State Department officials said today that security levels at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were adequate for the threat level on the anniversary of 9/11 but that the compound was overrun by an "unprecedented attack" by dozens of heavily armed extremists. The officials testified before a congressional hearing on accusations of security failures at the consulate that led or contributed to the deaths of four Americans. The officials said the number of US and local security guards at the compound was consistent with what had been requested by the post.
"We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11," said Charlene Lamb, a deputy secretary of state. Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer in Libya, previously said he had requested more security but that the request was blocked. Under questioning, though, he said he had sought mainly to prevent any reduction in staff, rather than have a big increase. "I'm confident that the committee will conclude" that department officials "conducted themselves professionally and with careful attention to managing people and budgets in a way that reflects the gravity of their task," he said. Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today that in hindsight "there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from happening."