(CNSNews.com) – The State Department took two dramatically different approaches to dealing with the identities of the Diplomatic Security (DS) agents it sent to Benghazi, Libya, to protect Amb. Chris Stevens and the small number of other temporary U.S. diplomatic personnel the department rotated through what its own review board would later admit was a “lawless town.”
Before the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, the department undertook a calculated effort to publicize the agents’ names and faces–presenting them in a State Department promotional magazine posted on the Internet. After the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks, the State Department has treated the names and faces of the DS agents who survived those attacks as if they were classified information.
This remarkable about-face raises two questions: Why can’t the American people know the names–and hear the stories–of the heroic DS agents who fought the terrorists who attacked our mission in Benghazi? Why can’t these courageous survivors deliver their eyewitnesses accounts directly to the U.S. Congress?
So far, the Obama administration has publicly released only the names of the Americans whom the terrorists killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. These were Amb. Chris Stevens and Information Management Officer Sean Smith, who worked for the State Department, and former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.
The December 2011 issue of the State Department’s State Magazine featured a cover story about then-Special Envoy Chris Stevens mission to Benghazi during the 2011 Libyan rebellion. The story, which began as the centerfold of the magazine, was written by DS Special Agent Mario Montoya, named the DS special agents protecting Stevens, and carried photographs of some of them.
All U.S. government personnel who were in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 and survived remain unnamed.The report that the State Department’s Accountability Review Board published on Dec. 19 refers to the five DS agents who survived only by acronyms: “RSO,” and “ARSO 1,” “ARSO 2,” “ARSO 3” and “ARSO 4.” RSO stands for regional security officer. ARSO stands for assistant regional security officer.
Last October, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the Benghazi attack. The committee took testimony from Charlene Lamb, who ran the department’s suburban-Virginia-based Bureau of Diplomatic Security. It also took testimony from Eric Nordstrom, who was the RSO at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli until July 26, 2012–and was no longer in Libya at the time of the Benghazi terrorist attack. And it additionally took testimony from Amb. Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management.
But the committee did not talk to the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security regional security officer (RSO) and the assistant regional security officers (ARSOs) who actually witnessed and resisted the terrorist attack on the department’s Benghazi compound. “State has not given Oversight access to the DS agents,” a committee spokesperson told CNSNews.com this week.
This photo published in the December 2011 issue of the State Department’s magazine showed then-Special Envoy Chris Stevens touring the ruins of the ancient Byzantine city of Cyrene in Sousa, Libya, in 2011. The caption on this photo in State Magazine identified the man in sunglasses on the right as State Department RSO Mike Ranger. (State Dept. photo)
On Monday, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, and House Oversight National Security Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to provide them with certain documents and information relating to the Benghazi attack. Among the things the committee asked Clinton to handover was: “A complete list of every individual—including name, title, and agency—interviewed by the ARB for the December 19, 2012, report, and any documents and communications referring or relating to the interviews.”The committee also asked for: “Video footage of the September 11, 2012, attack on the Benghazi compound.”
If the committee wanted the names of the DS agents who were in Benghazi with Chris Stevens during the 2011 rebellion—as opposed to those who were with Stevens in Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack—all they would need to do is go to the State Department’s website and look up the December 2011 issue of State Magazine.
The cover story of this official government publication is entitled: “Mission to a Revolution.” It was written by Mario Montoya, identified in the magazine as one of the DS agents who protected Stevens in Benghazi during the 2011 Libyan rebellion.
Early on, the story quotes directly from Stevens, using words that echo what Stevens said at an Aug. 2, 2011 State Department press briefing.
This photo, which appeared in the December 2011 issue of the State Department’s magazine, identified the man on the right as DS Special Agent Joshua Vincent. The caption said he was testing satellite data and voice communications on a cargo ship enroute from Malta to Benghazi. (State Dept. photo)
Says the article: “‘We arrived April 5,’ recalled the expedition’s leader Special Envoy Chris Stevens. ‘It was difficult to get there at the time. There weren’t any flights. So we came in by a Greek cargo ship and unloaded our gear and our cars and set up our office there.’”After noting that the U.S. State Department personnel arriving in Benghazi were greeted by Libyans waving American flags in a place called Freedom Square, DS agent Montoya explains how these personnel found a place to live. Then he names eight of his DS- agent colleagues who were with Stevens in Benghazi at that time.
“But the group’s members needed more than a warm welcome; they needed a place to bed down for the night,” wrote Montoya. “In expeditionary diplomacy, they [sic] key is to make do with what you have, so the mission’s first night was spent aboard ship while Diplomatic Security Service agents Brian Haggerty, Kent Anderson, Josh Vincent, Chris Deedy, James McAnelly, Jason Brierly and Ken Davis, Agent in Charge Keith Carter and Political Officer Nathan Tek scoured the city for rooms.
“They soon settled into a formerly government owned hotel where other foreign missions and international journalists were lodged, but had to move when a car bomb exploded in the hotel parking lot,” said the State Magazine article.
This photo, which was published in the Bureau of Diplomatic Securities annual report for 2011, shows then-Special Envoy Chris Stevens in Benghazi on April 11, six days after he landed there in a Greek cargo ship. The caption in the annual report says Stevens is speaking “to local media in Benghazi,” and identifies the man behind and to his right as a DS officer, although it does not name him. (State Dept. photo)
“Despite being in the hands of friendly forces,” the article said, “Benghazi had tenuous security.”This State Department magazine went on to explain that the DS agents in Benghazi protected diplomatic personnel as they travelled in Libya during the rebellion, and that they worked to make security enhancements when Stevens’ diplomatic mission moved to a private compound. Once there, they trained “local guards” in things such as “marksmanship.”
“DS agents Jeremy Clarke, Chris Little and Mario Montoya [the author of the article], medic Jack Van Cleve, Regional Security Officer Mike Ranger and Security Protective Specialists Domingo Ruiz and Ronald Young protected mission staff travelling in Benghazi or in the rebel-controlled towns in eastern Libya,” said the State Magazine article. “Once the mission moved to a private compound, DS agents and security engineering officers ensured safety with a blend of physical barriers, cameras and other technical means.