* Benghazi attack has become U.S. campaign issue
* Second site far better defended than consulate
* Security measures under tough Republican attack
By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON, Oct 10 A public clash in Congress on
Wednesday over photographs depicting the location of a second,
semi-secret U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya put the spotlight
on a compound said to be more secure than the public American
mission where U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens died last
When State Department officials, describing the chain of
events on the night Stevens and three others died in a terrorist
attack, displayed commercial satellite images of the two U.S.
facilities, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, sharply
accused them of divulging classified material.
"I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not
and should not ever talk about what you're showing here today,"
Chaffetz said at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight
and Government Reform. A congressional aide confirmed he was
referring to the second site.
The existence of the second compound has been widely
reported in accounts of the Sept. 11 violence in Benghazi, often
being referred to as a "safe house" or "annex" to the temporary
U.S. consulate. State Department officials at Wednesday's
hearing said the photographs were not secret.
While the U.S. officials gave a fleeting public glimpse into
the compound, they divulged little of substance on its purpose
prior to the Benghazi attack, which has became an issue in the
U.S. presidential campaign and the subject of multiple State
Department and congressional probes.
Reuters, however, has learned some new details about it from
U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of
the issue's sensitivity and the ongoing official probes.
They described the second facility as a significant and
largely secret complex, housing diplomatic and intelligence
personnel. Among their assignments was a high-priority
inter-agency program to locate shoulder-fired missiles and other
weapons loosed by Libya's 2011 revolution. That program is
coordinated by the State Department's Bureau of
The compound also housed a seven-man U.S. "quick-reaction
security team" that went to the temporary consulate after
Stevens and others came under attack there, according to
testimony on Wednesday.
The two sites were about 1.2 miles (about two km) apart.
Several U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said the second compound, which contained several buildings,
including residential quarters for U.S. personnel, was far
better defended than the temporary consulate where Stevens and
IT specialist Sean Smith died.
After the consulate was overrun in an attack that began at
9:40 pm local time, U.S. and Libyan personnel retreated by car
to the second site, where they fought off not one, but two, more
waves of assaults, officials said.
Charlene Lamb, a top official in the State Department's
Bureau of Diplomatic Security, told lawmakers that shortly after
those retreating from the temporary consulate arrived at the
second site, "the annex itself began taking intermittent fire
for a period of time."
In the early morning of Sept. 12, after a backup U.S.
security team arrived from Tripoli and went to the second site,
"the annex started taking mortar fire, with as many as three
direct hits on the compound," Lamb said.
Defenses at the second site largely held and unlike the
temporary consulate, its grounds were not overrun. However, two
U.S. security officials, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were
killed there in what U.S. officials described as an unlucky
mortar strike. The rest of the contingent eventually escaped to
The assertions that the second site had relatively
sophisticated defensive measures could raise additional
questions about why the nearby consulate was not further
reinforced given the volatile security environment in Benghazi.
Rex Ubben, whose son David was badly wounded in the attack
on the second site and is being treated at Walter Reed National
Military Medical Center, said his son had described an intense,
sophisticated attack there.
The mortar fire's accuracy "indicates to me that someone was
either very, very good, highly trained and skilled, or that the
mortar was already set up and pointed at the 'safe house' and
only minor adjustments were needed," Ubben, a 24-year Air Force
veteran, told Reuters by email last week, relaying his son's
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top U.S.
officials have defended security measures in place at the
temporary consulate, although those claims came under harsh
attack by committee Republicans on Wednesday.
Officials investigating the attacks say there is evidence
the State Department wanted to maintain a low security profile
at the temporary consulate - which was the public face of the
U.S. presence in the city - to project an appearance of
normality in U.S. dealings with Libya.
Because Benghazi was regarded as lawless and violent, with a
heavy presence of Islamic militants, the second compound's
security measures included cameras and sensors and its security
force included well-trained Americans like Doherty and Woods,
the two former Navy SEALs who died in the mortar attack, the