By Sam Smith
In Monday’s debate between U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and his Republican challenger for Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District, Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Ruppersberger questioned why the safe room in the Benghazi compound where U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens died of asphyxiation did not have an air supply.
“They have safe rooms at all of these different embassies, where Americans are. These are State Department people that don’t carry guns like the military,” Ruppersberger said. “But the bottom line is he didn’t have any air. Why didn’t the air work? The kind of flames they used created a lot of smoke and he couldn’t breathe.”
One member of the audience, E.J. McNulty, afterward questioned whether Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was disclosing details not available to the public.
Details of attack ‘widely reported”
But Jaime Lennon, his campaign spokesman and also his official press secretary, responded by private email, “Dutch said nothing that hasn’t been widely reported in the media.”
Lennon referred to an unclassified background briefing for the media by the State Department Oct. 9 extensively reported in an article in The Atlantic. The only air supply to the smoke filled safe haven was a bathroom window.
Jacobs questioned Ruppersberger on why there was no security in place in Benghazi when it was attacked on Sept. 11.
“It’s hard to believe with all the intelligence that we have that we would not send Marines to protect our embassy, especially after they asked, and they asked,” Jacobs said.
There were U.S. and Libyan security forces at the Benghazi compound, the State Department has said, but no Marines.
Ruppersberger said that even if there was security in place it could do little to stop such a severe attack. Ruppersberger added that since the United States has embassies in hot spots all over the world, it is hard to prioritize security needs on an limited security budget.
“One of the problems that we have in Benghazi is that it is a very open area and it seems we did not have the intelligence that we needed,” Ruppersberger said. “A lot of money to do the safety in our embassies has been cut.”
The full debate can be watched on YouTube. The Benghazi issue is discussed at 40:49 in the video.