Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - This Sept 13, 2012 file photo shows a Libyan man investigating the inside of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the deadly assault on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Wednesday, laying blame on the State Department, the late Ambassador Chris Stevens and the intelligence community for failing to communicate and heed warnings of terrorist activity in the area and protect diplomatic facilities. The highly critical report also says the U.S. military was not positioned to aid the Americans in need, though the head of Africa Command had offered military security teams that Stevens _ who was killed in the attack _ had rejected weeks before the attack. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
State Department, military blamed for Benghazi attack
Senate report » Ambassador Stevens, who died in the assault, twice refused extra security.
First Published Jan 15 2014 08:47 pm • Last Updated Jan 15 2014 09:33 pm

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.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

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 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. Republican critics say the administration was reluctant to deal publicly with a terror attack weeks before the presidential election.

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.


story continues below
story continues below

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.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.