Last week, former Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) published a damning joint op-ed in the Washington Times explaining -- among other things -- the myriad failures of the federal government to protect its diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya last September. And while none of the facts they cite in the article were previously unknown to the public, the findings from their congressional investigation are exceedingly difficult to stomach and worth repeating:
From the article:
We recently released the findings of our bipartisan report on the terrorist attack in Benghazi, which has now been shared with the administration.
First, our report finds the threat level was “flashing red” in Libya, and Benghazi particularly, as Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy told us. The thousands of pages of classified and unclassified documents we reviewed and interviews we conducted depict a crescendo of evidence from the intelligence community and State Department personnel on the ground saying, effectively, “This place is dangerous, and we’re not adequately protected.”
Second, the terrorists essentially walked into the compound unimpeded and set it ablaze because of the extremely poor security. This stark reality shaped our investigation as we sought to understand how each layer of security typical at diplomatic posts around the world broke down so completely and quickly in Benghazi. We believe the closed-circuit television video of the attack, which shows this failure in real time, should be released to the public, because it will make clear how unprepared the State Department was for this attack.
Tragically, the reaction to the flashing red indicators in a city awash with dangerous weapons and extremists was woefully inadequate to address the clear and present danger there. There was an unjustified trust that the Libyan government — which is friendly to the United States — would protect our diplomats according to long-standing international law, despite clear indications that the government did not have the capacity to do so. The replacements — a local security guard company and a hired militia — had limited capacities and questionable loyalties.
The U.S. consulate in Benghazi was not only located in a “dangerous” area, but it had “extremely poor security” and was possibly being protected by armed guards with “questionable loyalties.” Splendid.
Question: How is it possible that American diplomats -- in the service of their country -- were left so woefully and utterly defenseless? Sadly, though, it gets far worse:
Meanwhile, State Department personnel in Washington ignored or responded incompletely to repeated pleas for more security from those on the ground in Libya. Physical barriers that could have slowed attackers and given our personnel time to prepare were not in place, despite previous recommendations for their installation at high-threat posts following a 2004 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Saudi Arabia that left six dead. Installing these barriers and accompanying gear costs $55,000 or less on average, according to the State Department inspector general. Further, after failing to fill the security vacuum left by the absence of host nation security, State Department officials neglected to make the one decision that remained: to temporarily close the Benghazi facility until security could be implemented to protect the Americans assigned there.
Third, what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. This fact was clear to the intelligence community and to key State Department personnel almost immediately after the attack. Nevertheless, unclear and contradictory statements made by some administration officials contributed to the unnecessary confusion about what happened.
As Guy reported last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will indeed testify under oath about the details of the deadly raid and the State Department’s appalling response to it, although we don’t know when. It can only be hoped that the families of the fallen -- and the American public – will then finally get the answers they deserve.
September 11, 2012 should have been a somber day of reflection and prayer -- a time to remember the innocent men, women and children taken from us on 9/11. Instead, four brave U.S. diplomats were murdered in cold blood.
Simply put, members of Congress and the media must continue demanding accountability and transparency from this administration. Accepting anything less would be a national disgrace.