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Obama Administration: No Security Lapse in Libya

"The security personnel that the State Department thought were required were in place."

10:29 AM, Sep 16, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Susan Rice, the Obama administration's UN ambassador, said this morning on ABC's This Week that the Benghazi consulate, where four Americans were killed on September 11, had the level of security the State Department thought was needed.

"The security personnel that the State Department thought were required were in place," Rice told ABC's Jake Tapper. "We'll see when the investigation unfolds whether what transpired in Benghazi might have unfolded differently in different circumstances."

"We had substantial presence," Rice said, "with our personnel and the consulate in Benghazi. Tragically two of the four Americans there killed were providing security. That was their function. And indeed there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them. It obviously didn't prove sufficient to the nature of the attack and sufficient in that moment." 

Rice did not say how many U.S. security personnel were at the consulate in Benghazi.

Here's a transcript of the exchange between Rice and Tapper: 

TAPPER: Why was there such a security breakdown? Why was there not better security at the compound in Benghazi? Why were there not U.S. Marines at the embassy in Tripoli?

AMB. RICE: First of all, we had substantial presence with our --

TAPPER: Not substantial enough --

AMB. RICE: with our personnel and the consulate in Benghazi. Tragically two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them. It obviously didn't prove sufficient to the nature of the attack and sufficient in that moment. And that's why, obviously, we have reinforced our remaining presence in Tripoli and why the president has been very clear that in Libya and throughout the region, we're going to call on the governments first of all, to assume their responsibilities to protect our facilities and personnel. And we're reinforcing our facilities and our embassies where possible and where needed.

TAPPER: But why would we not have Marines in the embassy in Tripoli to begin with? This is obviously an unstable country. This is a region where U.S. interests have been attacked in previous months. Why were there not Marines there to begin with?

AMB. RICE: There are Marines at some places around the world, there are not Marines at every facility. That depends on the circumstances, that depends on the requirements. Our presence in Tripoli as in Benghazi is relatively new, as you'll recall. We have been back post-revolution, only for a matter of months. But, I have visited there myself both to Tripoli and Benghazi. I was very grateful to have strong security presence with me as part of our embassy detachment there. So we certainly are aware that Libya is a place that there has been increasingly violent incidents. The security personnel that the State Department thought were required were in place. We'll see when the investigation unfolds whether what transpired in Benghazi might have unfolded differently in different circumstances. But the president has been very clear, the protection of American personnel and facilities is and will remain our top priority. That's why we have reinforced our presence in Tripoli and elsewhere.

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