In February the regional security officer in Tripoli, Eric Nordstrom, argued for more U.S. security in Libya by citing a chronology of over 200 security incidents there from militia gunfights to bomb attacks between June 2011 and July 2012. Forty-eight of the incidents were in Benghazi. [1. Reuters – U.S. officer got no reply to requests for more security in Benghazi http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/09/us-libya-usa-idUSBRE89815N20121009]
Nordstrom also warned that “al Qaeda-affiliated groups, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other violent extremist groups are likely to take advantage of the ongoing political turmoil in Libya.” [2. CNN – Diplomatic cables show anxiety about Benghazi violence, protection level http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/19/world/africa/benghazi-documents/]
In a later cable he warned that having just two diplomatic security agents on the ground in Benghazi meant that movements outside the consulate were impossible.
I’ve been placed in a difficult spot when the ambassador tells me I need to support Benghazi,” Nordstrom wrote February 12 in an e-mail to James P. Bacigalupo, regional director of the Near East Affairs Department.
In testimony before the House Oversight Committee in October, 2012, Nordstrom referred to a phone conversation in February in which he was apparently talking with Bacigalupo:
“I said, ‘Jim, you know what makes it most frustrating about this assignment? It’s not the hardship, it’s not the gunfire, it’s not the threats; it’s dealing with and fighting against the people and programs who are supposed to be supporting me. And for me the Taliban is on the inside of the building,” he added.
Both Nordstrom’s requests for extra staff in February and July were ignored. Nordstrom later said that this was because Deputy Assistant Secretary (for international programs) Charlene Lamb believed the Benghazi post did not need any Diplomatic Security Special Agents because there was a residential safe haven to fall back to in an emergency, but that she thought the best course of action was to assign three agents,” the memo said.
Nordtrom left Tripoli two months before the September 11 attacks.