OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: New Benghazi report blames State, not Pentagon

The report blamed President Obama, not Defense officials, for failing to anticipate the significance of Sept. 11, the date on which the consulate was attacked, as well.

“Defense Department assets were correctly positioned for the general threat across the region, but the assets were not authorized at an alert posture to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense, and were provided no notice to defend diplomatic facilities,” the committees wrote.

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During the attack, the report says that the military response was “hindered on account of U.S. military forces not being properly postured to address the growing threats in northern Africa or to respond to a brief, high-intensity attack on U.S. personnel or interests across much of Africa.”

The report says that reductions in security at the U.S. facility in Benghazi were approved at the highest levels of the State Department, up to and including Clinton. That is at odds with Clinton’s testimony that she did not personally read the cables about the security situation in Benghazi. 

The release of the report comes as there have been renewed calls for the creation of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack, a step Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has resisted.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have also supported creating a select committee.

Inhofe warns on changing military judicial code: The Pentagon is not suffering from "a serious problem" of military commanders overturning sexual assault convictions and should postpone any proposed changes to military law, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Tuesday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has recommended stripping military commanders' ability to overturn convictions of service members on sexual assault or abuse charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

But instances of military commanders reducing or nixing those convictions are relatively low, Inhofe said Tuesday.

"It sounds to me like there is not a serious problem here," Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said during a hearing Tuesday.

Hagel's recommended changes come in the wake of an Air Force sexual assault case from Aviano Air Base, where Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin dismissed a guilty verdict in a post-trial review.

The dismissal sparked a firestorm from lawmakers in both parties and prompted Hagel to review the military’s judicial policies, leading to his proposal.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley defended Franklin on Tuesday, saying the service review of the case found there was nothing “untoward” in Franklin’s conduct and decision to dismiss the guilty verdict.

Donley said he supported the changes Hagel was proposing to the judicial code.

He and other military leaders have said they oppose plans from some lawmakers to go a step further and remove the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the chain of command.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told members of the Senate defense panel Tuesday that a commander's role to enforce military law among troops "is simply essential."

"It's critical to our system. It's essential to the commander's authority," the four-star general said. "The commander needs the ability to punish quickly, locally and visibly, which impacts the overall discipline of the force."

Odierno recommends postwar force: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno called for a force between 8,000 and 9,000 to remain in Afghanistan after all U.S. and allied combat forces withdraw from the country next year.

"My opinion is somewhere around 9,000, 8,000 is probably about the right number," he said during Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Odierno did not say whether that number was a combined American and international force or if his recommendation only covered the U.S. contribution to the postwar force.

Reaction was mixed among Senate panel members to Odierno's postwar troop recommendation.

Panel chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he was not surprised by Odierno's recommendation, but needed more detail on the breakdown of that postwar force and whether that number would be purely U.S. service members.

However, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) panned Odierno's recommendations shortly after the hearing.

"That is not going to be enough," Graham said.

Graham has backed a 13,600-man U.S. force for Afghanistan after 2014, proposed by former Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis earlier this year.

In March, Gen Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, backed Mattis’s recommendation. But Dunford backed off those claims during last week's hearing before the Senate defense panel on Afghanistan.

Charges dismissed in ricin case: The charges against the Elvis impersonator accused last week of sending letters tainted with ricin to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) were dropped on Tuesday.

U.S. attorneys moved to dismiss charges against Paul Kevin Curtis on Tuesday, after they failed to find evidence of the poison at his house.

Tuesday also saw another ricin scare at a Southeast Washington, D.C., Air Force base, which turned out to be a false alarm.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that a letter containing ricin had been sent to Bolling Air Force Base.

Two people had been hospitalized as a precaution, according to the FBI. 


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