We Now Know Who’s to Blame for Benghazi

A Senate intelligence committee report released Wednesday assigns the blame for the confusion surrounding the 2012 terrorist attacks, but questions remain.

A picture taken on Sept. 10, 2013 shows the main gate of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the eve of the anniversary of the 2012 attack.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Jan. 15, 2014, 6:09 a.m.

The en­dur­ing ques­tion of blame sur­round­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Amer­ic­ans in 2012 has fi­nally been answered, at least ac­cord­ing to a Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day.

The re­port found that the State De­part­ment failed to in­crease se­cur­ity at the U.S. dip­lo­mat­ic com­pound, des­pite warn­ings of de­teri­or­at­ing safety meas­ures in the area. The re­port also blamed in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, such as the CIA, for not shar­ing in­form­a­tion with the U.S. mil­it­ary com­mand in the area, which it­self lacked the re­sources re­quired to de­fend the con­su­late dur­ing an emer­gency.

These short­falls, which cre­ated a risky en­vir­on­ment at the con­su­late, led the com­mit­tee to de­term­ine that the at­tacks were “likely pre­vent­able.”

“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 Com­mit­tee Vice Chair­man Saxby Cham­b­liss, R-Ga.

Here are the re­port’s key find­ings.

  • Al­though the in­tel­li­gence com­munity has iden­ti­fied sev­er­al people re­spons­ible for the siege in Libya, the ter­ror­ists who car­ried out the at­tack have not been ar­res­ted or charged. The FBI in­vest­ig­a­tion in Libya is on­go­ing, and 15 people who co­oper­ated with agents have since been killed.
  • There were no U.S. mil­it­ary re­sources at the con­su­late to in­ter­vene and help de­fend it im­me­di­ately after it was at­tacked.
  • In the months be­fore the at­tacks, the in­tel­li­gence com­munity re­ceived nu­mer­ous re­ports about the crum­bling se­cur­ity situ­ation near Benghazi, in­dic­at­ing that the Amer­ic­an fa­cil­it­ies there were at risk.
  • Based on those re­ports, the State De­part­ment should have upped se­cur­ity around the con­su­late, es­pe­cially after two at­tacks against West­ern­ers in the area in April and June of 2012.
  • After the at­tacks, in­tel­li­gence re­ports in­ac­cur­ately re­por­ted that a protest con­duc­ted near the con­su­late earli­er that day played a role in the at­tack, but there was not enough in­tel­li­gence or eye­wit­ness re­ports to cor­rob­or­ate that al­leg­a­tion. The in­tel­li­gence com­munity stuck with this as­ser­tion long after the at­tacks, con­fus­ing both poli­cy­makers and the pub­lic.

The re­port of­fers no kind words for the White House and its “lack of co­oper­a­tion.” “Im­port­ant ques­tions re­main un­answered as a dir­ect res­ult of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fail­ure to provide the Com­mit­tee with ac­cess to ne­ces­sary doc­u­ments and wit­nesses,” it reads.

The FBI, too, has not been forth­com­ing, the com­mit­tee re­ports. “We have also learned that the Fed­er­al Bur­eau of In­vest­ig­a­tion has de­veloped sig­ni­fic­ant in­form­a­tion about the at­tacks and the sus­pec­ted at­tack­ers that is not be­ing shared with Con­gress, even where do­ing so would not in any way im­pact an on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion.”

Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein, D-Cal­if. said in a state­ment that she hopes the re­port “will put to rest many of the con­spir­acy the­or­ies and polit­ic­al ac­cus­a­tions about what happened in Benghazi.” With many ques­tions ap­par­ently still left un­answered, a sig­ni­fic­ant lull in the Benghazi de­bate seems un­likely.

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