About a month ago, when news broke that an FBI team was on the ground in Benghazi, I said the only real benefit in putting them there long after the crime scene had been compromised might be to secure the compound and sensitive material. I also expressed doubt that there would be much left to secure. I expected the site to be picked clean. I was wrong:
More than six weeks after the shocking assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi — and nearly a month after an FBI team arrived to collect evidence about the attack – the battle-scarred, fire-damaged compound where Ambassador Chris Stevens and another Foreign Service officer lost their lives on Sept. 11 still holds sensitive documents and other relics of that traumatic final day, including drafts of two letters worrying that the compound was under “troubling” surveillance and complaining that the Libyan government failed to fulfill requests for additional security.
The emphasis on security at the CIA annex was underscored the day after the attack. With all U.S. personnel evacuated, the CIA appears to have dispatched local Libyan agents to the annex to destroy any sensitive documents and equipment there, even as the consulate compound remained unguarded and exposed to looters and curiosity seekers for weeks, officials said. Documents, including the ambassador’s journal, were taken from the consulate site, and the site proved of little value when Federal Bureau of Investigation agents finally arrived weeks later to investigate.
U.S. officials said they prioritized securing the annex because many more people worked there and they were doing sensitive work, while the consulate, by design, had no classified documents. The American contractor said the top priority was destroying sensitive documents.
This prioritization makes sense but I think most Americans will still be disturbed by our inability to secure the consulate grounds or to find documents relevant to the investigation while journalists continue to pick through the rubble with relative ease.
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