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Benghazi in Congress’ spotlight again

The interior of the burnt U.S. consulate building in Benghazi, Libya following the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the building. Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages

The conclusion in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released Wednesday that the September 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented sparked a fresh round of debate in Washington over assigning blame for the events that resulted in the death of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The Intelligence panel faulted the State Department for failing to beef up security at the consulate despite warnings about increased threats.

“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,” the panel said in a statement.

The Morning Line

The report does not point to any evidence of a political cover-up, as some Republican lawmakers have suggested. Still, the document could hold future political implications, as GOP committee members singled out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in their addendum to the report. The Washington Post’s Adam Goldman and Anne Gearan write:

The document contains only one mention of then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom the panel’s Republicans name as the official who should ultimately be held responsible for the failures in Benghazi. Even so, the report is likely to provide fodder for both Republicans and Democrats as Clinton ponders a possible presidential run in 2016.

Gwen Ifill spoke with the Post’s Goldman about the findings in the report on Wednesday’s NewsHour:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, a potential GOP presidential contender in 2016, said “more work needs to be done” when it comes to investigating the administration’s handling of the situation in Benghazi.

“The committee should reexamine former Secretary of State Clinton’s failure to provide adequate security for our deployed personnel in Benghazi, as well as what actions she and others, including the President, took in the hours and days that followed the attack,” Rubio said in a statement.

The Intelligence panel’s report also raises questions about Stevens’ actions in the months leading up to the attacks, noting that he had been made aware of the increased threat on Western targets in Libya, but on at least one occasion turned down an offer for additional security personnel. The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt and David Kirkpatrick report:

At times Mr. Stevens requested additional security personnel from the State Department in Washington. But the inquiry also found that in June 2012, around the time the threats were mounting, Mr. Stevens recommended hiring and training local Libyan guards to form security teams in Tripoli and Benghazi. The plan showed a faith in local Libyan support that proved misplaced on the night of the attack.

During an Aug. 15, 2012, meeting on the deteriorating security around Benghazi that Mr. Stevens attended, a diplomat stationed there described the situation as “trending negatively,” according to a cable sent the next day and quoted in the report. A diplomatic security officer “expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound.”

A C.I.A. officer at the meeting pointed out “the location of approximately 10 Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi,” according to the same cable.

After reading the cable, Gen. Carter F. Ham, then the commander of the United States Africa Command, called Mr. Stevens to ask if the embassy in Tripoli needed additional military personnel, potentially for use in Benghazi, “but Stevens told Ham it did not,” the report said. A short time later, General Ham reiterated the offer at a meeting in Germany, and “Stevens again declined,” the report said.

Even though Clinton’s name only came up once in the report, her handling of the events in Benghazi is likely to remain a focus of Republican lawmakers so long as the possibility exists that she might launch another presidential bid in 2016.


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Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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