Senate Panel: Deadly Attack on Consulate in Benghazi Was Preventable

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 12:59 PM

 

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The Senate Intelligence Committee said on Wednesday that the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack by militants on U.S. government posts in Benghazi, Libya, was preventable and faulted the State Department for inadequate security precautions.

In the months before the attacks on an American diplomatic post and CIA compound in Libya's second-largest city, U.S. intelligence agencies had issued numerous reports warning that security in eastern Libya was deteriorating and that U.S. personnel and posts in Benghazi were at risk, according to a declassified report issued by the committee.

But the committee said the State Department "failed to increase security enough to address the threat," even though the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi had suffered two earlier, but less damaging, attacks during the previous six months.

Four Americans, including Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed when militants attacked the lightly protected U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a better-fortified CIA base nearby on the night of Sept. 11.

The attack became a political flashpoint in Washington in the run-up to the 2012 election, with Republicans arguing that President Barack Obama tried to play down its significance as he campaigned for a second term.

“Throughout this investigation, the Obama administration was more of a roadblock than a contributor to committee efforts to look into the root cause of these attacks," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.. "This is especially troubling given that no one at the State Department, which has direct responsibility for the safety of U.S. diplomatic posts overseas, has been held accountable.

“Despite many promises of ensuring justice for those behind this attack, that has not happened. This complete absence of accountability is unacceptable, and it is my hope that this administration will finally commit the intelligence, diplomatic and military resources to bring those responsible for these attacks to justice.”

Rubio and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said the panel's report is incomplete.

"This bipartisan report is a step forward in our understanding of these events, but should not by any means be viewed as a final verdict," Burr said. "To the extent this report is incomplete, it is not due to the Committee's unwillingness to investigate, but the State Department's intransigence. It is our obligation and duty to continue to ask probing questions and investigate all details as they continue to come to light - as they invariably will."

The Senate panel said it found no evidence that U.S. spy agencies or the State Department had received specific warnings pinpointing that day for an attack. However, it said the CIA and State Department had both sent "general warning notices to facilities worldwide" about possible attacks on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks on the United States.

"Despite the clearly deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and requests for additional security resources, few significant improvements were made by the State Department" to the diplomatic compound where Stevens died, though the CIA base was better protected, the report said.

The committee said murky intelligence reporting in the immediate aftermath of the attacks led to confused or erroneous public statements by "policymakers" who initially blamed the attack on a protest against a anti-Islamic video produced in the United States that had appeared on the Internet. The committee said U.S. spy agencies "took too long to correct these erroneous reports."

A CIA spokesman said the agency had cooperated with the investigation and will "examine the committee's recommendations pertaining to agency practices and procedures."

A State Department official said, "The Department is focused on preventing another tragedy like this one."

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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