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Report faults State, Pentagon, White House

Dec. 31, 2012 at 2:00 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A U.S. Senate report says the State Department and the Pentagon did not adequately protect the Americans killed in the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee report, "Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi," was released Monday following a critical independent State Department-ordered review and expanded the blame for the attack -- in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic employees died -- to the Pentagon and White House, The Hill reported.

The bipartisan report has several findings and recommendations in it "that we really believe can help save lives in the future," committee Chairman Sen, Joe Lieberman, Ind- Conn.,, said during a news conference.

He said in the months leading up to the Sept. 11 attack, "there was a rising crescendo of evidence from the U.S. intelligence community and open sources to our government that Benghazi had become dangerous and unstable, and that a significant attack against American personnel there was becoming more and more likely."

The report said there were "dozens of intelligence reports and acts of violence" in Benghazi indicating that the danger was growing but there also was a "woefully inadequate response by our government officials," he said.

Even though the State Department relied on local security guard companies and militia, the department "failed to take adequate steps to fill in ... security gaps, failed to adequately support security requests from its own personnel in Benghazi," Lieberman said, "and failed to make the one remaining decision that cries out to me ... which was to simply say, we've got to close this facility because we can't protect American personnel in Benghazi."

The report said the Defense Department failed to have adequate resources in place in the region in the event of a crisis.

"Although [the Pentagon] attempted to quickly mobilize its resources, it did not have assets or personnel close enough to reach Benghazi in a timely fashion," Lieberman said.

The report also took to task the Obama administration for its handling of the attack, finding the White House's "inconsistent" statements made in the days "unfortunately created some of the confusion and division in our own country about what had happened in Benghazi more than it really should have," Lieberman said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the committee's ranking Republican, said she agreed with Lieberman that while it was important to maintain a strong U.S. presence around the world, "we have an obligation" to provide American personnel security and "make them as safe as possible."

"The fact is, that Benghazi was awash with dangerous weapons and extremists," she said. "And yet the State Department either ignored or responded incompletely to repeated pleas for more security, for more assistance from those on the ground in Libya."

"Senator Collins and I obviously hope that the report assists the administration and Congress in working together to bring about needed reforms that will help prevent anything like this tragedy in Benghazi from happening again," Lieberman said. "And that is our way to honor the extraordinary service of Ambassador Stevens and the three others who died that day in Libya, and to make sure, in that sense, that they did not die in vain."

On Sunday, President Obama blamed security "sloppiness" in the deadly attack. Obama told the NBC News program "Meet the Press" he agreed with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to carry out all 29 recommendations made Dec. 18 by an independent review board that was highly critical of the State Department for failing to identify and respond to security risks before the four Americans were killed.

"My message to the State Department has been very simple, and that is we're going to solve this," Obama said. "We're not going to be defensive about it. We're not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem, and we're going to implement every single recommendation that's been put forward."

Obama said a key review board finding -- that the State Department relied too heavily on local Libyan militias to safeguard the compound, leaving diplomats and other U.S. personnel highly vulnerable -- was similar to a finding in internal administration reviews.

"It confirms what we had already seen, based on some of our internal reviews. There was just some sloppiness, not intentional, in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don't have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies," Obama said.

Four State Department officials were fired a day after the report was released.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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