15 January 2014, US Senate: Intelligence Committee: Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 (PDF)
JAN. 15, 2014
Benghazi Attack Called Avoidable in Senate Report
By MARK MAZZETTI, ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
WASHINGTON -- A stinging report  by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Wednesday concluded that the attack 16 months ago that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented, singling out the State Department for criticism for its failure to bolster security in response to intelligence warnings about a growing security crisis around the city.
The report is broadly consistent with the findings of previous inquiries into the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, but it is the first public examination of a breakdown in communications between the State Department and the C.I.A. during the weeks leading up to the deadly episode at the diplomatic compound where J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador, died.
It is also the first report to implicitly criticize Mr. Stevens, raising questions about his judgment and actions in the weeks before his death. Like previous inquiries, the Senate investigation does not cite any specific intelligence warnings about an impending attack.
The events in Benghazi and their aftermath became the subject of a fiercely partisan debate, with Republicans accusing Obama administration officials of making misleading statements about connections between the attackers and Al Qaeda. In an addendum to the bipartisan report, Republican committee members singled out former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, as bearing ultimate responsibility for lax security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
The report does not break significant new ground on the issue of administration statements about the episode, or on the infamous "talking points" drawn up after the attack for a television appearance by Susan E. Rice, now the national security adviser. But it is unsparing in its criticism of the State Department for failing to provide adequate security to the mission even as violence spiked in Benghazi in June 2012. In contrast, the report said, the C.I.A. quickly bolstered security at its annex about a mile away.
"The committee found the attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya -- to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets -- and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission," the Senate committee said in a statement in releasing the 58-page declassified report.
Together with the conclusions of previous investigations, the new Senate findings are likely to increase pressure on Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management, whose office oversees diplomatic security. Republicans on the committee noted that Mr. Kennedy held a similar job in the prelude to the bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa in 1998 and should be held accountable for the Benghazi tragedy.
On the contentious issue of the role of Al Qaeda or other international terrorist organizations in the attack on the diplomatic mission, the Senate committee's report found that individuals "affiliated with" many such groups had participated in the attack but that none of them appeared to have planned or led the assault.
The report found that among the many terrorist groups with which individual attackers had some affiliation were Ansar al-Shariah, Al Qaeda's North African affiliate, Al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, and the Egyptian network led by Muhammad Jamal. But the report said "intelligence suggests that the attack was not a highly coordinated plot, but was opportunistic."
"It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attacks or whether extremist group leaders directed their members to participate," the report said. "Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video."
The American-made video, which denigrated Islam and was posted on YouTube, set off a number of protests across the Middle East. An investigation published by The New York Times  last month found that anger over the video had played a significant role in precipitating the Benghazi attack.
The report notes that Mr. Stevens was aware of all of the intelligence reporting on Libya, including updates on the increased risks of anti-Western terrorist attacks that had prompted the C.I.A. to substantially upgrade the security at its own Benghazi facility in June 2012
At times Mr. Stevens requested additional security personnel from the State Department in Washington. But the inquiry also found that in June 2012, around the time the threats were mounting, Mr. Stevens recommended hiring and training local Libyan guards to form security teams in Tripoli and Benghazi. The plan showed a faith in local Libyan support that proved misplaced on the night of the attack.
During an Aug. 15, 2012, meeting on the deteriorating security around Benghazi that Mr. Stevens attended, a diplomat stationed there described the situation as "trending negatively," according to a cable sent the next day and quoted in the report. A diplomatic security officer "expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound."
A C.I.A. officer at the meeting pointed out "the location of approximately 10 Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi," according to the same cable.
After reading the cable, Gen. Carter F. Ham, then the commander of the United States Africa Command, called Mr. Stevens to ask if the embassy in Tripoli needed additional military personnel, potentially for use in Benghazi, "but Stevens told Ham it did not," the report said. A short time later, General Ham reiterated the offer at a meeting in Germany, and "Stevens again declined," the report said.
The same Aug. 16 cable had also promised that requests "for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs" for the Benghazi mission would be submitted through the Tripoli embassy, but "the Committee has not seen any evidence that those requests were passed on by the Embassy, including by the Ambassador, to State Department headquarters before the September 11 attacks in Benghazi."
In the months before the attack, the committee found, American intelligence agencies gave ample warning about deteriorating security in Benghazi and the risks to Americans in the city.
The first intelligence report cited by the committee came in June 2012, when the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report about threats to American and Western interests. The next month, a C.I.A. report said "Al Qaeda affiliated groups and associates are exploiting the permissive security environment in Libya to enhance their capabilities."
On Sept. 5, 2012, a week before the attack, the Africa Command issued a warning about a growing threat to Americans "particularly in northeast Libya."
As these warnings mounted, the C.I.A. bolstered its security at the agency's Benghazi facility, known as the Annex, but the State Department did not make similar moves to protect the diplomatic compound.
"In sum," the report concluded, "the Mission facility had a much weaker security posture than the Annex, with a significant disparity in the quality and quantity of equipment and security upgrade."
Communication between various security agencies was so poor, the report said, that the Africa Command did not know about the C.I.A.'s annex.
The White House largely lined up behind the report's findings. "This reinforces what other investigations have found," a White House spokesman, Jay Carney, told reporters on Wednesday.
The State Department has been racing to fulfill 29 recommendations made in December 2012 by an independent review panel as part of its investigation into the attacks. Those include sending dozens of additional diplomatic security agents to high-threat embassies and installing millions of dollars in advanced fire-survival gear.
In response to the Senate inquiry, the State Department issued a status report of the changes recommended by the oversight panel, called the Accountability Review Board. A department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said the report added little new information. "We should have been better then, and we need to get better going forward," Ms. Harf said.
In one of her final appearances as secretary of state last year, Mrs. Clinton took an approach before a Senate committee that essentially was to accept the responsibility for security lapses in Benghazi but not the blame.
A C.I.A. spokesman said the agency cooperated with the Senate investigation and would review its recommendations.
Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo.