Judicial Watch • JW Obtains Documents Revealing Questionable Security Contracting in Benghazi

JW Obtains Documents Revealing Questionable Security Contracting in Benghazi

JW Obtains Documents Revealing Questionable Security Contracting in Benghazi

APRIL 01, 2014

Regional Security Office at U.S. Embassy in Tripoli on Blue Mountain Group: “I would not advise to use their services to provide security for any of our annexes and/or offices ….”

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on February 28, it obtained documents from the U.S. Department of State revealing that Blue Mountain Group (BMG), the security firm hired to protect the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, had lost at least two previous private security contracts in Tripoli and was hired despite a warning from the Embassy Acting Regional Security Officer.

According to the documents, obtained in response to a February 25, 2013, Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, on June 7, 2012, Tripoli Acting Security Regional Officer (ARSO) Jairo Saravia sent the following email to RSO David Oliveira (Temporary Duty Office to Benghazi at the time) and others:

“Just a quick note in regards to Blue Mountain. The company has lost several security contracts here in Tripoli, including the Corinthian Hotel and Palm City Complex. The latest information is Blue Mountain is not licensed by the GOL to provide security services in Libya. I would advise not to use their services to provide security for any of our annexes and/or offices due to the sensitivity this issue has with the current GOL ….”

A second email that same day, from RSO Greg Levin, apparently responding to the Saravia email, said that BMG did not have a licensing problem, but did not refute that it had lost several security contracts in Tripoli. In fact, additional emails between State Department personnel in Libya sent that day suggest that licensing for security firms had become an acknowledged problem, with one email stating, “We have got to get legal to change how licensing is done for contractors.”

The documents also reveal that in Benghazi in April 2012, there was almost a physical altercation between a BMG supervisor and a member of the Libyan 17th of February Martyrs Brigade, a Libyan militia that was supposed to provide security at the Benghazi compound the day of the September 11, 2012, attacks.  According to an April 18, 2012, email from ARSO Teresa Crowningshield to DS Program Manager Norm Floyd:

“At 1130 hours, a verbal altercation occurred between the Libyan February 17th Martyrs Brigade team member and Mr.[REDACTED]. The team member then notified the brigade team leader of the incident, who then went to the gate to speak with [REDACTED]. At that time, a second verbal altercation occurred between the three and [REDACTED] left the compound. The team leader then came to the RSO office and reported the incident.

“The team leader stated that [REDACTED] made an inappropriate comment with reference to Gaddafi. Then when the team leader came to speak with [REDACTED] he made derogatory comments regarding the team leader’s mother. As the situation escalated to the point of a likely physical confrontation, [REDACTED] left the compound.”

The role BMG played in protecting the security of the Benghazi Consulate first came to light shortly after the September 2012 terrorist attack when State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphatically denied that State had hired any private firm to provide security at the American mission in Benghazi:

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the claim was made yesterday that a company that is a spinoff of Blackwater, in fact, proposed or contracted the United States Government for this particular kind of eventuality, and it was caught up in some sort of bureaucratic –

MS. NULAND: Completely untrue with regard to Libya. I checked that this morning. At no time did we plan to hire a private security company for Libya.

QUESTION: Toria, I just want to make sure I understood that, because I didn’t understand your first question. You said – your first answer. You said that at no time did you have contracts with private security companies in Libya?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

On December 19, 2012, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with the State Department seeking, “Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the $387,413.68 contract awarded by the Department of State to an unidentified foreign awardee for ‘Security Guards and Patrol Services.’” When State refused to comply with the FOIA request, Judicial Watch filed its February 25, 2013, lawsuit, which resulted in the documents revealing the BMG had lost previous security contracts in Libya.

“The American people have not been told the full truth about the events surrounding the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And now, we find out that the security firm hired to protect our personnel, Blue Mountain, had a track record of failure and was openly fighting with the Libyan guards they were supposed to train and supervise.  What a mess.  And that we have to battle in court for this basic information shows the extent of the Obama administration’s scandalous cover-up.”

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  • ta2t2o

    The entire red herring about licensing is nonsense. I’ve worked a number of security subcontracts and in-country licensing is always a problem. We have the same issues in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Both Afghanistan and Libya have specific decrees (decree 62 and decree 248 respectively) which restrict the use of certain types of security companies (specifically PSCs) in country. Each year the APPF in Afghanistan creates licensing issues for both PSCs and RMCs due to either tax issues or specific weapons or vehicle registration issues. That in and of itself doesn’t make a security contractor incompetent. Shame on you for doing shoddy investigative journalism and not understanding why they might have had licensing issues or WHY the acting RSO suggested they not be used.

    Another aspect to this is also that many of these RSOs also worked previously for security contractors themselves. As such, they’ve got their favorites. If there was a problem with the specific security subcontractor, the Federal Acquisition Regulation has a specific Debarment policy. FAR 52.209-6 would have been flowed. Additionally, it would have been recommended that a Visual Compliance screening be run on the contractor as well.

    As far as BMG having lost previous security contracts – what government security contractor HASN’T lost contracts? It happens because competition is required. It’s not surprising that even if they had lost previous contracts, that they might win this one. After two unsuccessful bids, it wouldn’t be surprising that they evaluate why they lost and then adjust their bid strategy for subsequent bids. Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen, General Dynamics and GE lose contracts all the time – often to each other. Does that mean you wouldn’t recommend contracting with them. In fact, every security contractor in the business today has lost security subcontracts. Looking at Afghanistan, there are about 20 PSCs still remaining and a couple dozen RMCs. Everyone of them has more than likely won and LOST subcontracts. In fact you mentioning it here as some specific type of warning signal is just ridiculous – especially if you’re only tying it to a licensing issue.

    As for the comments below from Ms. Nuland regarding contracting a Private Security Company (PSC) – she’s correct. By Decree 248 of 2012, you cant contract with a PSC in Libya. More likely what Blue Mountain Group was acting as here is an RMC – Risk Management Company where they specifically have armed advisers who “advise” an armed local national security force who would be proving the security. The reason these countries are hesitant to allow unrestricted PSCs from operating can be attributed to the likes of Blackwater in Iraq and Triple Canopy in Afghanistan.

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