Rising tensions in Benghazi didn't seem to worry US officials, who left the American mission there poorly guarded before the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, the Washington Post reports. In fact, the State Department hired a small British firm to guard the compound for $387,413—a pittance in the world of war-zone contracts. Yet a series of fundamentalist attacks in eastern Libya this summer clearly signaled a threat to Westerners, and a Libyan official had warned the US to keep a low profile.
Stevens apparently believed his life was at risk, but his outgoing attitude betrayed no sense of fear. He even liked jogging outside the compound and shopping in open markets. "Benghazi was like his home," a friend says. When the assault came on September 11, gunmen defeated the hired security guards and pro-American militia who came to their aid. Now the State Department can't explain why US troops had left the office in Benghazi exposed—and most Libyans are bereft over the attack, says a neighbor to the US mission: The gunmen were "only a few people, and they don’t just hate America," he said. "They hate the [Libyan] government; they consider them non-Muslims."