Beng­hazi panel faults State De­part­ment

Lack of se­cu­rity blamed on lead­er­ship, but no penalty rec­om­mended.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tin­ued from A Am­bas­sador Su­san Rice linked at­tack to anti-is­lam film.

By Kim­berly Dozier and Matthew Lee WASHINGTON — An in­de­pen­dent panel charged with in­ves­ti­gat­ing the deadly Sept. 11 at­tack in Libya that killed a U.S. am­bas­sador and three other Amer­i­cans has con­cluded that sys­tem­atic man­age­ment and lead­er­ship fail­ures at the State De­part­ment led to “grossly” in­ad­e­quate se­cu­rity at the mis­sion in Beng­hazi.

“Sys­tem­atic fail­ures and lead­er­ship and man­age­ment de­fi­cien­cies at se­nior lev­els within two bu­reaus of the State De­part­ment re­sulted in a Spe­cial Mis­sion se­cu­rity pos­ture that was in­ad­e­quate for Beng­hazi and grossly in­ad­e­quate to deal with the at­tack that took place,” the panel said.

The report sin­gled out the Bureau of Diplo­matic Se­cu­rity and the Bureau of Near East Af­fairs for crit­i­cism, say­ing

there ap­peared to be a lack of co­op­er­a­tion and con­fu­sion over pro­tec­tion at the mis­sion in Beng­hazi, a city in East­ern Libya that was rel­a­tively lawless af­ter the rev­o­lu­tion that top­pled Libyan strong­man Moam­mar Gad­hafi.

De­spite those fail­ures, the Accountability Re­view Board de­ter­mined that no in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cials ig­nored or vi­o­lated their du­ties and rec­om­mended no dis­ci­plinary ac­tion now. But it also said poor per­for­mance by se­nior man­agers should be grounds for dis­ci­plinary rec­om­men­da­tions in the fu­ture.

The report ap­peared to break lit­tle new ground about the time­line of the Beng­hazi at­tack dur­ing which Libyan Am­bas­sador Chris Stevens, in­for­ma­tion spe­cial­ist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Do­herty and Ty­rone Woods, who were con­trac­tors work­ing for the CIA, were killed. Stevens’ slay­ing was the first of a U.S. am­bas­sador since 1988.

But it con­firmed that con­trary to ini­tial ac­counts, there was no protest out­side the con­sulate and said re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­ci­dent rested en­tirely with the ter­ror­ists who at­tacked the mis­sion.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the at­tack, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials linked the at­tack to the spread­ing protests over an Amer­i­can-made, an­tiIs­lamic film that had be­gun in Cairo ear­lier that day. Those com­ments came af­ter ev­i­dence al­ready pointed to a dis­tinct mil­i­tant at­tack. U.N. Am­bas­sador Su­san Rice ap­peared on numer­ous TV talk shows the Sun­day af­ter the at­tack and used the ad­min­is­tra­tion talk­ing points link­ing it to the film. An en­su­ing brouhaha in the heat of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign even­tu­ally led her to with­draw her name from con­sid­er­a­tion to re­place Hil­lary Clin­ton as sec­re­tary of state in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­ond term.

The re­view board de­ter­mined that there had been no im­me­di­ate, spe­cific tac­ti­cal warn­ing of a po­ten­tial at­tack on the 11th an­niver­sary of Sept. 11, 2001. How­ever, the report said there had been sev­eral wor­ri­some in­ci­dents in the run-up to the at­tack that should have set off warn­ing bells.

While crit­i­ciz­ing State De­part­ment man­age­ment in Washington along with the lo­cal mili­tia force and con­tract guards that the mis­sion de­pended on for pro­tec­tion, the report said U.S. per­son­nel on the ground in Beng­hazi “per­formed with courage and readi­ness to risk their lives to pro­tect their col­leagues in a near-im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion.”

It said the re­sponse by Diplo­matic Se­cu­rity agents on the scene and CIA op­er­a­tives at a nearby com­pound that later came un­der at­tack it­self had been “timely and ap­pro­pri­ate” but ab­solved the mil­i­tary from any blame. “There was sim­ply not enough time for armed U.S. mil­i­tary as­sets to have made a dif­fer­ence.”

The State De­part­ment sent a clas­si­fied ver­sion of the report to law­mak­ers on Tues­day and shortly there­after re­leased an un­clas­si­fied ver­sion. The report made 29 rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove em­bassy se­cu­rity, par­tic­u­larly at high threat posts. In an ac­com­pa­ny­ing let­ter to Congress, Clin­ton thanked the board for its “clear-eyed, se­ri­ous look at se­ri­ous sys­temic chal­lenges” and said she ac­cepted all the rec­om­men­da­tions.

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