An independent investigation of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi has confirmed the obvious — “grossly” inadequate security and reliance on local militias left U.S. diplomats and other personnel vulnerable. The review of the assault that killed Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans faulted systemic failures of leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department.
The investigation was conducted by the Accountability Review Board, under the direction of former ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen also served on the panel.
In another key (but hardly) surprising finding, the panel confirmed that State Department officials in Washington ignored requests from the U.S. Embassy for additional guards and better security for the Benghazi compound. It also said that there had been worrisome incidents in the weeks before the attack that should have led to increased security.
The report also confirmed that, contrary to initial reports by the Obama administration, there was no protest outside the outpost ahead of the attack, and that the assault on the diplomatic compound and the CIA annex was carried out by terrorists. The panel didn’t say what caused the Obama administration to claim that there were protests or to wait so long before admitting that this was terrorism, plain and simple.
The report said that State Department security personnel on the scene and CIA officers at the nearby annex responded in a timely and appropriate manner. It also absolved the U.S. military of any blame, saying there was not enough time for a military response that would have made any difference.
Some may question this finding, and it certainly shouldn’t be accepted on faith. However, it’s one thing to speculate (as I have) after the fact about what might have been done differently to salvage the situation. It’s another to show that, realistically, there was feasible action that would likely have altered the outcome.
Despite its finding of gross inadequacy and systemic leadership failure, the report does not recommend that anyone be fired or, from what I can tell, seriously disciplined. That strikes me as odd. Where is the accountability?
Speaking of accountability, Hillary Clinton has already “taken responsibility” for the failures that the panel has confirmed. Therefore, she should be held accountable. In the moments of truth, her Department failed massively and, according to the panel, systemically, and Americans were killed as a result. Failures of leadership and management at senior levels are, as Clinton has acknowledged, the responsibility of the Department’s top manager, the Secretary of State.
In a properly functioning society, this report would signal the end of Clinton’s chances of becoming president. The Peter Principle isn’t supposed to apply when it comes to the highest office in the land. But then, in a properly functioning society, Clinton’s successfor would not be the wannabe statesman who concluded that Bashar al-Assad was the answer to our prayers for peace and harmony in the Middle East.
SCOTT adds: A copy of the report is posted online here.
PAUL adds: Given Recommendation 23 on page 12 of the report, it seems that the ARB wanted to recommend disciplinary action, but couldn’t. Probably, the ARB’s hands were tied by the charter given to it.