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
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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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