Panel Blames Security Lapses in Benghazi Attack
The State Department was guilty of “systematic failures” in security that made the deadly September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Libya possible, concluded a high-level investigative panel in an examination made public late Tuesday, reports an article from the Los Angeles Times.
According to the article, the panel faulted the department for ignoring requests from U.S. diplomats in Tripoli for security assistance and for relying on ill-prepared local militias and inadequate equipment to protect the mission in Benghazi. It also found that two key bureaus failed to properly coordinate their security planning, and it pointed to a failure in leadership by officials at several levels.
The attacks by Islamist militants killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, setting off a broad reexamination of how the U.S. government protects its thousands of diplomats in dangerous parts of the world, the article says.
The report – likely to represent the government’s lasting judgment on the attacks – says that the assault was the calculated effort of militants, not a “spontaneous” reaction of an outraged crowd.
However, the five-member independent panel said that, despite the lapses, no officials had failed to carry out their duties in a way that required disciplinary action, LA Times reports.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a letter to congressional committees that she has accepted “every one” of the Accountability Review Board’s 29 recommendations, several of which remain classified. To begin fixing the problems, officials plan to reallocate $1.3 billion that was to be spent in Iraq to add hundreds of Marine guards and diplomatic security personnel, and to bolster security infrastructure in dangerous locations.
The Accountability Review Board found shortcomings in the bureaucratic system, in personnel and equipment. The report notes now the Libyan militias that were supposed to protect the compound were not capable of carrying out the assignment. It also deems the mission’s fire-safety equipment and physical protections inadequate, and adds that the security arrangements were weakened by the relative inexperience and rapid turnover of personnel, despite their courage, the article reports.
It also cites “diminished institutional knowledge, continuity and mission capacity.” Security officials assigned to protect Ambassador Stevens were not even aware of the specifics of his plans to travel outside the compound, the article says.
Faith in local militia and contract security personnel was “misplaced,” the report says, noting that some militia members had stopped accompanying the mission vehicles to protest their salary and hours.