Internal Benghazi Report Details State Department Security Flaws

Abby Ohlheiser, The Atlantic Wire
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Abby Ohlheiser, The Atlantic Wire
Sept. 4, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

So, re­mem­ber the (small) part of the Benghazi con­spir­acy the­ory where “they” ig­nored re­peated warn­ings of se­cur­ity fail­ures at the high-risk fa­cil­ity in Libya? Well, it turns out that, ac­cord­ing to an in­tern­al gov­ern­ment re­port, the State De­part­ment failed to ad­dress a series of se­cur­ity is­sues at Amer­ica’s most vul­ner­able em­bassies for dec­ades. But con­ser­vat­ive Benghazi the­or­ists who’d like to take the ma­jor scoop and run with it will face some cog­nit­ive dis­son­ance: the doc­u­ments were ob­tained by Al Jaz­eera Amer­ica.

The re­port is a res­ult of a re­com­mend­a­tion by the State De­part­ment’s Ac­count­ab­il­ity Re­view Board in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the Benghazi at­tacks. That re­port also found se­cur­ity fail­ures by the State De­part­ment in the case of Benghazi. The in­tern­al pan­el, whose re­port is cited by Al Jaz­eera Amer­ica, was chaired by former U.S. Secret Ser­vice Dir­ect­or Mark Sul­li­van. That re­port, which men­tions 273 “sig­ni­fic­ant at­tacks” on U.S. dip­lo­mat­ic fa­cil­it­ies between 1998 and 2012, con­cluded:

— The State De­part­ment has an en­dem­ic lack of ac­count­ab­il­ity on se­cur­ity is­sues. AJA ex­plains:

the un­der­sec­ret­ary for man­age­ment over­sees se­cur­ity is­sues while also hand­ling many oth­er re­spons­ib­il­it­ies. A newly cre­ated un­der­sec­ret­ary for dip­lo­mat­ic se­cur­ity would al­low the State De­part­ment to bet­ter fo­cus on se­cur­ity is­sues af­fect­ing dip­lo­mat­ic posts around the world.

— There’s a ser­i­ous lack of re­view pro­cesses for the bur­eau re­spons­ible for em­bassy se­cur­ity:

The Bur­eau of Dip­lo­mat­ic Se­cur­ity, the State De­part­ment se­cur­ity arm cre­ated fol­low­ing the 1983 bomb­ings of the U.S. Em­bassy and Mar­ine bar­racks in Beirut, does not have a re­view pro­cess in place to learn from pre­vi­ous se­cur­ity fail­ures.

— The sur­viv­ors of Benghazi were nev­er de­briefed.

— Risk as­sess­ments of em­bassies and con­su­lates in dan­ger­ous areas are de­term­ined by “ex­per­i­ence and in­tu­ition.” At least some high-risk fa­cil­it­ies lack an in­tel­li­gence ana­lyst on-site, and there’s no des­ig­nated fa­cil­ity to train agents en­ter­ing high-risk posts.

Al Jaz­eera, cit­ing the re­port, calls the se­cur­ity at the Benghazi fa­cil­ity “por­ous” at best. So why did it stay open? They ex­plain:

State De­part­ment of­fi­cials ef­fect­ively waived the se­cur­ity re­quire­ments. For years, the State De­part­ment has fostered a cul­ture of waiv­ing such re­quire­ments when of­fi­cials choose not to meet them. “Waivers for not meet­ing se­cur­ity stand­ards have be­come com­mon­place in the De­part­ment; however, without a risk man­age­ment pro­cess to identi­fy and im­ple­ment al­tern­ate mit­ig­at­ing meas­ures after a waiver has been giv­en, De­part­ment em­ploy­ees, par­tic­u­larly those in high threat areas, could be ex­posed to an un­ac­cept­able level of risk,” Sul­li­van’s pan­el wrote.

The res­ults in­dic­ate that the find­ings of the Benghazi agency ap­ply broadly, and go back far. Mean­while, Benghazi en­thu­si­asts are still fo­cus­ing on what ac­tu­ally in­terests them about the at­tack: how much of the tragedy they can blame per­son­ally on Pres­id­ent Obama and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from the At­lantic Wire. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

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