January 16

Security breakdown: Report Calls Benghazi attack ‘preventable’

The Senate Intelligence Committee finds fault with the State Department and intelligence community.

By Adam Goldman and Anne Gearan
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — A long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee report released Wednesday faulted both the State Department and the intelligence community for not preventing attacks on two outposts in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, about 16 months ago.

click image to enlarge

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, burns on Sept. 11, 2012. A long-delayed Senate Intelligence Report reveals that communications gaps contributed to inadequate security.

Reuters

The bipartisan report laid out more than a dozen findings regarding the assaults on a diplomatic compound and a CIA annex in the city. It said the State Department failed to increase security at its mission despite warnings, and blamed intelligence agencies for not sharing information about the existence of the CIA outpost with the U.S. military.

The committee determined that the U.S. military command in Africa didn’t know about the CIA annex and that the Pentagon didn’t have the resources in place to defend the State Department compound in an emergency.

“The attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya – to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets – and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission,” the panel said in a statement.’

The report also noted, chillingly, that the FBI’s investigation into the attacks has been hampered in Libya, and that 15 people “supporting the investigation or otherwise helpful to the United States” have since been killed in Benghazi. The report said it was unclear whether those killings were related to the investigation.

NO COVERUP

The report found no evidence of the kind of political coverup that Republicans have long alleged. Much of it recounted now-familiar facts about deteriorating security conditions in Benghazi in 2012, a year after the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It filled in new details about the relationship between the State Department compound and the CIA annex about a mile away, and described the rising concern among many intelligence specialists about the growing potency of Islamist militants in the city.

“In spite of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and ample strategic warnings, the United States Government simply did not do enough to prevent these attacks and ensure the safety of those serving in Benghazi,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Senate report adds little new information and does not do much to expand to the government’s understanding of the attacks. “We should have been better then, and we need to get better going forward,” Harf said.

The report was based on dozens of committee hearings, briefings and interviews – including with survivors of the attacks – and on thousands of pages of intelligence and State Department materials collected between September 2012 and December 2013.

The document contains only one mention of former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is named by the panel’s Republicans as the official who should ultimately be held responsible for the failures at Benghazi. Even so, the report will likely provide fodder for both Republicans and Democrats as Clinton ponders a possible presidential run in 2016.

The committee described the attacks as opportunistic and said there was no specific advance warning that they were about to be carried out.

The report said that on Sept. 18, 2012, the “FBI and CIA reviewed the closed circuit television video from the Mission facility that showed there were no protests prior to the attacks.”

But it took six more days for intelligence officials to revise their chronology of events and say that “there were no demonstrations or protests” at the diplomatic compound “prior to the attacks.”

The report said it was problematic that the CIA and State Department were not working out of the same facility together in the dangerous Benghazi environment. That meant the CIA and its well-trained contractors, who had served in elite U.S. forces, were not on location at the outpost in the event of a crisis.

(Continued on page 2)

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