The mandatory State Department internal inquiry into the deadly Sept. 11 terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, slams bureaucrats for “grossly inadequate” security but says that poor leadership could not be punished under department regulations.
The report blames inadequate security at the mission on “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of State Department headquarters, where officials turned down repeated requests from diplomats on the ground for more security, both at the embassy in Tripoli and in Benghazi.
The failures, at State’s Diplomatic Security and Near Eastern Affairs Bureaus in Washington, left the diplomatic post with security “that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” the report states.
Because the diplomatic compound in Benghazi — a villa and three out-buildings set in a walled garden — was a temporary post which was not expected to be in use for much longer, getting funds and personnel to secure it was “difficult,” leaving responsibility for securing it “to the working-level [officials] in the field, with very limited resources.”
The report, produced by a panel led by retired career diplomat Thomas R. Pickering and known as an Accountability Review Board, also criticized State for relying too much on unreliable local militias for security in Libya; and for being lulled by the absence of specific warnings of an imminent attack, rather than responding to the general security environment, which had been deteriorating for some time in eastern Libya.
The board “found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns” in Benghazi. But the report notes that poor management is “ordinarily … addressed through the performance management system” rather than through discipline.
However, the board adds that “findings of unsatisfactory leadership performance by senior officials” in relation to security “should be a potential basis for discipline recommendations” in the future, and recommends changes to department regulations that would make that possible.
The report does not name any of the officials concerned, but an investigation by House Republicans found that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, responsible for diplomatic security in the region, denied repeated requests for additional security in Libya from security officials on the ground.
In a letter to congressional committees Tuesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she accepted “every one” of the board’s 29 recommendations, several of which remain classified. She also said the State and Defense departments were working to “dispatch hundreds of additional Marine Security Guards to bolster our posts,” and that her department had “already begun to fix” the problems the board identified.
The board, which began work in early October, found that the two waves of attacks, by dozens of heavily armed extremists, “were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.”
The first wave over-ran the compound, and the attackers set the buildings on fire, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and State Department official Sean Smith.
Later that night, extremists also attacked a CIA facility nearby, killing two former SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both of whom were working as security contractors for the CIA.
A copy of the full, classified report was sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, ahead of a closed-door briefing Wednesday for lawmakers by Mr. Pickering, and fellow board member and former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, retired Adm. Michael Mullen.
An unclassified version of the report was posted by the department on its website late Tuesday evening.
Mrs. Clinton had been scheduled to testify herself this week, but canceled her appearance owing to ill health.
Deputy Secretaries of State William J. Burns and Thomas R. Nides will testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Mrs. Clinton’s place on Thursday.
The 65-year-old former first lady fainted at her home last week, as a result of dehydration caused by a stomach virus, according to her spokesman, Philippe Reines at the weekend. She fell and sustained a concussion.
The announcement came after two days last week when officials had appeared to waffle on the question of whether Mrs. Clinton would testify on schedule Thursday. The timing caused some Republicans to question whether the medical advice might be a convenient way for her to avoid tough questioning from GOP critics.
Still, Republican lawmakers have insisted that Mrs. Clinton must testify eventually.
Answering tough questions about the attack “requires a public appearance by the secretary of state herself,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Last Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice withdrew her name from consideration to replace Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state. Mrs. Rice was the official who stuck longest and hardest to the administration’s initial and inaccurate claims that the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam video made in America, rather than a hastily planned assault by al Qaeda supporters and other extremists.
In Tuesday’s report, the Accountability Review Board confirmed that, contrary to initial reports, there was no protest outside the mission and the attack was entirely the work of terrorists.
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Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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