Report: U.S. Had Advance Warning Of Unrest In Benghazi Before Attack On Consulate

The Independent is reporting that American diplomats in Libya had at least three days warning of possible violence in Benghazi:

American diplomats were warned of possible violent unrest in Benghazi three days before the killings of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three members of his team, Libyan security officials say.

The claim came as the country’s interim President, Mohammed el-Megarif, said his government had information that the attack on the US consulate had been planned by an Islamist group with links to al-Qa’ida and with foreigners taking part.

However, the American ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, insisted that the killings had resulted from a demonstration against a film about the Prophet Mohamed, replicating protests in Cairo, which had been “hijacked” and got out of control.

The Independent has reported diplomatic sources who said that the threat of an attack against US interests in the region was known to the US administration 48 hours before it took place. The alert was issued by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but not made public. A State Department spokesman maintained: “We are not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the US Mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”

But President Megarif told the American station National Public Radio: “We firmly believe that this was a pre-calculated, pre-planned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the US Consulate. A few of those who joined in were foreigners who had entered Libya from different directions, some of them definitely from Mali and Algeria.”

A senior official of the biggest militia in Benghazi, the February 17th Brigade, told CNN that he had warned US diplomats of a rapidly deteriorating security situation in Benghazi three days before the attack. “The situation is frightening, it scares us,” he said he had stressed during the meeting. Mr Stevens had been back in Libya for only a short time before US security officials decided it would be safe to make the journey to Benghazi during the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The British consulate in the city was shut after an ambush of a convoy carrying Dominic Asquith, the UK ambassador, in which his bodyguard were injured. The UN and International Committee of the Red Cross offices had been bombed and there had been a spate of political assassinations.

Obviously, if there had been warnings of possible violence in Benghazi several days in advance of September 11th, then the idea that this was some kind of spontaneous attack in response to a YouTube video becomes even harder to believe. I can understand why the Administration would not want to admit this was a terror attack until they have gathered all the information. I cannot understand the stubborn insistence to stick to the story that this was all about a movie when there seems to be plenty of evidence that this was not the case and the FBI hasn’t even begun its investigation.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mantis says:

    Obviously, if there had been warnings of possible violence in Benghazi several days in advance of September 11th, then the idea that this was some kind of spontaneous attack in response to a YouTube video becomes even harder to believe.

    I don’t see any information there that suggests there was a planned attack on the consulate, just that the situation in Benghazi was getting chaotic. Couldn’t the video just have served as a catalyst in that chaotic environment? I don’t know if that is the case, but I don’t see how the Independent actually refutes what State is saying.

  2. john personna says:

    As I say, I suspect the Ambassador felt safe. I really doubt that anyone in Washington felt they had a stronger view or should override him.

    I also suspect that the administration’s view is shaped by the Ambassador’s last words.

  3. Fiona says:

    I agree with John. But I also think evidence is building to show that the attack was planned.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Obviously, if there had been warnings of possible violence in Benghazi several days in advance of September 11th….

    than Ambassador Stevens had a death wish? Wanted to commit suicide? Hated his body guards?

    Seriously Doug,they were probably getting reports of violence in Benghazi every day. As such, I suspect any “warning” they may have received was so vague as to be not credible. Like you, I fully believe this was a planned and coordinated attack that just happened to hit the Jackpot when Stevens happened to be there.

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    In other news bears shit in the woods.

    I mean, come on, the 11th anniversary of 9/11! Hell, everyone knows about Al Qaeda’s “7” and “11” thing. (The Madrid train bombings on 3.11.04. The London train bombings on 7.7.05. Of course 9.11 itself. The African embassy bombings on 8.7.98) Every month you always need to be especially careful on the 7th and on the 11th. Then you have the Libyan consulate. Libya recently underwent a Western military intervention. Infidels dropping bombs and such. Bin Laden recently was sent to sleep with the fishes. Cripes, Helen Keller could have seen and heard the obvious risks of a terror attack last week.

    That all said, it goes without saying the White House wants to change the narrative. It also goes without saying, given the administration’s control of the mass media, the narrative accordingly will be changed, at least so far as Zombieland is concerned.

  6. mantis says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    It also goes without saying, given the administration’s control of the mass media

    Tin foil’s a bit snug today, Nicky.

  7. Mike says:


    All the evidence points to this being a pre-planned attack: targeting a covert safe house (requires surveillance and intel gathering ahead of time), having enough ammo on hand to maintain a supporting base of fire for an extended period of time (requires enough logistical planning to have it on hand pre-staged), and, most significant, the effective use of indirect fire weapons like mortars. Not only do these require actual training/skill to use effectively (as opposed to point and shoot like a rifle or RPG) but the logstics behind them is also a fair bit more complicated compared to a rifle or RPG. I’ll buy off on there being AKs or other rifles at a protest, because it’s the Middle East…I’ll even buy off on there being RPGs at a protest, because it’s post revolution Libya. But mortars?

    “Okay Muhammad, let’s head down to the protest!”
    “Alright, I’ve got the mortar tube, make sure you bring your backpack of 60mm rounds, I told Yusif to bring the baseplate!”

    Small mortars are man-portable, yes, but not in the same sense as a rifle or RPG…at a minimum you would need three individuals: one for the tube, one for the baseplate, and one for the rounds (obviously more depending on how many rounds you were planning on firing.)

    That said, I would take anything the Independent says on this story with a big grain of salt…so far they are the only ones reporting this and they still haven’t gotten anyone to go on the record about it. I understand the role “unnamed sources” play in journalism but when you are the only publication reporting something “unnamed sources” only get you so far. It’s possible for this to be a planned/coordinated attack while still having no prior knowledge of it, and honestly I wouldn’t even really classify that as an intelligence failure given the situation on the ground in Libya. I suppose it meets the technical definition of a failure since something bad happened that we didn’t have prior knowledge of, but welcome to the intel business.

  8. bill says:

    this is old news, they’ve been reporting it since last Thursday- that rice couldn’t seem to wiggle her way out of the official stand of “spontaneous combustion” just makes her look bad. instant mobs don’t usually pack mortars & rpg’s.- ak’s are dime a dozen over there so that’s no shocker. in any event, the compound was ill equipped to deal with a small group of angry “whatevers” and now we have dead Americans that shouldn’t be dead.