Fact check: Clinton wrong on Marine security

Closing a two-and-a-half hour hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Benghazi attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted to explain to Sen. Rob Kane (D-Conn.) why there were no Marine Embassy Security Guards on site at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Saying it was very common to use private in-country security contractors at diplomatic posts such as the Blue Mountain Group working in Benghazi, Clinton asserted that Marine embassy security personnel were only employed to protect classified documents and material.

“Historically, Marine guards do not protect personnel. Their job is to protect classified material and destroy it if necessary,” Clinton said.

There was, Clinton said, no classified material on-site in Benghazi and thus no Marine guard.

Two Pinocchios.

As indicated by the mission statement of the Quantico-based Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, Marine Security Guards (MSGs) do work to protect classified material.

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But, the statement continues, “The secondary mission of the MSG is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S government property located within designated U.S. diplomatic and consular premises during exigent circumstances (urgent temporary circumstances which require immediate aid or action.)”

Since the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks followed a lengthy pattern of violent incidents including breaches of U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya, and since regional site officers had made requests (albeit unanswered) for additional security due to the ongoing threats, it is certainly feasible that MSG personnel could have been on-site in Benghazi.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, passed at the end of this year, authorizes a ramp-up of up to 1,000 additional MSG personnel to ensure that what happened in Benghazi does not happen again.


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