Security at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was "grossly inadequate," and Washington officials showed "indifference to the crumbling security situation" there, but there were not 600 requests for better security at the compound, a Washington Post fact-checking investigation found.
The fact-check centered around the specific number because it's been oft-repeated by presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, and has been reported as fact by media organizations running follow-up stories about the Benghazi attacks and the subsequent congressional investigation.
The Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Images of the burning embassy compound and details of the attack incensed Americans, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was called to testify before lawmakers in the fallout from the attack, famously asking a member of the Senate Relations Committee what difference it would make if the attack was organized or spontaneous.
"With all due respect, the fact is we have four dead Americans," Clinton said at the time. "Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."
Later, it was revealed the attack was a coordinated effort by as many as 150 organized combatants, Islamic militants wearing body armor and armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades.
That fact -- and the subsequent revelations that embassy officials had repeatedly pleaded with Washington for better security at the compound -- caused a deep partisan divide in the reaction to the assault, and the issue remains contentious as Clinton continues her push for the Democratic presidential nomination.
While there were not 600 individual requests for resources, more security staff, more weapons and upgraded physical security at the Benghazi compound, there were more than 200 individual requests, and at least 400 instances of discussions about security, the Post investigation found. Anything that wasn't a formal request was labeled a "concern," and the Post said those concerns often took the form of back-and-forth discussions between Washington and state department staff in Libya about the ongoing security threats there.
“A request is made via email or cable for physical security, equipment, or something related to the compound itself (lighting, barriers, wire, etc),” a Republican congressional staffer told the Post. “Weeks or months later, the same unresolved issue is brought up again in a discussion. That’s a request and a concern. In general, concerns followed requests. However, some concerns are independent of a request. Such concerns could, for example, be expressed about the delay of issuing visas to [Department of State] agents kept out of Libya. Concerns could be expressed about security personnel needing to provide their own holsters or protective gear, etc.”
While the Post found discrepancies in the way requests and concerns were labeled, the newspaper confirmed the basic security situation in Benghazi did not change, and Washington did not increase the number of federal security agents staffing the compound or respond to the majority of individual requests about safety concerns.