WASHINGTON — The deadly 2012 assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was caused by the failure of the
The panel's findings, contained in a declassified 78-page report released Wednesday, criticize the State Department for failing to increase security at the isolated, undermanned compound. That failure came despite "hundreds" of intelligence reports in the months before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack warning that militias and terrorist groups were seeking to strike U.S. facilities and personnel.
Intelligence agencies, meanwhile, failed to provide specific warnings that might have enabled the U.S. to head off the assault despite ample knowledge about the growing dangers, including alerts that had led the CIA to beef up security at its Benghazi base near the diplomatic compound, the report concludes.
"It is imperative that the intelligence community position itself to anticipate, rather than just react to, potential terrorism hot spots ... and that U.S. personnel and facilities overseas are equipped to immediately defend against and withstand any potential attack," the report says.
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J.
The report debunks several often-repeated assertions about the attack, including that it erupted spontaneously after protests outside the gates and that the
But political accusations followed quickly after the report's release.
Democrats contend that the GOP has sought to keep alive the controversy to damage the White House and the potential presidential campaign of
Feinstein and six other Democrats on the panel, joined by Sen.
There were "no efforts by the White House or any other executive branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes," Feinstein and the others said.
In a scathing separate conclusion, six Republicans on the panel said the report showed that "Americans serving in Libya were vulnerable; the State Department knew they were vulnerable; and no one in the administration really did anything about it."
Since the attack, no senior officials at the State Department have been fired or disciplined and none of the attackers in Libya have been taken into custody, even though one of them, Ahmed abu Khattala "continued to live freely in Libya while giving taunting interviews to major media outlets," the lawmakers said.
White House Press Secretary
The report provides considerable detail about the often-conflicting security moves made by the embassy in Tripoli, Libya's capital, and by State Department officials in Washington.
A month before the attack, the department decided against extending the mission of a
Yet during the same period, Stevens and other embassy officials also sent several messages to Washington warning that conditions in Benghazi were worsening and asking for additional security, the committee found.
No "significant actions were taken," the report says. It does not provide any new insight on whether those requests reached Clinton's desk, which she has denied.
Within hours of the initial attack, then-Defense Secretary
The report makes 18 recommendations to improve security at diplomatic and intelligence posts overseas, including a call for the State Department to react more quickly to security threats and only in rare instances to use facilities that are inadequately protected. It also says the intelligence community should expand its mining of social media to watch for unrest and draw more heavily on eyewitness reporting, "especially from U.S. government personnel in the aftermath of a crisis."