On Tuesday, three weeks after the deadly terrorist strike on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two House Republicans sent a letter to Obama Secretary of State Hillary Clinton detailing "incidents dating to April" that evidence "a pattern of threats" against the late Amb. Chris Stevens, many of them "new revelations" such as the fact that "Libyans working as private security guards at the U.S. compound were warned by family members in the weeks before the assault to quite their jobs because of rumors of an impending attack."
Yet Post editors placed the story on the matter, headlined "Probe in Libya moving slowly," on page A10 of the October 3 paper. In the same article, Birnbaum and Gearan quote from one Walid Faraj, "a member of the militia that local officials tasked with securing Americans in Beghazi" who "said he saw the attack nearly from start to finish." Faraj insists he has yet to be interviewed by either American or Libyan investigators. "Since that day, nobody has called, nobody cared," Faraj told the Post. "How is it the Americans didn't anticipate anything?"
Those last two lines by Faraj were buried halfway through the 22-paragraph story. Talk about burying the lede! It's hard to imagine a local Benghazi resident telling an American newspaper such a thing and it not being front-page news were the deadly attack to have happened under President Bush's watch.
As I noted yesterday, the Post similarly buried on page A12 a story in which they noted that the FBI was not on the ground conducting an investigation in Benghazi, but rather remotely handling the investigation from Tripoli.
"We are getting ready for the FBI team to go to Benghazi and meet with our team and start joint investigations together and also visit the site," Birnbaum and Gearan quoted Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz.
In the meantime, "the U.S. outpost remained deserted on Tuesday, with no guards posted at its front or rear entrances." What's more, "the crime scene was unsecured for several days after the assault."
Indeed, as Birnbaum reported in a story filed at 3:39 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, numerous "sensitive" documents are missing or presumed so, from the consulate:
More than three weeks after attacks in this city killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, sensitive documents remained only loosely secured in the remains of the U.S. mission here on Wednesday, offering visitors easy access to delicate details about American operations in Libya.
Documents detailing weapons collection efforts, emergency evacuation protocols, the full internal itinerary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip and the personnel records of Libyans who were contracted to secure the mission were among the items scattered across the floors of the looted compound when a Washington Post reporter and a translator visited Wednesday.
Although the gates to the compound were locked several days after the attacks, looters and curiosity-seekers were free to roam in the initial chaotic aftermath, and many documents may already have disappeared.
No government-provided security forces are guarding the compound, and Libyan investigators have visited just once, according to a member of the family who owns the compound and who allowed the journalists to enter Wednesday.
Two private security guards paid for by the compound’s Libyan owner are the only people watching over the sprawling site, which is composed of two adjoining villa complexes and protected in some places by a wall only eight feet high.
The more we learn about the Benghazi compound, the more apparent it is that it was both poorly secured before the 9/11 attack and that the Obama administration's handling of the investigation afterwards is and remains shoddy at best.
For their part, Birnbaum and Gearan are doing decent reporting, but the paper's editors are not giving it the real estate that it deserves, and certainly not the attention it would receive were it a Republican president and Republican secretary of state who were at the helm for this debacle.