Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Benghazi attack was preventable, Senate panel says

Chris Stevens

U.S. envoy Chris Stevens stands in the lobby of the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya on Monday, April 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

WASHINGTON — Both highly critical and bipartisan, a Senate report declared Wednesday that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented. The account spreads blame among the State Department, the military and U.S. intelligence for missing what now seem like obvious warning signs.

For the first time in the much-politicized aftermath, the report also points at Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack. It says that the State Department ended a deal with the military to have a special operations team provide extra security in Libya, and that Stevens twice refused an offer to reinstate the team in the weeks before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.

The military also takes criticism in the report for failing to respond more quickly on the night of the assault.

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S., armed militants stormed the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, setting the building on fire. Stevens, information technology specialist Sean Smith, and CIA security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALs, were killed over the course of two battles that night.

Stevens died of smoke inhalation after he was taken to a “safe room” in the besieged compound. The Obama administration, reluctant to deal publicly with a terror attack weeks before the presidential election, first described the assault as a spontaneous mob protest of an anti-Islamic, American-made video. Such a protest did occur at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier that day.

Officials corrected their description days after the attack, but by then it had become a hot political issue that has continued to dog the administration.

On that issue, the report dives into the contentious initial talking points issued by the intelligence community, which helped fuel Republican allegations of an Obama administration cover-up of militant links to the violence.

“Intelligence analysts inaccurately referred to the presence of a protest at the U.S. mission facility before the attack based on open source information and limited intelligence, but without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to corroborate that assertion,” the report said, adding that U.S. intelligence then took too long to correct the error.

The senators also take the administration to task for failing to bring the attackers to justice more than a year later. They say the U.S. has identified several individuals responsible but can’t capture them because of limited intelligence capabilities in the region and limited cooperation by local governments.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said she hoped the report would put to rest conspiracy theories about the attacks.

Republican Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss said the report showed that despite a deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, the U.S. government did not do enough to prevent the attacks or to protect the diplomatic facility. And Republican committee member Susan Collins of Maine called on the administration to punish those responsible.

“A broken system overseen by senior leadership contributed to the vulnerability of U.S. diplomats … in one of the most dangerous cities in the world,” she said in the report. “And yet the secretary of state has not held anyone responsible for the system’s failings.”

U.S. intelligence ultimately blamed the violence on militants who overran the temporary U.S. mission and, hours later, fired mortars at the nearby CIA annex where the Americans had taken shelter.

The report says the subsequent investigation showed individuals from many militant groups took part in the “opportunistic” attacks, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the Libyan militia group Ansar al-Sharia, and members of the Yemeni-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The report does not name Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and now is a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

The State Department said the report largely reaffirms the findings reached a year ago by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, headed by a former ambassador and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf noted that the Senate report recommended improvements to security that the State Department has already taken, including upgrading security cameras, improving fire equipment and increasing the presence of Marine security guards.

The Senate report notes that the State Department has also created a new assistant secretary position for high-threat posts, but it says the department still needs institutional change to help it react more quickly to security threats. It says State should not rely on local security alone in countries where the host government cannot provide adequate protection and should avoid using diplomatic facilities it knows are inadequately protected.

The report says that the department in 2012 had ignored its own “tripwires” set to determine when it had become too dangerous to operate in Benghazi, and continued to operate the facility there despite a growing number of U.S. intelligence reports showing the danger was rising.

“The security situation in Benghazi is ‘trending negatively’ and … this daily pattern of violence would be the new normal for the foreseeable future,” the head State Department officer in Benghazi was quoted as saying weeks before the attack. While the nearby CIA annex upgraded its security, the temporary mission did not, the report said.

It said Stevens acknowledged the need for more security yet also turned down available U.S. military resources. The report said the Defense Department had provided a Site Security Team in Tripoli, made up of 16 special operations personnel. But the State Department decided not to extend the team’s mission in August 2012, one month before the attack. In the weeks that followed, Gen. Carter Ham, then the head of the military’s Africa Command, twice asked Stevens to employ the team, and twice Stevens declined, the report said.

