Middle East/North Africa

Senate report faults Pentagon, State Dept. over Benghazi deaths

A new bipartisan report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee faults both the State Department and Pentagon for failing to adequately protect the Americans killed in the deadly September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

The report, titled “Flashing Red,” comes after a critical independent State Department-ordered review, and widens the blame for the assault, which left four Americans dead, to the Pentagon and White House. 

{mosads}The committee found that the State Department failed to appropriately assess and heighten security measures after intelligence showed that Americans stationed in Benghazi could be threatened by terror groups, according to reports from media groups that obtained an advance copy of the findings. The report will be released Monday.

While the committee report acknowledges that there was no specific intelligence pointing to an imminent attack, officials in Washington failed to take “effective steps” to protect the Benghazi facility and the diplomats there. 

The report also blames the Pentagon, finding that the Defense Department (DOD) had failed to place adequate resources in the region to respond “in the event of a crisis.”

“Although DOD attempted to quickly mobilize its resources, it did not have assets or personnel close enough to reach Benghazi in a timely fashion,” the report concludes.

The report is also harshly critical of the administration’s handling of the attack, finding the White House explanation in the days following the assault “inconsistent.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice initially blamed the attack on a spontaneous protest that spun out of control. While Rice later acknowledged that it was a planned terrorist attack, GOP anger over the initial claim led her to withdraw her name from consideration to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during Obama’s second term. 

The White House has said that Rice relied on intelligence “talking points” provided to her and never intended to mislead the public.

The Senate report criticizes intelligence agencies for removing a reference to al Qaeda from the notes provided to public officials and for changing the word “attacks” to “demonstrations.”

The report is likely to intensify congressional scrutiny of the White House’s handling of Benghazi. 

Lawmakers have said they intend to continue their investigation into the deadly attack, and have pressed Clinton to testify on Capitol Hill.

The secretary of State was slated to speak at a hearing earlier this month, but was forced to send two senior aides in her place after suffering a concussion during a fall.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) have both said they expect Clinton to answer their questions.

On Sunday, Clinton was admitted to a hospital in New York after doctors discovered a blot clot stemming from her concussion.

Reports last week said some Republican senators were considering delaying the confirmation of Kerry, who has been nominated for secretary of State, until Clinton testifies.

An independent panel report ordered by Clinton released its findings earlier this month, blaming “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” at “senior levels” for the poor security the night of the attack.

The State Department said that three officials had subsequently resigned. 

In an interview aired Sunday, President Obama said that he expected the department to implement the recommendations of the independent panel to prevent a repeat of Benghazi.

“My message to the State Department has been very simple, and that is we’re going to solve this,” said Obama. “We’re not going to be defensive about it. We’re not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem.”

Tags Hillary Clinton John Kerry
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