then scattered near houses, a mosque and a school along Libya’s main coastal road. The inadequately trained militias and ad hoc police officers had stored rockets and shells with fuzes inserted, a configuration that compounded their dangers.
Among this refuse were 122-millimeter rockets containing Type 84 land mines, one of the most volatile weapons in Libya’s prewar stocks. Mr. Keerdo, a demining team leader, was surveying the police compound and apparently knelt near one of these rockets. At least one mine exploded, killing him instantly.
Reuters Tripoli June 4, 2012
A Libyan military court on Monday handed down long prison terms to a group of men from the former Soviet Union accused of serving as mercenaries for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi in last year’s war.
One Russian man, deemed the group’s coordinator, was sentenced to life in prison, the court heard. Another Russian, three Belarussians and 19 Ukrainians were handed sentences of 10 years with hard labor. They had denied the charges.
The military trial was the first of its kind in Libya since a popular revolt ousted Gaddafi last year. The new government is trying to prove its judicial process is robust enough to try high-profile Gaddafi loyalists including his son Saif al-Islam.
“This is the worst kind of sentence,” said Belarussian ambassador Anatoly Stepus who was present at the hearing. “We thought that even if they were sentenced it would not be so strict. They have suffered a lot.”
InterCross ICRC From the Field May 30, 2012
The ICRC in Libya started to address the humanitarian consequences of explosive remnants of war immediately after the figting ended in April 2011.
In an effort to protect returning residents, our explosive ordnance disposal teams entered Sirte and Bani Walid at a time when unexploded ordnance caused on average one casualty a day.
They proceeded to train hundreds of Libyans in risk education, including members of the Libyan Red Crescent. These volunteers now work in local communities in the regions and cities most affected by the problem.
The total number of mines and explosive remnants of war in Libya is unknown but the weapons continue to kill and maim, primarily children and young men.
National Post April 12, 2012
The Iraqi cabinet has agreed “to provide necessary technical assistance to the Libyan authorities to dispose of their chemical stockpiles, according to the procedures followed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW),” the statement said.
Libya’s representative to the OPCW, Mohammed Jibril, requested Iraqi “help in the diplomatic and technical field to get rid of chemical stockpiles that Libya has which must be destroyed under the supervision” of the OPCW, it said.
Iraq approved the request because Baghdad wants “to provide the necessary assistance … to Arab brothers at all levels,” the statement said, noting Iraq’s “extensive experience … in disposing of chemical weapons.”
The OPCW is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to which Iraq became the 186th state party in 2009, according to the OPCW website.
The OPCW said in November that Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council had pledged to continue with the previous regime’s program of destroying its chemical weapons stockpiles.
The organization said in January after a visit by inspectors that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime possessed undeclared mustard gas shells.
“Libya must now submit a detailed plan and completion date for destroying all of the declared materials to the OPCW not later than April 29, 2012, the date of the final extended deadline,” it said.
The New York Times At War, Notes from the Front Line February 1, 2012
Today, At War journeys into crowd-sourcing to ask for readers’ help identifying a weapon found on the battlefields of Libya last year. Followers of this blog know that we have spent considerable time identifying and sometimes tracing the tools of war in several recent conflicts back to their sources. But this time, we are stumped.
The items in question are what ordnance professionals call submunitions, but are more widely known among lay readers as cluster bombs. The photograph above shows one found in November at the ruins of an arms depot a few miles outside of Mizdah, in the desert south of Tripoli.
We post it here to bring into public view an ordinary and often frustrating process has been happening, quietly and by fits and starts for several months, among nongovernmental organizations and arms specialists working in Libya.
Here is the background: This submunition was in the arsenal of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s military, and was fired at anti-Qaddafi rebels in the summer and perhaps again in the fall, part of the pro-Qaddafi forces’ last gasps. After the conflict ended, many more were found scattered near shattered bunkers in the depot near Mizdah. These apparently had been kicked out of storage when bunkers were struck by bombs from NATO or allied warplanes. (More on that here.) You can see the disposition of some of them at the depot, below
Former Australian soldier and Private Security Contractor Gary Peters helps Gaddafi’s son Saadi escape Libya
A FORMER Australian soldier working as a private security contractor has admitted he helped Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saadi, flee Libya last month.
Saadi’s longtime bodyguard, Gary Peters, has told Canada’s National Post that he was part of a team that drove Gaddafi’s third son across Libya’s southern border to Niger.
Mr Peters, now a permanent resident of Canada, returned to Toronto in September, suffering from an untreated bullet wound to his left shoulder received when the convoy was ambushed after crossing back into Libya.
“I’m not a mercenary,” Mr Peters told the Post, which said his account had been verified by several sources.
“I work for a person in particular, have done for years, for close protection. When we go overseas, I don’t fight. That’s what a mercenary does. Defend? Yes. Shoot? Yes. But for defence, for my boss, and that’s what happened. The convoy got attacked and two of us got hit.”
Mr Peters said he had provided security services to Gaddafi family members since 2004, and continued to do so during NATO’s campaign to oust the late dictator.
Though he worked mostly for Saadi, he also guarded Gaddafi’s other sons, Seif al-Islam and Hannibal, and said he had escorted Hannibal and his sister Aisha from Libya to Algeria in a convoy.
Mr Peters said he first met Saadi while serving in the Australian Army. Gaddafi’s son was visiting the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney and Mr Peters was assigned to protect him.
After moving to Canada in 2002, Mr Peters said he worked “on and off” for the next two years as a close protection operative for security contractor Blackwater USA, which was barred from Iraq over a deadly 2007 shooting and later renamed Xe Services
The New York Times Africa October 15, 2011
WASHINGTON — The State Department is sending dozens of American contractors to Libya to help that country’s fledgling efforts to track down and destroy heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles looted from government stockpiles that could be used against civilian airliners.
The contractors, weapons and explosives specialists, are part of a growing $30 million American program to secure Libya’s conventional weapons arsenal, which was ransacked during the fall of the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
American and other Western officials are especially concerned that as weapons slip from state custody, they can be easily sold through black markets to other countries, fueling regional wars or arming terrorist groups. Analysts are particularly worried about the dispersal of the SA-7, an early-generation, shoulder-fired missile in the same family as the more widely known Stinger.
“We are very concerned about the threat that’s posed,” Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters on Friday after meetings in Brussels
Carney said five contractor specialists were on the ground to work with the new Libyan leadership to secure weapons stockpiles.
The US State Department has provided $3 million to help destroy weapons and raised particular concern over the spread of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, also known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS), which could be used to target civilian aircraft.
AFP September 27 2011
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — The United States is working closely with Libya’s new interim leaders to secure all arms stockpiles, amid concerns over weapons proliferation, the White House said Tuesday.
“Since the beginning of the crisis we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya’s effort to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles including recovery, control and disposal of shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles,” spokesman Jay Carney said.
“We are exploring every option to expand our support,” he told reporters on Air Force One as President Barack Obama toured western states.
US General Carter Ham, who led the first stage of the coalition air campaign in Libya, said in early April that there were fears that militants could seize some of the estimated 20,000 shoulder-launched missiles in Libya, calling it “a regional and an international concern.”
The proliferation of arms raided from the vast stores of ex-strongman Moamer Kadhafi is raising fears not only for Libya’s future stability, but also that the weapons will fall into the hands of radical groups like Al-Qaeda