The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released a report on the deadly 2012 assault on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, blaming the State Department, the intelligence community and even the late Ambassador Chris Stevens for failing to communicate and heed warnings of terrorist activity in the area.
The highly critical report says the U.S. military was not positioned to help the Americans in need, though the head of Africa Command had offered military security teams that Mr. Stevens – who was killed in the compound – had rejected weeks before the attack.
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration over the Benghazi assault, in part because then-UN ambassador Susan Rice initially blamed the violence on mob protests over an anti-Islamic film.
Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups later were blamed. Militants overran the temporary U.S. mission on Sept. 11, 2012, and later that night, when militants fired mortars at the nearby CIA annex where the Americans had taken shelter.
Republicans have said the Obama administration has been covering up what they consider misdeeds before, during and after the attack.
Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein says she hopes the report will put to rest conspiracy theories about the militant attacks that night. Vice-chairman Saxby Chambliss says the report shows that despite a deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, the U.S. government did not do enough to prevent the attacks or to protect the diplomatic facility.
The Senate report notes that the State Department has created a new assistant secretary position for high-threat posts to focus on such dangerous areas, but it says the department should react more quickly to security threats and only in rare instances use facilities that are inadequately protected.
The report also says the State Department should not rely on local security alone in countries where the host government cannot provide adequate protection.
The report notes that the State Department in 2012 continued to operate the Benghazi facility, despite U.S. intelligence reports showing the danger was growing.
The report faults the military for being unable to help when needed. “No U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend” the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, it says.
Yet it points out that Mr. Stevens had rejected additional security. The Defence Department had provided a site security team in Tripoli, made up of 16 special-operations personnel to provide security and other help. The report says the State Department decided not to extend the team’s mission in August, 2012, one month before the attack.
In the weeks that followed, General Carter Ham, the head of Africa Command, twice asked Mr. Stevens to employ the team, and twice Mr. Stevens declined, the report said.
The senators also criticize the Obama administration for failing to bring the attackers to justice more than a year after the Benghazi attacks. It says U.S. intelligence has identified several individuals responsible, but can’t track them down because of limited intelligence capabilities in the region.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said a number of the committee’s security recommendations are consistent with steps the State Department has already taken.