Case Study Pin

Benghazi: Ill-Prepared Security Personnel Fail to Protect the US Mission Under Attack

Blue Mountain, a private security company allegedly outside of the typical “circle” of security companies hired by the United States to protect diplomatic interests, was contracted to provide security services for the U.S. mission in Benghazi during the Libyan uprising conflict. On September 11, 2012, militants stormed the compound and set fire to the building, which killed several individuals. It was later discovered that the security personnel were allegedly unprepared and ill-equipped to protect themselves and the mission; the incident was later subject to years of extensive investigations.

Keywords: armed conflict, poor training


The Libyan uprising, which began in February 2011, was an uprising against the decades-long rule of Muammar al-Qaddafi that ultimately led to a civil war within the country. As the conflict started to escalate, U.S. envoy John Stevens, appointed U.S. ambassador to Libya, arrived in Benghazi in an outreach mission to the Libyan rebels.

The United States State Department passed over the large security firms it usually used in overseas areas, and decided to hire Blue Mountain Group, a lesser-known security company, to protect the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Typically, the State department hires security companies through the Worldwide Protective Services contract, in which a number of approved firms compete to protect diplomatic missions. Blue Mountain was not within the eight selected firms for the most recent approved contract at the time.

Blue Mountain hired approximately 20 Libyan men to screen visitors and help patrol the mission. Some of the guards, however, said they had minimal training before working at the mission. Some further reported that they were ill-prepared to protect themselves or others, having allegedly been hired by the security firm after a “casual recruiting and screening process.” The guards were allegedly armed with flashlights and batons, instead of guns. One of the local guards was a former English teacher, with zero prior experience in the security industry.

The Incident

On September 11, 2012, approximately 150 militants associated with an al-Qaeda affiliate stormed the compound and set fire to the building. By the time rescuers arrived, Ambassador Stevens could not be found in the heavy smoke, but was later recovered and pronounced dead. Another State Department employee died during the attack, and four Americans total lost their lives due to the attack.

Legal Aspects

The International Code of Conduct

The International Code of Conduct requires stringent selection and vetting of personnel, assessment of performance and duties (paragraphs 45-49), and training of personnel of the Code and relevant international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law (paragraph 55).

Meeting the requirements of the International Code of Conduct can help private security companies and their clients ensure that private security personnel are qualified, trained, supported, informed, and responsible.

ICoCA has been developing a range of trainings for its member companies and their personnel.


After an investigation, the United States House Benghazi panel said in a report that the security at the United States Mission in Benghazi was “woefully inadequate,” but concluded that the military and state department could not have done anything differently that night to stop the attacks. The panel blamed the inadequate security at the compound on decisions made by mid-level officials at the state department.


How does the reputation of a private security company influence contracting?

What are the special recruiting, vetting, training, and equipment needs for private security personnel in the context of active conflict?

Related Incidents




Case prepared by Madison Zeeman

Descargo de responsabilidad

De acuerdo con la cláusula de exención de responsabilidad de la página de inicio, ni la Asociación del Código de Conducta Internacional ni ninguno de los autores pueden identificarse con las opiniones expresadas en el texto o las fuentes incluidas en «Defender la Seguridad Responsable: El Mapa de Casos del Código Internacional de Conducta».