Senate report faults State Department in Benghazi attack
A report by the Senate called the State Department's choice to keep a US mission open in Benghazi a mistake. The report also faulted the intelligence community for a lack of specific information surrounding the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya, in which four Americans were killed.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
The State Department's decision to keep the¬†U.S. mission¬†in Benghazi open despite inadequate security and increasingly dangerous threat assessments before it was attacked in September was a "grievous mistake," a¬†Senate¬†report said on Monday.
The¬†Senate Homeland Security Committee's report about the Sept. 11 attacks on the¬†U.S. mission¬†and a nearby annex, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to¬†Libya, faulted intelligence agencies for not having enough focus on Libyan extremists. It also faulted the State Department for waiting for specific warnings instead of acting on security.
The assessment follows a scathing report by an independent State Department accountability review board that resulted in a top security official and three others at the department stepping down.
The attack, in which U.S. Ambassador¬†Christopher Stevens¬†died, has put diplomatic security practices at posts in insecure areas under scrutiny and raised questions about whether intelligence on terrorism in the region was adequate.
The¬†Senate¬†report said the lack of specific intelligence of an imminent threat in Benghazi "may reflect a failure" in the intelligence community's focus on terrorist groups that have weak or no operational ties to al Qaeda and its affiliates.
"With¬†Osama bin Laden¬†dead and core al Qaeda weakened, a new collection of violent Islamist extremist organizations and cells have emerged in the last two to three years," the report said. That trend has been seen in the "Arab Spring" countries undergoing political transition or military conflict, it said.
The report recommended that¬†U.S. intelligence¬†agencies "broaden and deepen their focus in¬†Libya¬†and beyond, on nascent violent Islamist extremist groups in the region that lack strong operational ties to core al Qaeda or its main affiliate groups."
The¬†Senate committee¬†report said the State Department should not have waited for specific warnings before acting on improving security in Benghazi.
It also said that it was widely known that the post-revolution¬†Libyan government¬†was "incapable of performing its duty to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel," but the State Department failed to take adequate steps to fill the security gap.
"Despite the inability of the¬†Libyan government¬†to fulfill its duties to secure the facility, the increasingly dangerous threat assessments, and a particularly vulnerable facility, the¬†Department of State¬†officials did not conclude the facility in Benghazi should be closed or temporarily shut down," the report said. "That was a grievous mistake."
Editing by Warren Strobel and David Brunnstrom