Why Wasn’t Sensitive Material In Benghazi Declared Classified?
Did the State Department under Hillary Clinton deliberately refuse to classify what has been described as sensitive information housed at the U.S. special mission in Benghazi?
The storage of any officially classified information in the compound would have required the deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps Embassy Security Group for protection.
Instead, external security at the facility was provided by unarmed local Libyan guards.
Armed members of the Martyrs of the February 17th Brigades served as the official quick-reaction force that worked within the compound. The Brigade is an offshoot of the Ansar Al Sharia terrorist organization that was implicated in the Benghazi attack.
The question of the security designation of documents and information contained at the Benghazi facility comes up as members in the intelligence community debate why the materials were not officially classified.
On July 1, Fox News quoted sources in Washington and on the ground in Libya, including a witness, confirming that computers were stolen during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
Two days after the attack, the London Independent reported documents inside the U.S. mission were said to “list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups.”
Three weeks after the attack, the Washington Post reported that documents inside the U.S. mission contained “delicate information about American operations in Libya.”
The Post reported one of its journalists visited the facility weeks after the attack to find scattered across the floors “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.”
Tuesday’s Fox News report revealed that after the U.S. mission was looted, some of the Libyans employed there received death threats via text message. It is unclear whether the threats were prompted by the stolen documents and computers.
Officially, the information processed at the U.S. mission was not designated as classified by the State Department.
As Fox News noted, Clinton writes in her book Hard Choices that “because there was no classified processing at the diplomatic compound, there were no Marines posted there.”
However, two former CIA agents contacted by this reporter said they were perplexed as to why such reported sensitive information was not designated as classified. The agents’ comments were based on news media descriptions of the information, not on first-hand knowledge.
The U.S. government classifies information based on an estimation of the potential damage to national security if it were released.
Documents classified as “confidential” are likely to cause “damage” to national security if released. Material classified as “secret” would cause “serious damage” if exposed. The classification of “top secret” is used for material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security.