Ambassador Stevens will be front and center at the Benghazi hearings through a cable sent to Hillary Clinton only hours before his death.
The Washington Guardian obtained a copy of the memo, a weekly summary of events in Libya dated just hours before a band of terrorists struck the unofficial U.S. consulate in Benghazi and a nearby annex building where the CIA operated, killing the ambassador and three other Americans.
Stevens’ cable is likely to become a central focus of congressional hearings that begin Wednesday — hearings where Clinton will be pressed to explain why security for diplomats in the region wasn’t increased in the weeks before the attack and why so much reliance was placed on local security forces with dubious loyalties.
Stevens’ concerns about militia security were previously mentioned by news outlets such as The Daily Beast, but the full details of the diplomatic cable and the exact language Stevens used to alert his bosses in Washington show the State Department had plenty reason to know the city he was visiting was in violent disarray and that there was growing distrust of the security capabilities of local police and militias.
The document described a “state of maximum alert” that had just ended a few days earlier in the city, detailed “extra-judicial killings” of Libyan government officials that were ongoing in the vicinity, reported on a deadly car bombing, and noted the destruction of power lines that blacked out part of the region.
One Libya security commander “expressed growing frustration with police and security forces” and suggested local security was “too weak to keep the country secure,” the memo said.
The cable also warned that Salafists had engaged in a gun battle at a Muslim shrine less than 22 miles (35 kilometers) outside Benghazi three days earlier, killing three and injuring seven. Stevens specifically flagged concerns about official security exposed by that incident, saying a militia brigade sent to protect the shrine was “late responding” and some Salafist members in the brigade “were actually fighting against local residents in support of efforts to destroy the shrine.”