An Accountability Review Board report convened by Secretary of State Clinton gave a damning portrait of the mishandled security posture in Benghazi, though the Board said no one in the administration had “willfully ignored his or her responsibilities.” Declassified portions of the report were released late Tuesday night. Deputy Secretaries of State William Burns and Thomas Nides will appear on Capitol Hill Thursday to testify on the attacks in place of Clinton, who suffered a concussion last week.
1. “Systematic failures” and “management deficiencies at senior levels” resulted in inadequate security
“Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”) resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place. Security in Benghazi was not recognized and implemented as a “shared responsibility” by the bureaus in Washington charged with supporting the post, resulting in stove-piped discussions and decisions on policy and security. That said, Embassy Tripoli did not demonstrate strong and sustained advocacy with Washington for increased security for Special Mission Benghazi.”
2. There was no protest prior to the attacks on the consulate; responsibility lies with “terrorists”
“The attacks were security related, involving arson, small arms and machine gun fire, and the use of RPGs, grenades, and mortars against U.S. personnel at two separate facilities — the SMC and the Annex — and en route between them. Responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.”
3. Intelligence provided no “warning” of the attacks, but there was an awareness of “the persistent, general threat” to Libya
“The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist…There were U.S. assessments that provided situational awareness on the persistent, general threat to U.S. and Western interests in eastern Libya, including Benghazi.”
4. Security systems “fell short”; personnel “did their best with what they had, which, in the end was not enough”
“Notwithstanding the proper implementation of security systems and procedures and remarkable heroism shown by American personnel, those systems themselves and the Libyan response fell short in the face of a series of attacks that began with the sudden penetration of the Special Mission compound by dozens of armed attackers. In short, Americans in Benghazi and their Tripoli colleagues did their best with what they had, which, in the end, was not enough to prevent the loss of lives of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.”
5. Reliance on Libyan forces for security “in the event of an attack was misplaced”
“[D]ependence on the armed but poorly skilled Libyan February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade (February 17) militia members and unarmed, locally contracted Blue Mountain Libya (BML) guards for security support was misplaced… The Board determined that reliance on February 17 for security in the event of an attack was misplaced, even though February 17 had been considered to have responded satisfactorily to previous, albeit less threatening, incidents.”
6. “Not enough time given the speed of the attacks” for armed military assets to have “made a difference”
“The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference. Senior-level interagency discussions were underway soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks and continued through the night. The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.”
7. No single individual in U.S. government “willfully ignored his or her responsibilities”
“[T]he Board did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action facilities — the Special Mission compound (SMC) and the Annex.”
8. Response from the Libyan government found to be “profoundly lacking,” reflecting their control in Benghazi
“The Board found the Libyan government’s response to be profoundly lacking on the night of the attacks, reflecting both weak capacity and near absence of central government influence and control in Benghazi. The Libyan government did facilitate assistance from a quasi-governmental militia that supported the evacuation of U.S. government personnel to Benghazi airport. The Libyan government also provided a military C-130 aircraft which was used to evacuate remaining U.S. personnel and the bodies of the deceased from Benghazi to Tripoli on September 12.”
9. Congress must “provide necessary resources” to the State Department
“The solution requires a more serious and sustained commitment from Congress to support State Department needs, which, in total, constitute a small percentage both of the full national budget and that spent for national security. One overall conclusion in this report is that Congress must do its part to meet this challenge and provide necessary resources to the State Department to address security risks and meet mission imperatives.”
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