The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that the Sept. 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya could have been prevented, according to a bipartisan report on the incident that was declassified Wednesday.
“The committee found the attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya—to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets—and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission,” said a press release issued by the offices of Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the committee’s chairwoman and vice chairman.
The report offers a handful of key findings about the attack that left four Americans dead, including the conclusion that intelligence analysts inaccurately cited the presence of a protest at the diplomatic facility without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to confirm that, which influenced the public statements of U.S. officials. It also says that the State Department failed to sufficiently increase security to protect the mission in light of deteriorating conditions in the region, and there were no U.S. military assets that could have responded in time to save the four Americans killed during the attack.
The lawmakers recommend that the State Department take further steps to assess and respond to security threats, and work more closely with the intelligence community to understand those threats. They also recommend that the intelligence community learn to better use open-source information like social media used by extremists to conduct analysis, but also that analysts demand more eyewitness reporting in the wake of a crisis. To prevent the kind of confusion that led to U.S. officials’ talking points after the attacks, the report recommends that the intelligence community provide Congress merely with a list of unclassified facts and let members of Congress provide additional context.
Finally, the report says, the U.S. government must bring the attackers to justice in spite of the Libyan government’s inability or unwillingness to help.
“I hope this report will put to rest many of the conspiracy theories and political accusations about what happened in Benghazi. I strongly believe we should focus on what really matters: honoring the four Americans who were killed, bringing the attackers to justice, ensuring accurate and actionable warnings of future terrorist attacks and making sure that all U.S. facilities personnel overseas have adequate security and protection,” said Feinstein, in reference to the politically-charged debate around the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks since they occurred a year and a half ago.
Chambliss also praised the report for providing answers to the American people about the attacks, and said that the U.S. government “simply did not do enough to prevent these attacks and ensure the safety of those serving in Benghazi.” He said he hoped the administration would quickly adopt the committee’s recommendations.
The committee’s Republicans charged that the administration failed to provide them with access to the necessary documents and witnesses, and as a “direct result” there are several unanswered questions that remain. They are especially critical of Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, who they say “should have used better judgment and should be held accountable” in light of the increasing terrorist threat in the lead up to the attacks.