On the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – one year since the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya – American embassies and consulates are operating with increased security that includes an augmented role U.S. Marine security guards play in certain situations, according to the Pentagon.
Defense Department officials did not elaborate on that augmented role, which was referenced in a Sept. 10 press statement that also said the Defense Department has “developed, trained, and sustained, innovative force options both at sea and at U.S. bases in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East” to respond quickly to the needs of the U.S. overseas missions.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reviewed counterterrorism plans developed with the State Department during a meeting with President Obama on Tuesday, the eve of anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York City.
The State Department itself did not issue any alarms or warnings in anticipation of the 9/11 anniversary, spokesman Pooja Jhunjhunwala said. The announcement that State and Defense Department have been working jointly over the past year to beef up security at the overseas missions was released by the Pentagon.
Just last month, citing possible attacks by al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, the U.S. shut down 19 embassies and consulates across the Middle East for about a week starting Aug. 4. President Obama, in a White House press conference in early August, did not mention Benghazi, but reports at the time claimed U.S. officials acknowledged that the attack played a part in the decision to temporarily close the missions.
In 2011, for the 10th anniversary of the attacks, State issued a worldwide alert more than a week in advance to Americans living and traveling overseas, reminding them “of the continued threat posed by al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”
It was on the anniversary of 9/11 last year that terrorists in Libya attacked the American consulate and an annex in Benghazi, killing four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
President Obama acknowledged the Benghazi victims including Stevens in his comments at the Pentagon memorial Wednesday morning.
"We pray for all those who've stepped forward in those years of war, diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi," the president said.
After the attack, Republican members of Congress slammed the State Department for lax security.
Four State Department officials cited for security failures were suspended in December, but just last month Secretary of State John Kerry reinstated them after an internal review found “there was no breach of duty” by the four, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a press conference on Aug. 20.
Benghazi remains a political issue in Washington, where lawmakers critical of the administration continue to invoke it. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, claimed during an interview with the ABC News program “This Week” that Obama was using the crisis in Syria to distract attention from the fact he has not taken action against those who attacked the consulate.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has made it known he wants former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recalled before Congress for additional testimony about because he does not believe she answered all the necessary questions about the U.S.’s failure to respond militarily to the attack.
And in an interview with Fox News on Sept. 9 Paul brought up Benghazi again to hit Obama on his bid to attack Syria.
“This administration won’t even react when Americans are killed in Benghazi,” Paul told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace. “They’ve done absolutely nothing. And so here’s a situation in Syria that doesn’t involve Americans and they want to get involved. To me they’ve got it backwards.”