WASHINGTON – An independent panel charged with investigating the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans has concluded that systematic management and leadership failures at the State Department led to “grossly” inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi.
“Systematic 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,” the panel said.
The report singled out the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs for criticism, saying there appeared to be a lack of cooperation and confusion over protection at the mission in Benghazi, a city in Eastern Libya that was relatively lawless after the revolution that toppled Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
Despite those failures, the Accountability Review Board determined that no individual officials ignored or violated their duties and recommended no disciplinary action now.
The report appeared to break little new ground about the timeline of the Benghazi attack during which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – who were contractors working for the CIA – were killed.
But it confirmed that contrary to initial accounts, there was no protest outside the consulate and said responsibility for the incident rested entirely with the terrorists who attacked the mission. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, administration officials linked the attack to the spreading protests over an American-made, anti-Islamic film that had begun in Cairo earlier that day.
The review board determined that there had been no immediate, specific tactical warning of a potential attack on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. However, the report said there had been several worrisome incidents in the run-up to the attack that should have set off warning bells.
The State Department sent a classified version of the report to lawmakers on Tuesday and shortly thereafter released an unclassified version. The report made 29 recommendations to improve embassy security, particularly at high-threat posts. In an accompanying letter to Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton thanked the board for its “clear-eyed, serious look at serious systemic challenges” and said she accepted all the recommendations.
Clinton said the department had already begun to implement some of the recommendations. They include increasing by several hundred the number of Marine guards stationed at diplomatic missions, relying less on local security forces for protection at embassies, consulates and other offices, and increasing hiring and deployment of highly trained Diplomatic Security agents at at-risk posts.