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New Senate report faults State Department, widens blame over Benghazi

The Senate Homeland Security Committee released a report Monday faulting the State Department for security failures at the U.S.
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames, September 11, 2012.
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames, September 11, 2012.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee released a report Monday faulting the State Department for security failures at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the deaths of four Americans last September. The report also widened blame to the Department of Defense, the U.S. intelligence community, and the Obama administration.

According to investigative report, titled “Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi,” evidence prior to the September 11 , 2012 attack showed that Benghazi was “increasingly dangerous and unstable, and that a significant attack against American personnel there was becoming much more likely,” but that this information did not lead to increased security at the Benghazi consulate or closing the operation altogether. The report called both of these options “more than justified by the intelligence presented.”

“The system was in fact flashing red in Libya,” Senator Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a press conference Monday. “The tragedy is, however, that the reaction to the flashing red indicators was woefully inadequate.”

Lieberman said that alongside the increasingly dangerous situation in Libya was inadequate security at the compound, stemming from an overreliance on local security, guard companies and militia “whose loyalties were seriously in doubt.” He said that “it was clear to everyone who looked” that Libya did not have the capacity to provide security, typically the host nation’s responsibility. The report also charges the State Department with failing to support repeated requests from its own security personnel in Benghazi for security resources and more personnel.

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, a co-author of the report with Lieberman and the ranking Republican member on the Homeland Security Committee, said that “terrorists essentially walked right into the Benghazi compound unimpeded and set it ablaze, due to extremely poor security in a threat environment.”

Both Senators agreed that the facility in Benghazi should have been closed down until adequate security was provided.

The report also took issue with “inconsistent statements” about the true nature of the attack. While the embassy siege was later shown to be a planned terrorist attack, in the days following the incident administration officials—most notably, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice—characterized the attack as a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim YouTube video.

The report said that while the State Department and the intelligence community recognized the attacks as acts of terror from the start, administration officials were inconsistent in stating that publicly. Lieberman said in a Monday press conference that it is not the responsibility of the intelligence community to draft unclassified talking points for public consumption, especially in the heat of a political campaign. “We recommend they decline to do this in the future” Lieberman said.

The Senate report is the second on Benghazi, following an independent review by the State Department Accountability Review Board that blamed State Department officials for “grossly inadequate protection” at the consulate as a result of management and systemic failures.

The Homeland Security Committee report is the last collaboration between Lieberman and Collins, as Lieberman is set to retire on Wednesday. The report’s release was timed to occur while Lieberman is still serving, despite the fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital Sunday for treatment after a blood clot was discovered in her skull following a recent concussion.

Clinton’s concussion kept her from testifying about Benghazi before Congress earlier this month. Lieberman confirmed on Monday that Clinton will testify as soon as her health allows.  He also noted that the investigation showed “no evidence of direct responsibility” concerning Clinton.