Bipartisan Senate Report Says Benghazi Attacks were Preventable, Blames CIA Secrecy and State Dept.

Friday, January 17, 2014
J. Christopher Stevens

The U.S. Senate has concluded that both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were at fault for the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.


The Senate Intelligence Committee released the findings of its bipartisan investigation into the tragedy and concluded that the attack could have been prevented.


“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 Senate committee said in a statement.


The State Department was criticized for not improving security at its diplomatic mission despite warnings of growing violence in the city.


The CIA was faulted for not sharing information about the existence of its outpost with the U.S. military.


Both offices were admonished for not working out of the same building, which often is the case at U.S. diplomatic missions in other countries.


Had the CIA been stationed with the State Department officials, the agency’s armed staff and their contractors—who were former Special Forces personnel—would have been onsite when the attack occurred.


Instead, the CIA team arrived about 30 minutes after the assault began.


The report also faulted Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who died in the attack, for not doing more to bolster security at the compound beforehand.


Although Stevens asked Washington for more security personnel, he also recommended hiring and training local Libyan guards to serve in security teams in Tripoli and Benghazi. Those guards proved unreliable during the assault.


The Senate investigation also ruled out the contention by conservative critics of the Obama administration that al-Qaeda was behind the attack. The committee concluded that individuals “affiliated with” terrorist groups had participated in the assault, but none of them planned or led the assault.


“Intelligence suggests that the attack was not a highly coordinated plot, but was opportunistic,” the report states.


“It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attacks or whether extremist group leaders directed their members to participate,” the report said. “Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day’s violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video.”


The New York Times found after its own investigation that the American-made video, which denigrated Islam and was posted on YouTube, “had played a significant role in precipitating the Benghazi attack.”


Although the crux of the Senate Intelligence report was bipartisan, Committee members from both parties appended comments supporting their party’s point-of-view.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Benghazi Attack Called Avoidable in Senate Report (by Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt and David Kirkpatrick, New York Times)

Senate Report: Attacks on U.S. Compounds in Benghazi Could Have Been Prevented (by Adam Goldman and Anne Gearan, Washington Post)

Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) (pdf)

Government Report Faults State Dept. for Poor Security in Benghazi; At Least Three Senior Officials Lose Jobs (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Failure to Heed 2009 Report on Diplomatic Security May Have Contributed to Benghazi Attack (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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