A new report has surfaced on the fifth anniversary of the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, wherein Islamic militants launched a 13-hour assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALS Ty Woods and Glenn Doherty.
According to reports, two men from an American security company are now saying that security at the State Department’s Benghazi compound was so dire that another contractor was brought in to clean up the mess just two weeks before the 2012 terror attack – and was later pressured to keep quiet by a government bureaucrat under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Brad Owens and Jerry Torres, of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, say they faced pressure to stay silent and get on the same page with the State Department with regard to the security lapses that led to the deaths of four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
The two spoke exclusively with Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” revealing new information that undermines the State Department’s previous accounts.
Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions provides security for U.S. embassy and consulate personnel around the world, including some of the most dangerous locations in Africa, the Middle East and South America.
CEO Jerry Torres, a former Green Beret, is still haunted by the fact that specific bureaucrats and policies that led to the Benghazi scandal are still in the State Department to this day, despite the change in administrations. “A U.S. ambassador is dead and nobody is held accountable for it. And three guys … all died trying to defend him,” he pointed out.
When Torres was asked if a senior State Department contracting officer made a specific effort to silence them, Torres answered, “Absolutely, absolutely.”
Owens, a former Army intelligence officer, said the same, noting that it was the people “who made the poor choices that actually, I would say, were more responsible for the Benghazi attacks than anyone else … they’re still in the same positions, making security choices for our embassies overseas now.”
Because of his extensive experience in the region, Owens was the American company’s point man in Libya back in 2012. After the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in the fall of 2011, Owens told Fox News it was common knowledge that security in the area “had deteriorated considerably” after Islamic radicals, including Al Qaeda-tied militias, began pouring into the region.
Documents show that Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions bid on the Benghazi compound security contract in the spring of 2012, but the State Department instead awarded the deal to a U.K.-based operation called The Blue Mountain Group.
Owens was shocked by this choice. “Blue Mountain U.K. is a teeny, tiny, little security company registered in Wales that had never had a diplomatic security contract, [and] had never done any high threat contracts anywhere else in the world that we’ve been able to find, much less in high threat areas for the U.S. government. They had a few guys on the ground,” he said.
Torres noted that the Blue Mountain Group came in 4 percent lower than their bid – and they challenged that decision. However, State Department contracting officer Jan Visintainer responded that the State Department had the “latitude to apply” that preference or not.
Then, Blue Mountain Group went and hired unarmed guards, and the problems soon began.
One month before the attack, Ambassador Stevens and his team alerted the State Department via a diplomatic cable that radical Islamic groups were everywhere and that the temporary mission compound could not withstand a “coordinated attack.”
By Aug. 31, 2012, the situation had deteriorated to the point that Owens and Torres said the State Department asked them to intervene – in, as Owens put it, an “admission of the mistake of choosing the wrong company.”
“They came back to us and said, ‘Can you guys come in and take over security?’” Owens said. “So, we were ready.”
But there wasn’t enough time for the new team to get set up, and 12 days later, the ambassador was killed. Torres learned of the attacks from television reports, calling it “bad decision-making from top to bottom.”
“There was nothing we could’ve done about it. If we’d had [a] one-month warning … who knows what might’ve happened,” Owens said.
Afterwards, the Obama White House misleadingly blamed the attacks on an anti-Islam video and demonstration.
Torres was stunned: “Coming from a military background, I would expect the administration to tell the truth. So I bought into it for a minute. But I didn’t believe it in the back of my mind.” He said they later figured out the video was not the culprit. The attack was a coordinated terrorist assault which included a precision mortar strike on the CIA post in Benghazi.
And then Visintainer summoned Torres from overseas to attend a meeting at her government office in Rosslyn, Va., in early 2013.
Torres recalled: “[Visintainer] said that I and people from Torres should not speak to the media, should not speak to any officials with respect to the Benghazi program,” he said.
Frightened for his company, Torres hasn’t spoken publicly until now.
“We had about 8,000 employees at the time. You know, we just didn’t need that level of damage, because these guys, their livelihood relies on the company,” he said. “I trust that our U.S. government is going to follow chain of command, follow procedures, follow protocols and do the right thing.”
Visintainer told Torres that “in her opinion … that guards should not be armed at U.S. embassies. She just made that blanket statement. … And she said that they weren’t required in Benghazi. So I was kind of confused about that. And she said that she would like my support in saying that if that came up. And I looked at her. I just didn’t respond.”
Since then, Torres and Owens have been concerned that another attack like the one in Benghazi could happen again.
“In 1990, Congress passed a law that required contracts of this nature to go to the lowest bidder that’s technically acceptable,” Owens explained. “Now, what that has created is a race to the bottom, is what we call it. So basically, every company tries to cut every corner they can for these contracts.”
On the fifth anniversary of Benghazi, Torres said he thinks about the four families who lost a father, a brother or a son in the 2012 attack and feels sorry “for not bringing this up earlier. For not actually being there, on the ground and taking care of these guys.”
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