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State Dept. Official: 'The Content Had Expired' in Withdrawn Pre-Benghazi Terrorism Report

3:01 PM, May 7, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
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The congressional hearings on the 9/11 Benghazi attacks this week will likely focus on the classic questions often asked on such occasions: what did those involved know, and when did they know it?  Not only will the post-attack words and actions of government officials come under scrutiny, but those preceding the September 11, 2012 attacks on the Benghazi consulate, as well.  One largely overlooked aspect of the investigations thus far involves a report issued by the State Department's "Overseas Security Advisory Council" on September 6, 2012, just five days before the attack. That report was removed from the OSAC website on September 14, just three days after the attacks because, in the words of a State Department official in an email this week, "the content had expired." The report was removed the same day that the now infamous "talking points" were undergoing extensive revision.  The report begins as follows (the text of the entire report is included at the end of this article):

Terrorism and Important Dates

OSAC currently has no credible information to suggest that al-Qa’ida or any other terrorist group is plotting any kind of attack overseas to coincide with the upcoming anniversary of September 11. However, constituents often have concerns around important dates, holidays, and major events, Often times, these concerns are the result of increased media attention to the issue, rather than credible evidence of a terrorist plot.

This apparent downplaying of the likelihood of an anniversary-date attack is repeated in the conclusion of the report:

As highlighted throughout the report, al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups are unlikely to conduct large-scale attacks on significant dates or holidays due to the heightened security levels.  However, U.S. private sector organizations operating abroad in countries that have not raised their overall security levels may want to consider their vigilance and guard against complacency.

The Overseas Security Advisory Council is part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security under the U.S. Department of State.  The mission of the council is "to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide (Private Sector) and the U.S. Department of State."  Part of its function is to issue Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, Emergency Messages to U.S. Citizens, and the like.   Many of the reports issued by the OSAC are available in full only to registered "constituents." However, there is a publicly accessible menu of reports, some requiring a login to access, some freely available to all.  Originally, the Terrorism and Important Dates report was listed in the public menu with the others.  Here is a screencap from September 8, 2012:

Hundreds of such reports are listed on the OSAC website going back years.  However, three days after the Benghazi attacks, the Terrorism and Important Dates report disappeared from the menu.  A current search of the OSAC website for it still fails to turn up any evidence of its existence.  A source with subscriber access confirmed back on September 29, 2012 that as of that date, the report was behind the subscriber wall, accessible only with a login.

When asked this week about the current status of the report and for an explanation of its disappearance, a State Department official replied via email, "A report was posted on September 6 and was removed on September 14, after the content had expired."  When pressed for clarification on what "expired" meant and who made the determination that it had "expired," the official did not respond.  The "expired" comment is curious since dozens of reports whose content has arguably "expired" are still listed on the site.

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