The Overseas Security Advisory Council is part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security under the U.S. Department of State. The mission of the council is "to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide (Private Sector) and the U.S. Department of State." Part of its function is to issue Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, Emergency Messages to U.S. Citizens, and the like. On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, the following Emergency Message (first paragraph only) was posted by the OSAC:
Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: Cairo (Egypt), Demonstrations
Near East > Egypt > Cairo
Several different groups are calling for demonstrations in both downtown and Garden City this afternoon to protest a range of issues. These groups may gather in front of the U.S. Embassy, or Egyptian government buildings such as the People’s Assembly and Ministry of Interior, beginning in the early afternoon and continuing into the evening. It is unclear if large numbers will take to the streets, but clashes may occur should two opposing groups come into contact with one another. Large gatherings and non-essential travel in and around Downtown and Garden City should be avoided this afternoon.It is identical to the notice issued the same day by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, probably some time in the morning or around noon based on the reference to "beginning in the early afternoon" in the message. This appears to be the first inkling that anything dangerous was developing. I can find no other references on the OSAC website or the State Department website or any other government website for that matter warning about possible problems on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S. On the contrary, the OSAC issued this report* on Wednesday, September 6, 2012:
Terrorism and Important Dates
OSAC currently has no credible information to suggest that al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist group is plotting any kind of attack overseas to coincide with the upcoming anniversary of September 11. However, constituents often have concerns around important dates, holidays, and major events, Often times, these concerns are the result of increased media attention to the issue, rather than credible evidence of a terrorist plot.This jives with the information given today at a State Department briefing given by unnamed senior administration officials regarding the attack in Libya:
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of how we were postured in terms of security at our mission in Benghazi beyond what I said. So – because we don’t ever talk about the details of those kinds of things.Given that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi had been bombed just three months ago and that terror groups have in the past shown a penchant for commemorating anniversaries of past attacks with fresh ones, it is difficult to understand how the U.S. government was not better prepared for what now appear to be planned events (protest-turned-riot in Egypt, violent assault in Libya.) No doubt multiple investigations are already underway to uncover the truth and once again make sure that the U.S. is alert and on guard when we are attacked. After eleven years of repeating "never forget" on 9/11, our collective memory has been painfully refreshed.
What I would say, though, is that we did, as we did in missions around the world, review the security there in the context of preparing for the anniversary of September 11th. And at that point, there was no information and there were no threat streams to indicate that we were insufficiently postured.
*Note: The report has now gone behind the OSAC's subscriber wall. Here's a link to Crisis Consulting International who posted the report along with some commentary. [Update here.]