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Stonewall: State ordered Benghazi security firm to avoid media

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Hillary Clinton,Benghazi,State Department

The British security firm that failed to protect the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, from a terrorist attack a year ago that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens was told by the State Department to avoid the media, the latest example of stonewalling over the attack.

In newly uncovered emails received by the public watchdog group Judicial Watch, State was notified that the firm, Blue Mountain Group, was being pressed for answers about the surprise attack. Instead of giving the group the green light to answer the media, State ordered the firm to go into hiding.

“Thank you so much for informing us about the media inquiries. We notified our public affairs personnel that they too may receive some questions. We concur with you that at the moment the best way to deal with the inquiries is to either be silent or provide no comments,” said an email from a State contracting officer.

Some in Congress have spent over a year trying to get full answers about the attack from State. Judicial Watch said it just received the documents, and there will be more likely to follow.

“The Obama administration has worked hard to keep details of the attack — and the negligence that led to it — from the American public, but JW has gone to court and filed a number of public records requests to expose the truth,” said Judicial Watch in releasing the email details.

Judicial Watch further explained what they received:

“The latest batch of documents obtained by JW include a scandalous email from a State Department contracting officer named Jan Visintainer to an unidentified executive at Blue Mountain Group (BMG), the inexperienced foreign company hired to protect the U.S. mission in Benghazi. In the email, dated September 26, 2012, Visintainer writes: ‘Thank you so much for informing us about the media inquiries. We notified our public affairs personnel that they too may receive some questions. We concur with you that at the moment the best way to deal with the inquiries is to either be silent or provide no comments.’

“Some of the records were redacted or simply not included. For instance Visintainer received a cryptic email from a redacted source with an attachment that was not provided to JW by the State Department. The exchange, just two days before the attack, received a lot of attention from both the State Department and BMG, which could indicate that perhaps it contained a more specific concern or warning about the U.S. mission’s vulnerability.

“Last month JW released the Benghazi security contract that paid BMG, a virtually unknown and untested British company, $794,264 for nearly 50,000 guard hours. The Benghazi security deal had not been available to the public because it was not listed as part of the large master State Department contract that covers protection for overseas embassies. JW had to take legal action to get it.

“The deal is for one year and includes very specific requirements for things like foot patrols, package inspection, contingency and mobilization planning. The total guard force was 45,880 with an additional 1,376 guards for ‘emergency services,’ the contract shows. It also includes one vehicle and 12 radio networks. The guards were responsible for protecting the U.S. government personnel, facilities and equipment from damage or loss, the contract states. ‘The local guard force shall prevent unauthorized access; protect life; maintain order; deter criminal attacks against employees; dependents and property terrorist acts against all U.S. assets and prevent damage to government property.’ Clearly the firm failed miserably to fulfill its contractual obligation.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.