Transcript: Testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb on the “Security Failures in Benghazi”

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript*: Testimony of Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, before the House Oversight Committee on the “Security Failures in Benghazi” on Oct. 10, 2012:

*Transcript does not include interruptions and objections raised by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) over the “sensitive” nature of information disclosed by the State Department in a public hearing.

Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, before the House Oversight Committee on the “Security Failures in Benghazi” on Oct. 10, 2012. SOURCE: House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Cummings, members of the Committee.

My name is Charlene Lamb. I am Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the Department of State.

I’ve been in law enforcement for 35 years, including 17 consecutive years stationed abroad as a Regional Security Officer in Nicaragua, Tanzania, Kuwait, Guatemala, and Germany.

I’m here today to share our best information to date about what happened in Benghazi on September 11th.

As you know, there are on-going investigations and reviews being conducted, and we are speaking today with an incomplete picture. But as this process moves forward and more information becomes available, we will continue to engage closely with Congress.

Let me begin by describing the actual compound in Benghazi.

It is more than 300 yards long and nearly 100 yards wide.

The main building was divided into two sections. The public section included common areas and meeting space. The private section was a residential area that included the safe haven.

A second building –Building B – housed Diplomatic Security agents.

The Tactical Operations Center (or TOC) occupied a third building.

The fourth building on the compound served as the barracks for the Libyan 17th February Brigade members.

After acquiring the compound, we made a number of security upgrades. Among other steps, we extended the height of the outer wall to 12 feet with masonry concrete, barb wire, and concertina razor wire.

We increased the external lighting and erected Jersey Barriers outside the perimeter. We also added equipment to detect explosives, as well as an Imminent Danger Notification System. And we installed security grills on windows accessible from the ground, and included escape windows with emergency releases.

There were 5 Diplomatic Security agents on the Compound on September 11th. There were also 3 members of the Libyan 17th February Brigade. In addition, a well-trained U.S. quick reaction security team was stationed nearby at the Embassy annex.

All of these measures and upgrades were taken in coordination with security officials in Benghazi, Tripoli, and Washington.

I work closely with 275 diplomatic facilities around the world. Determining the right level of security for each one is an intensive, ongoing, constantly evolving process — one that I appreciate and understand from my own time on the ground as a Diplomatic Security officer.

That brings me to the events of September 11 itself.

At approximately 9:40 pm local time, dozens of attackers launched a full-scale assault. They forced their way through the pedestrian gate, used diesel fuel to set fire to the Libyan 17th February Brigade members’ barracks, and then proceeded towards the main building.

A Diplomatic Security agent working in the Tactical Operations Center immediately activated the Imminent Danger Notification System. He also alerted the quick reaction security team stationed nearby, the Libyan 17th February Brigade, the Embassy in Tripoli, and the Diplomatic Security Command Center in Washington.

One agent secured Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, the information management officer, in the safe haven.

The attackers used diesel fuel to set the main building ablaze. Thick smoke rapidly filled the entire structure. The agent began leading the Ambassador and Sean Smith through the debilitating smoke toward the emergency escape window.

Nearing unconsciousness himself, the agent opened the emergency escape grill window and crawled out. He then realized they had become separated in the smoke. So he re-entered and searched the building multiple times. Finally the agent—suffering from severe smoke inhalation, barely able to breathe or speak – exited to the roof.

Other agents retrieved their M-4 submachine guns from Building B. When they attempted to return to the main building, they encountered armed attackers and doubled back.

They regrouped, made their way to a near-by armored vehicle, and then drove over to assist the agent on the roof and search for the Ambassador and Mr. Smith.

After numerous attempts, they found Mr. Smith. Unfortunately, he was already deceased. They still could not find the Ambassador.

The [annex] quick reaction security team arrived with 40 members of the Libyan 17th February Brigade. They all continued the search for the Ambassador.

Then at approximately 11pm, the Libyans insisted for everyone’s safety they needed to evacuate the site. The combined security team made a final search for the Ambassador before leaving in an armored vehicle.

They took heavy fire as they pulled away from the main building and on the street outside the compound but wearable to make their way to the annex.

[Interruptions by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)]

In the early morning, an additional security team arrived from Tripoli and proceeded to the annex. Shortly after they arrived, the annex started taking mortar fire, with as many as three direct hits on the compound. It was during this mortar attack that Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed and a Diplomatic Security agent and a quick reaction security team member were critically wounded.

A large number of Libyan government security officers subsequently arrived escorted the remaining Americans to the airport. We were then able to confirm reports that the Ambassador’s body was at the Benghazi General Hospital, and the Department coordinated the transfer of his remains to the airport.

Before I close, I would like to say the men and women who risk their lives in the service of our country are heroes. I have served with many of our security professionals in Libya and around the world. They are my friends and my colleagues. And I trust them with my life.


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