(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Tuesday the intelligence surrounding the U.S. consulate in Benghazi did not indicate that the consulate was under a specific threat before it was attacked last week.
“With all of our missions overseas in advance of Sept. 11, as is done every year, we did an evaluation of threat streams,” said Clinton. “The office of the director of National Intelligence has said we have no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”
Clinton’s comments echo what United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice said on ABC’s This Week, where she said all indications were that extremists “hijacked” a “spontaneous” protest.
The secretary said that the attacks are the work of extremists taking advantage of the widespread outrage over the anti-Muslim video being widely circulated on the Internet.
“There are extremists in all of these this societies and on the outside who are working to take advantage of broad outrage in order to incite violence and specifically incite violence against Americans and American facilities,” she said.
Since the attack, which lasted nearly five hours and resulted in the deaths of four diplomats, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, questions have emerged about the security for both the consulate and the ambassador. Clinton gave further details about the measures taken, including a “robust” security presence inside the compound, which was surrounded by a wall.
“Let me assure our security in Benghazi included a unit of host government forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world,” Clinton told reporters.
Last Friday, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphatically told reporters that none of the security provided at the Benghazi consulate were provided by a private security firm.
“All of the security in Libya has been done by Libyans, by American government personnel, and then to a very limited extent these individual contracts with individual security personnel, but there was never a contract with a company, and there was never a plan to have a contract with a company,” she said.
But Tuesday, Nuland corrected her original statement, telling reporters that in fact the State Department did hire a private security company, a British firm called the Blue Mountain Group, which Nuland said has a permit to operate within Libya to hire local security guards.
“They were hired to provide local Libyan guards who operated inside the gate doing things like operating the security access equipment, screening the cars, that kind of thing,” said Nuland.
Blue Mountain says on its website that it provides both security and training and has recently operated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and other dangerous places for clients ranging from Google to Cadburys.
Wired reported that the company signed a six-figure contract with the State Department to protect the consulate four months ago. Nuland said that the company remains on contract, “pending a full assessment of the security situation.”
Clinton didn’t speak specifically to where the guards protecting the consulate in Benghazi were from but did say the State Department is now taking aggressive steps to protect its employees, consulates and embassies around the world, and is reviewing security at every post.
Clinton also confirmed that the FBI is now in Libya, working with local officials on the investigation and stressed that there will be justice for the four murdered diplomats.
“We will not rest until the people who orchestrated this attack are found and punished,” the secretary said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ivana Kottasova and Armelle De Oliveira, CNN
James Griffiths and Shen Lu