The Corner

State Department Report: ‘Systemic Failures’ in Security at Benghazi

This evening the State Department’s independent review board released its assessment of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. In short, the report concludes that few or no specific errors were made in the handling of the events at the diplomatic post, but that the tragedy reflected “systemic failures and management deficiencies” in the security provided to the Americans present. Among the key findings of the report:

Systemic 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.

Many have questioned whether requests for extra security in the weeks prior to the attack were properly heeded, and the committee concluded as follows:

Overall, the number of Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) security staff in Benghazi on the day of the attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it was inadequate, despite repeated requests from Special Mission Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing.

Board members found a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests, especially those relating to staffing.The insufficient Special Mission security platform was at variance with the appropriate Overseas Security Policy Board (OSPB) standards with respect to perimeter and interior security.  Benghazi was also severely under-resourced with regard to certain needed security equipment, although DS funded and installed in 2012 a number of physical security upgrades. . . .

In the weeks and months leading up to the attacks, the response from post, Embassy Tripoli, and Washington to a deteriorating security situation was inadequate. At the same time, the SMC’s dependence on the armed but poorly skilled Libyan February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade (February 17) militia members and unarmed, locally contracted Blue Mountain Libya (BML) guards for security support was misplaced.

Despite this, “Embassy Tripoli leadership, saddled with their own staffing and security challenges, did not single out a special need for increased security for Benghazi.”

However, the report finds no unheeded warnings for the attacks themselves:

The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.  Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.

Notably, despite some statements the administration made, the report concludes that the YouTube video for which the administration expressed such profuse sorrow had nothing to do with the tragedy in Benghazi: “The Board concluded that no protest took place before the Special Mission and Annex attacks.”

Regarding the real-time response mounted to the ongoing attacks, the committee found no fault or negligence:

The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference. Senior-level interagency discussions were underway soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks and continued through the night.  The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.  

Quite the contrary:  the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response and helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans. In addition, at the State Department’s request, the Department of Defense also provided a Marine FAST (Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team) as additional security support for Embassy Tripoli on September 12.

Secretary Clinton was expected to testify this week after the release of the report, but medical issues have prevented her from doing so.

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


The Latest