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PD Editorial: Analysis of Benghazi leaves gaps

  • Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya after an attack that killed four Americans. (IBRAHIM ALAGURI / Associated Press)

An independent team reviewing the Sept. 11 terrorist assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya has pinpointed the root cause of the events that left four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, dead.

Call it incompetence. More specifically, call it reckless disregard — particularly in Washington — for the emerging dangers in eastern Libya and lax security on the scene.

“Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus ... resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” the report concluded.

The two State Department bureaus faulted for failing to coordinate and plan for adequate security were Diplomatic Security and Near Eastern Affairs.

The 39-page report confirms some facts that have already been established, including that, despite initial reports, there was no public protest preceding the assault on the diplomatic mission and a CIA annex. This was a coordinated attack by armed terrorists who overpowered the compound’s four Libyan guards apparently without much resistance.

“The four (Libyan guards) assigned ... were insufficient and did not have the requisite skills and reliability to provide a reasonable level of security on a 24/7 basis for an eight-acre compound with an extended perimeter wall,” the report concluded.

While the report offers a scathing analysis of security lapses surrounding Stevens and his mission in Libya, but it leaves other questions unanswered. For example, State Department officials have testified, and the report confirms, that there was no specific threat of an attack leading up to the 9/11 assault. But why wasn't the growing evidence of a general threat against diplomats in the region enough of a reason to elevate security?

The report lists a series of attacks in the spring and summer that showed a growing risk. These included an IED explosion that left a large hole in the compound's exterior wall on June 6 and the launching of rocket-propelled grenades at the British ambassador's convoy five days later, an attack that left two security officials injured. The United Kingdom shut down its mission in Benghazi the following day.

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