- - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The incompetence and irresponsibility at Benghazi turns out to be even worse than everyone in Washington thought it was. A bipartisan Senate intelligence committee finds the murder of the American ambassador and three other Americans was preventable, and the explanations the White House first gave for the debacle were lies.

This is what the Republicans and other conservatives have been saying for months, derided and disputed by defenders of President Obama, and now these are the on-the-record conclusions of the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, made up of equal numbers of Democratic and Republican senators.

The committee said the State Department was warned that it should increase security in the weeks leading up the attack, but did nothing, and the intelligence agencies had crucial information they could have shared, but did not.

“The attacks were preventable,” the committee said, “based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya — to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets — and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. mission.”

There’s no sign that the government takes this as seriously as it should, and as most Americans no doubt do.

The president’s press spokesman, Jay Carney, offered the usual bland platitudes about how hardworking everybody is at the White House — the president has cooperated with seven congressional committees, 13 hearings, 50 staff briefings and submitted 25,000 pages of blah blah, so there’s nothing to see here and everyone move along, please.

At the State Department, a spokesman said the department is “refining procedures for assessing risk and evaluating security measures,” and suggested that maybe the world is just too dangerous for Americans. “Hard decisions must be made when it comes to whether the United States should operate in dangerous overseas locations.”

The Senate report barely mentioned Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, on whose watch the official incompetence and irresponsibility was writ large. Mrs. Clinton will have much to answer for elsewhere, moving forward. The Senate report does not absolve the slain ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, of complicity for not taking responsibility for the deteriorating security of the Benghazi compound in the weeks before the attack.

In a confidential cable to his superiors, filed three days before the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, Stevens pleaded for “understanding” why the Libyan government was not providing effective security for the American diplomats.

The Libyans, he said, were “wary about the imposition of a strong security apparatus so soon after they expunged Colonel Qaddafi’s.” He conceded the presence of “criminals,” “former regime elements” and “Islamist extremists,” but found “no signs of an organized campaign against the West.

What we are going through — and what people here are resolved to get through — is a confluence rather than a conspiracy.”

This is a devastating critique of the State Department mindset under Hillary Clinton, and “at this point,” as the lady wouldn’t say, “it makes a very big difference.”

The incompetence and irresponsibility of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton is what got an ambassador and three other Americans killed, and the terrifying reality is that incompetence and irresponsibility is what could get a lot of the rest of us killed, “moving forward.”

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