A new report from a House Republican committee largely blames the White House and the State Department for overlooking the threats to U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya ahead of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack there. The findings are similar to the conclusions laid out in multiple other assessments of the attack, which left four Americans dead.
The report, produced by the Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, concluded that White House officials “failed to comprehend or ignored the dramatically deteriorating security situation in Libya” in anticipation of the Sept. 11, 2001 anniversary.
“This tumult was obvious in the city of Benghazi. In the eighteen months before September 2012, there were nearly twenty violent incidents targeting U.S. or western interests there,” the report says. “If this public information was insufficient to cause grave concern to policy makers, those privy to classified intelligence evaluations should have been even more alarmed.”
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The report seems to give a pass to the Defense Department, saying that U.S. personnel in Benghazi were “woefully vulnerable” in September 2012 in part because the White House did not direct a change in military force posture.
Yet it notes, “Although the administration did not mandate any broader defense changes, the Department of Defense, apparently on its own initiative, instituted procedures meant to safeguard personnel at their duty stations outside the United States.”
Lawmakers also blame the State Department for favoring a reduction in Defense Department security personnel before the attack.
They also conclude that the Defense Department believed nearly from the outside of the violence in Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack rather than a protest. However, they say, the military response was degraded in part because of a lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding. “Given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation,” the report says.
The report was issued after committee staff reviewed thousands of pages of written material such as classified emails and situation reports, held three classified briefings and held two classified interviews. Members of the committee also had two open hearings and seven classified briefings.