Stevens had tried to arrange a local Libyan security force to replace the Americans, but the report said the force was never formed because of bureaucratic delays.

Still, the report faults the U.S. military for failing to anticipate it might be called on. It also says there was confusion within the Pentagon as to the location of the CIA annex – and says the regional U.S. commander must know where such facilities are in the future.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the committee report “largely reaffirms” earlier findings and that the security recommendations are consistent with steps the State Department has already taken.

“This reinforces what other investigations have found, which is that there was not enough security to protect the four Americans who lost their lives,” Carney told reporters traveling with Obama Tuesday to North Carolina.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 12 comments

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  • DanielJanuary 16, 2014 - 5:55 am

    Let's see if the "non scandal" YouTube video CD shows up here.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJanuary 16, 2014 - 6:35 am

    Sorry Daniel, nothing new. Move along youngster. Does your mom know you're down there playing with the computer?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895January 16, 2014 - 8:11 am

    No scandal, but confirmation of errors that needed to be addressed. They have been addressed. If they hadn't without good reason, THAT would be a scandal. There is nothing new here except, sadly, pointing the finger at Ambassador Stevens. If anyone at the State Department needed to be held to account, it would have been him. Imagine if he was safe in Tripoli that night and four other Americans died. What would have happened to him? It's moot now.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FDCJanuary 16, 2014 - 9:00 am

    Well, two of the Three Little Prigs have chimed in absolving Obama and his toadies from any responsibility whatsoever regarding the Benghazi disaster. Consider this: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the President of the United States knew within minutes of the true nature of the attack while it was underway. The President then went to bed, woke up next morning, sent Susan Rice out to all the major networks to utter a totally false narrative regarding the disaster, fired the general and the admiral who wanted to send help to Benghazi, and then he flew at government expense to Las Vegas for a fund raiser. I guess that sort of leadership is just dandy for CD and Ricky. Where is our great Republic headed?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • G-ManJanuary 16, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    Preventable,unlike obama's presidency..some solace for the dead men's families..as for Hillary well she was never deposed or questioned under oath..and WHAT difference does it make anyway?..Nobody is moving on especially the ones who lost so much thanks to a hapless incompetent government.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • AgitpropslayerJanuary 16, 2014 - 4:20 pm

    FDC, "Where is our great Republic headed?" To greater life and freedoms than ever. The Democratic rule will take hold and the entire House will be America's house! Life will not be wasted on evil embarrassing and threatening hogwash and our future will be SO bright! I cannot wait until the midterm elections in November! I can't wait! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halle-lu-u-u-u-jah!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FDCJanuary 16, 2014 - 7:18 pm

    Good old CD decided to hide behind a new name but the same old warped outlook survives in him. Right on, Komrade CD, when you and your ilk finally manage to totally suspend the Constitution you will stomp out those citizens who dare challenge the Democrat machine. Yes, CD, you call it the "Democratic" rule, the rest of us call it the Democrat tyranny where all opposition will be snuffed out. (By the way, we live in a democratic republic, not a democracy.) But I digress; you failed utterly to answer any of the facts I laid on you. Let us pray that you are wrong else we will descend into a new Dark Age. Enough of this.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • G-ManJanuary 16, 2014 - 10:48 pm

    FDC...pardon the cut in but you're lashing a dead Liberal in trying to make sense to CD...the guy is like the giant Leeches of Vanu Atu...virtually indestructible..with each of it's legs a poisonous barb..btw we may live in a Democratic Republic but we were founded as a Constitutional Republic...And since Liberals by an extensive 5yr poll by Quinnipiac make up only 23% of us (it's up though from 18% 4yrs ago) Conservatives and Moderates are still a formidable force

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895January 16, 2014 - 10:30 pm

    Your failure to comprehend is not my problem.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • test..January 16, 2014 - 8:44 pm

    not posting again?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895January 16, 2014 - 10:31 pm

    We're grateful.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-washingtons-counterterrorism-agenda-consists-in-supporting-the-terrorists/5365067January 17, 2014 - 5:40 am

    test

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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