State Department made "grievous mistake" over Benghazi: Senate report

Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:24pm EST
 

By Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department made a "grievous mistake" in keeping the U.S. mission in Benghazi open despite inadequate security and increasingly alarming threat assessments in the weeks before a deadly attack by militants, a Senate committee said on Monday.

A report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee on the September 11 attacks on the U.S. mission and a nearby CIA annex, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died, faulted intelligence agencies for not focusing tightly enough on Libyan extremists.

It also faulted the State Department for waiting for specific warnings instead of improving security.

The committee's assessment, "Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi," follows a scathing report by an independent State Department accountability review board that resulted in a top security official resigning and three others at the department being relieved of their duties.

Joseph Lieberman, an independent senator who chairs the committee, said that in thousands of documents it reviewed, there was no indication that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had personally denied a request for extra funding or security for the Benghazi mission. He said key decisions were made by "midlevel managers" who have since been held accountable.

Republican Senator Susan Collins said it was likely that others needed to be held accountable, but that decision was best made by the Secretary of State, who has the best understanding "of how far up the chain of command the request for additional security went."

The attacks and the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens put diplomatic security practices at posts in risky areas under scrutiny and raised questions about whether intelligence on militant activity in the region was adequate.

The Senate report said the lack of specific intelligence of an imminent threat in Benghazi "may reflect a failure" by intelligence agencies to focus closely enough on militant groups with weak or no operational ties to al Qaeda and its affiliates.   Continued...

 
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori