A day after Congress grilled the State Department for its failure to secure the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, a Romney foreign policy adviser says that if elected, the GOP nominee would be more responsive to overseas security needs.
"We could have pulled security guards out of Paris and London. There are real dangers, particularly London," says Dov Zakheim. "We could have pulled security officers from other parts of the world and put them in Benghazi and Tripoli, but that involves management. It involves thought. It involves a focus, and what you don't have right now is management, focus or thought. What you have got instead is a lot of smoke."
Zakheim says Libya was the "October surprise" that has refocused Romney's foreign policy message, adding that the Obama administration made a grave error that won't be overlooked on the campaign trail.
"What we heard in the hearings was that it was not that they weren't warned. It was not that [more security] wasn't requested," Zakheim says. "In that hearing room, they blew so much smoke, you had to go out and breathe some fresh air."
Two witnesses told Congress Wednesday that multiple requests for additional security were denied in Libya, and that the State Dept. drew down security forces in the months preceding the terrorist attack that killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
"It became clear that we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an attack," said Eric Nordstrom, a regional security officer in Libya. "For me, the Taliban [was] on the inside of the building."
Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who served as the site security team leader in Libya between February and August of this year, told Congress that the State Dept. exercised poor judgment and ignored repeated warnings that the situation in Libya was unstable. Wood says there were more than 230 security incidents in Libya preceding the attack.
"Targeted attacks against Westerners were on the increase," Wood Said. "In June, the Ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public announcement that he liked to run around the Embassy compound in Tripoli."
The State Dept. says it's implemented an accountability review board to determine whether the security systems and procedures in place were adequate in light of the threat level.
"We too ask ourselves if we provided our people in the field with everything they needed to do their jobs," says Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary for management at the State Dept. "The Department of State regularly assesses risk and allocation of resources for security, a process which involves the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington."
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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.