While many locals may have only learned the details of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, as they unfolded in the ensuing years of media coverage and congressional testimony, Mobile’s Executive Director of Public Safety, retired Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, was among the first to hear Islamic militants had stormed the building and he relayed information up the chain of command.
Today after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before Congress concerning her actions before and after the attack, Landolt shared his thoughts on what took place. Before his retirement from the U.S. Navy in 2013, Landolt was a Director of Operations for U.S. African Command. From a secure “man cave” area of his home on base in Stuttgart, Germany, Landolt told his boss Gen. Carter Ham there had been an attack on the compound and Ambassador Chris Stevens was missing.
It was later discovered Stevens and an aide had been killed, Landolt said, when the militants set fire to a safe room within the compound.
Two more Americans were also killed in the attack, and following Clinton’s testimony today to a congressional committee investigating the episode, Landolt put the blame squarely on what he called the “incompetency” of Clinton’s State Department. Her appearance before the committee has become something of a political football associated with her presidential campaign.
Mirroring much of what a House Select Committee on Benghazi focused on during its hearing, Landolt said the attack and its results could be blamed on a lack of security.
A key part of the investigation into what happened has previously focused on Stevens’ requests for security, those requests being denied, as well as who knew about the requests. Landolt said he doesn’t know if Stevens’ concerns made it all the way to Clinton, but acknowledged there was a “hesitance” by the State Department to respond.
“Security was deteriorating,” he said. “For whatever reason, the ambassador didn’t take [the request] higher.”
Months before the attack, an IED was placed against a consulate gate, Landolt said. The following month the British ambassador to Libya was also attacked in a failed carjacking, he said.
“Clearly there was a need for more security,” Landolt said.
Instead, the State Department brought in a private security detail prior to the attack. It was, “in effect, a local militia,” Landolt said. However, once demonstrations began, the militia left. Landolt said the State Department never relayed the requests or news of the escalating situation to the Department of Defense.
Because there were no indicators of the pending attack, Landolt said, there were no “assets” on the ground ready to respond. The night of the attack, he said, a response was formulated.
Landolt testified himself to a previous congressional subcommittee in March 2014.
While some, including both Democrats and Republicans, have admitted a political motivation to discredit Clinton behind the most recent Benghazi panel, local Congressman Bradley Byrne, (R – Montross) said in a statement earlier today it was only about getting to the truth. Following the attack, the State Department issued statements indicating the attack was part of a spontaneous demonstration by locals rather than a planned attack by terrorists.
“The Select Committee on Benghazi is focused on the facts, and the hearing will be no different,” he wrote. “All we want are the facts, and then the American people can make a determination of what it means. Four Americans died at the hands of terrorists in Benghazi, and we owe it to their families to get the facts.”
The attack on the consulate in Benghazi happened about three months into a 20-month assignment for Landolt, which he said included “chasing terrorists” throughout the continent. The two-star admiral would return after the tour and took the job in Mobile in July 2014, after several visits to his parents in Daphne.
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