Transcript: Testimony of Lt. Col. Andrew Wood at the House Oversight Committee hearing on the “Security Failures in Benghazi”
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript: Testimony of Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, Utah National Guard member and Department of Interior employee, before the House Oversight Committee on the “Security Failures in Benghazi” on Oct. 10, 2012:
I am Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood. I’m a member of the Utah National Guard with 24 years of service as a Special Forces soldier. I was mobilized for the Winter Olympics in 2002, Afghanistan from September of 2003 to May of 2004, and for counter-terrorism work in the Southern Philippines from August of 2007 to May of 2008.
I currently work for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the Upper Colorado Regional Security Officer. I am responsible to Reclamation for the security program that oversees 58 high and significant hazard dams in 5 western States, one of which is Glen Canyon Dam, a national critical infrastructure facility.
Upon hearing of the death of Ambassador Stevens and later of the Congressional inquiry, I identified myself to my Congressional Representative’s staff as a person with intimate knowledge of the security situation prior to the attack. I was subsequently contacted and began a dialogue with staff investigators.
I made a personal decision to come forward with information and do not represent DoD or any government agency. I had unique access and placement to many government leaders and agencies working in Libya. I feel duty bound to come forward in order to inform and provide a portion of ground truth information. I feel a sense of honor for those individuals who have died in the service of their country.
I realize much of my work in Libya was entangled in sensitive government work and I must be careful not to betray the trust and confidences that have been placed in me.
The killing of a US Ambassador is a rare and extraordinary thing and requires our attention as a people.
As a citizen I made the determination that this out weighs all other interests and will risk whatever circumstances may result from my testimony.
I served as the Site Security Team (SST) Commander in Libya from 12 February to 14 August of this year, 2012. I was mobilized from the Utah National Guard into Title 10 status and reported to Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) which serves directly under AFRICCOM.
I was detailed in Title 22 status to the Department of State and assumed command of the SST.
The SST element consisted of 16 members. It is my understanding that it was crafted by the National Security Council to meet the demanding security challenges facing the Department of State and their requirement to re-establish diplomatic relations with a post Gaddafi or Free Libya.
The SST loaned considerable support to the Department of State’s security posture in this uncertain and volatile environment. The SSTs mission was to support and answer to Chief of Mission in Libya.
I worked directly for the Regional Security Officer. We provided Security Support, Medical Support, Communications Support for every facet of security that covered the Embassy.
As the SST Commander I had a seat on the Country Team and I was closely involved with the operational planning and support to the RSO’s security objectives.
The Embassy staff lived and worked together at two locations in Tripoli and Embassy property in Benghazi. The SST supported security for movements of diplomatic officers in and around Tripoli and other parts of Libya as their work required.
On two occasions I sent SST members to Benghazi to support and bolster security at that location. The SST was closely integrated with regular diplomatic security agents working directly for the RSO as well as the Mobile Security Deployment teams.
I traveled to Benghazi on two occasions, once with the RSO to evaluate the security situation there and once to conduct some work for the Defense Attache’s office.
I was there the second time in June when the UK Ambassador’s convoy was attacked. I responded with DS security agents in order to help provide medical and security assistance to wounded UK security personnel. I conducted a post attack investigation of the ambush or assault.
I regularly met with and held frequent conversations with Ambassador Cretz and Stevens and other members of the security team.
In June when Eric Nordstrom rotated out, I was the senior member of the Country team with the exception of Ambassador Stevens. We lived and worked closely together in an atmosphere that is common to an expeditionary post.
Ambassador Stevens was an avid runner and played tennis as well. The SST was heavily involved in performing his security detail when he ran. I ran with him on several occasions.
The SST provided an important link for the country team to SOCAFRICA with its intelligence assets and resources. There was a good exchange of intelligence information between SOCAFRICA and the RSO. There was a great working relationship between SST and Diplomatic security agents and MSD members at the Embassy posts throughout Libya.
I reported 3 times a week through video teleconference to SOCAFRICA and sent daily Situation reports. I had the communications capability to provide a direct link to SOCAFRICA 24-7.
I no longer have access to email and documents that I worked with on a daily basis much of this was contained on AFRICOM servers and computers that I worked through.
My recollection of dates is mostly from memory and I will need to re- access that information in order to specify dates with great certainty.
State Department’s decision not to extend SST’s security work beyond August 5th terminated our work in this capacity. The military members of my team were in the process of changing status from Title 22 back to Title 10 shortly before my departure.
The situation on the ground was continuously updated with reports that I sent to my military chain and CC’ed the RSO on.
The RSO sent information on security and threats in a similar manner.
While the sound of gunfire in and around Tripoli subsided from February to April, the situation remained unstable. Libyans struggled with a Transitional government that hesitated to make decisions and was forced to rely upon local or tribal militias with varying degrees to loyalty.
In late spring, the police were allowed to return to work to help with traffic but were limited to that only. Fighting between militias was still common when I departed. Some militias appeared to be degenerating into organizations resembling freelance criminal operations. Targeted attacks against westerners were on the increase.
In June the Ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public announcement that he liked to run around the Embassy compound in Tripoli.
When I arrived in February there were 3 MSD teams on the ground. Ambassador Cretz was confronted with having to lose one of these and requested an equal number of regular diplomatic security agents.
The Ambassador struggled with renewing the SST beyond April 5th. That’s Ambassador Stevens.
The second MSD team was withdrawn shortly after Ambassador Cretz’s departure, and the last MSD team was restricted from performing security work only and limited only training local guard force members in July. The remaining MSD was withdrawn at about the same time the SST security work was terminated.
The RSO’s struggled to maintain these losses with regular diplomatic security personnel.
The security in Benghazi was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there. The situation remained uncertain and reports from some Libyans indicated it was getting worse.
Diplomatic security remained weak. In April there was only one US diplomatic security agent stationed there. The RSO struggled to obtain additional personnel there but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with.
I hope the information I provide will be put together with ‘data points’ from others so an accurate picture can be obtained.
We need to be dedicated to understand the problems that surround this attack in order to find a solution. Our failure to do so will result in repeated instances that allow our adversaries to take an advantage over us.
My purpose in conveying this information is to prevent their ability to take the life of another Ambassador or kill another valuable and talented public servants working for the diplomatic service of their country.
- House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Lt. Col. Andrew Wood’s written testimony on the “Security Failures of Benghazi, Libya” on Oct. 10, 2012 (PDF)
- LATimes.com: Libya guards speak out on attack that killed U.S. ambassador
- House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform: Video of the hearing on “The Security Failures of Benghazi” on Oct. 10, 2012
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Testimony of Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy before the House Oversight Committee on the “Security Failures in Benghazi”
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb on the “Security Failures in Benghazi”
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Testimony of Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom on the “Security Failures in Benghazi”
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Testimony of Lt. Col. Andrew Wood at the House Oversight Committee hearing on the “Security Failures in Benghazi”
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- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the Benghazi attack & Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 27, 2012
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- WhatTheFolly.com: New details emerge on “complex” Benghazi attack; Marines sent to Tripoli
- WhatTheFolly.com: State Department identifies the 2 Embassy security personnel killed in Benghazi, Libya
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