The State Department and intelligence agencies could have prevented the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya that killed four Americans, the Senate said in a report released Wednesday.
Warnings about an attack increased in the months leading up to the Sept. 11, 2012 assault, according to the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, which was based on thousands of intelligence reports, interviews and surveillance footage of the night’s attack. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens—who was one of the four Americans to die in the attack—and other State Department officials sent cables to the State Department in Washington D.C. recommending security teams be formed in Benghazi, the report says, but nothing was done. In the month of the attack, there were only three diplomatic security agents assigned to the Benghazi consulate.
“The State Department should have increased its security more significantly in Benghazi based on the deteriorating security situation on the ground,” the report says. A majority of committee members believed “the terrorist attacks against U.S. personnel at the Temporary Mission Facility and the Annex in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 and 12, 2012 were likely preventable based on the known security shortfalls at the U.S. mission.”
The State Department said Wednesday that it was already in the process of implementing numerous recommendations made by a task force that reviewed the Benghazi attack and its aftermath.
“This will require fundamentally reforming the organization in critical ways—work which is already well underway,” the department said in a statement. “While risk can never be completely eliminated from our diplomatic and development duties, we must always work to minimize it.”
The Obama administration was heavily criticized for its response to the Benghazi attacks, after then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice appeared on Sunday morning talk shows to blame the assault on protests stirred up by a YouTube video criticizing Islam. Intelligence officials said the attack was actually carried out by militants linked to al Qaeda. Republicans claim the White House deliberately covered up details about the attack for political purposes ahead of the 2012 election.
The report says a lack of coordination between intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense left the outposts unprepared for the attack, and criticized the State Department for being inattentive to security issues. The U.S. should have relied on its military forces to defend the facilities instead of local Libyan militias, it says, but no U.S. military personnel were even ready to intervene on short notice in case of an assault.