We Now Know Whom to Blame for Benghazi

The U.S. consulate in Benghazi was destroyed in Sept. 2012. The U.S. consulate in Benghazi was destroyed in Sept. 2012. Mohammad Hannon/AP file photo

The enduring question of blame surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans in 2012 has finally been answered, at least according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released Wednesday.

The report found that the State Department failed to increase security at the U.S. diplomatic compound, despite warnings of deteriorating safety measures in the area. The report also blamed intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, for not sharing information with the U.S. military command in the area, which itself lacked the resources required to defend the consulate during an emergency.

These shortfalls, which created a risky environment at the consulate, led the committee to determine that the attacks were "likely preventable."

"In spite of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and ample strategic warnings, the United States government simply did not do enough to prevent these attacks and ensure the safety of those serving in Benghazi," said Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Here are the report's key findings.

  • Although the intelligence community has identified several people responsible for the siege in Libya, the terrorists who carried out the attack have not been arrested or charged. The FBI investigation in Libya is ongoing, and 15 people who cooperated with agents have since been killed.
  • There were no U.S. military resources at the consulate to intervene and help defend it immediately after it was attacked.
  • In the months before the attacks, the intelligence community received numerous reports about the crumbling security situation near Benghazi, indicating that the American facilities there were at risk.
  • Based on those reports, the State Department should have upped security around the consulate, especially after two attacks against Westerners in the area in April and June of 2012.
  • After the attacks, intelligence reports inaccurately reported that a protest conducted near the consulate earlier that day played a role in the attack, but there was not enough intelligence or eyewitness reports to corroborate that allegation. The intelligence community stuck with this assertion long after the attacks, confusing both policymakers and the public.

The report offers no kind words for the White House and its "lack of cooperation." It reads, "Important questions remain unanswered as a direct result of the Obama administration's failure to provide the committee with access to necessary documents and witnesses."

The FBI, too, has not been forthcoming, the committee reports. "We have also learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has developed significant information about the attacks and the suspected attackers that is not being shared with Congress, even where doing so would not in any way impact an ongoing investigation."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement that she hopes the report "will put to rest many of the conspiracy theories and political accusations about what happened in Benghazi." With many questions apparently still left unanswered, a significant lull in the Benghazi debate seems unlikely.

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