While the Obama administration says there was no actionable intelligence that could have prevented the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, there was a heightened threat in the region due to at least four attacks on diplomatic and western targets leading up to the murder of the U.S. ambassador.
"This (the U.S. Consulate) was a place that was targeted months before with an IED (improvised explosive device)," Congressman Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has been briefed on the attack and investigation, told Fox News. "It's clearly a target that they wanted to hit and they wanted to cause casualties. I find it -- a little the glaring question of a 9/11 date. It's just too many coincidences here."
On June 6, an IED was thrown at the perimeter of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. On June 11, the British ambassador's motorcade came under attack by a rocket propelled grenade or RPG. Two security personnel were injured. Seven days later, on June 18, armed gunmen attacked the Tunisian consulate and burned its flag. And on August 5, five weeks before the assault on the U.S. Consulate, the International Committee of the Red Cross building in Benghazi was also struck by RPGs.
On Friday, the chair and ranking members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins sent a letter to the State Department Inspector General requesting an investigation into the U.S. Consulate's security posture at the time of the attack. The letter specifically references the previous attacks in June on the Consulate and the British ambassador's convoy, adding:
"Does the risk assessment process consider the capacity or lack thereof of the host country to provide security? Did the Libyan government request or suggest that security could be improved at the Benghazi facility prior to September 12, 2010?"
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the nation's top intelligence officials, said "actionable intelligence would have meant that we either saw or heard something, through intelligence collection, that told us that a specific act was being planned or was imminent. As I have said, we are not aware of any actionable intelligence related to the attack in Benghazi."
But a former official with the Bush administration said the Obama White House appeared to be dodging the real issue. "This definition relies on the notion that action is only taken to prevent a specific plot where we know the time, place and even method of attack. Action can be, and is taken, to increase security when more general threats, like what we saw this summer in Benghzai, are known."
Asked if the four attacks prior to the ambassador's murder were briefed to the president as part of the highly classified PDB or president's daily brief which details threats against the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests, there was no immediate response from the ODNI nor the spokesman for the National Security Council.
Given the heightened threat picture, the former Bush administration official questioned whether more aggressive precautionary measures should have been taken at diplomatic missions even through the intelligence was apparently not specific. “President Bush was criticized for being disengaged before 9/11, but given what we all know now about the terrorist threat, there is no excuse for lacking engagement or focus on the persistent threats to U.S. personnel in North Africa."