The findings of the Benghazi report released earlier this summer were somehow swept under the rug by most of the media. If you didn’t get a chance to read the 800+ page report yourself, we’ve provided a very brief summary of the findings below. After the article, you’ll find links to all sections of the report.
-The response to the attacks in Benghazi on the night of September 11, 2012 was inhibited by poor communication and no sense of urgency among members of the U.S. government (including State and Defense departments), despite the news that an American ambassador was missing.
– The State Department repeatedly denied requests for additional security for the Benghazi compound, and knowingly put an American ambassador in an extremely dangerous situation without proper security. U.S. personnel should never have been in Benghazi at that point due to the increasing number of attacks on western interests, as well as the Benghazi compound itself. As taken directly from the report: “The decisions made earlier in the year by senior State Department officials to maintain a presence in Benghazi without adequate security forces and an inadequately fortified Mission compound contributed to what amounted to a worst case scenario…” (part III, page 149).
-There was a pattern of poor intelligence-gathering on the part of the U.S. government. The report states, “No predictive analysis occurred within the intelligence community on the front end of the U.S. intervention regarding what might occur if Gadhafi were to lose power…and it was this front-end intelligence failure that contributed to the Benghazi attacks” (part III, page 133).
-There was a severe lack of leadership and follow-through in the response to the attacks, as evidenced by the fact that both the President and Secretary of Defense gave orders for everything to be done to help those in Benghazi, yet nobody below them acted immediately. In addition, White House executives concerned themselves with an unrelated video, and focused efforts on contacting the subject of the video, as well as YouTube, rather than sending aid to Benghazi, even while an ambassador was missing.
-The attacks in Benghazi had absolutely nothing to do with any video, and were not the result of a protest that escalated into violence. It was a planned attack by active terrorist forces in and around Benghazi.
-Unnecessary bureaucratic “niceties” on the part of the State Department prevented a quick response once military assets were identified to respond to Benghazi (e.g. worrying about the attire to be worn by U.S. forces and the way they would be viewed by Libyans. For more instances of this, see pages 117, 119, 121, 130, 145, 156 of Part III).
Summary of the Benghazi Report, released 2016
September 11, 2012
The Benghazi Mission compound opened in 2011, with Chris Stevens serving as liaison to the interim Libyan government and working out of the compound. Stevens returned to the United States in early 2012, where he was officially appointed U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Ambassador Stevens was then permanently posted at the Embassy in Tripoli, and the Benghazi compound was staffed by a Principal Officer, who reported on the political landscape on the ground. In September of 2012, there would be two weeks with no permanent PO, and Stevens chose himself to cover the second of these two weeks.
Security Concerns Prior to the Attack
Prior to the night of September 11, 2012, security concerns, which had already been high, increased in Benghazi. In June of that year, the State Department acknowledged that an active terrorist cell was in Benghazi and planning attacks on Western interests (part II, page 2). In addition, several attacks against Western targets had already taken place in and near Benghazi in 2012, including: an attack on an UK armored vehicle (April), an IED attack at the Benghazi Mission compound (April), an IED attack on an U.N. Envoy motorcade (April), a RPG attack on the Red Cross facility and Facebook posts threatening American assets (May), another IED attack on the Benghazi compound (June), a RPG attack on the UK Ambassador’s motorcade, and two more attacks on the Red Cross facility in July and August.
Because of the Obama Administration’s “no boots on the ground” policy, there was no official military support to protect the compound, even with the increasing number of attacks nearby. Nonetheless, the State Department insisted on keeping the Benghazi facility open to have eyes on the situation in the city. Because this compound was classified as a “temporary facility,” it was excluded from the normal security demands for a State building. Beginning in 2011 with Stevens’ initial assignment in Benghazi and throughout 2012, the Diplomatic Security Agents at the compound sent frequent requests for additional security items and personnel. These requests were continually denied, and reports of an increasingly fragile security situation were at times ignored altogether (part III, pages 78,80, 84. 91-92, 93. 97, 127). The State Department was informed of the crumbling security in Benghazi, and in late August of 2012, the Libyan government issued a warning to Americans traveling to Libya, issuing a “state of maximum alert” until further notice in Benghazi. Nonetheless, no additional security personnel or resources were issued to the Benghazi Mission. Instead, the State Department relied on local Libyan militias to provide the man-power, transportation, and weapons if/when needed by those on the Mission compound.
Despite this rise in attacks on Western interests in Benghazi, as of September 1, 2012, only three Diplomatic Security Agents were assigned to the Benghazi post; none had ever served at a high-threat post before. The Feb 17 Martyrs Brigade (or Feb 17) was a militia group that provided additional security on the compound (acted as quick reaction force), and The Blue Mountain Guard Force provided unarmed surveillance around the exterior of the compound. Leading militia officials told the Principal Officer in early September that they could no longer guarantee the safety of the compound, due to deteriorating political and security situations in and around Benghazi. In addition, in the month of August 2012, State Department security agents in Libya dropped from 34 to six; this severely impacted the number of security agents available to assist the Benghazi Mission compound during Stevens’ visit and otherwise. Despite the fact that Ambassador Stevens would be staying at the compound for a week in September, no additional security measures were taken. On the night of the attack, there were five total Diplomatic Security Agents on the Benghazi compound with Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith (information management officer who traveled to Benghazi with Stevens).
At 9:42 p.m. local time, a large group of attackers stormed the compound in Benghazi. They quickly overran the compound, and the Ambassador and Sean Smith went to the safehouse on the compound with one of the security agents. However, the attackers soon lit fire to this safehouse, causing the three to become separated, and the agent to lose sight of Smith and Stevens. At this time, two agents on the compound alerted the CIA annex nearby that they were under attack, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli; Tripoli then notified the Diplomatic Command Center at the State Department in D.C. Shortly after the attack began, the agents serving at the CIA annex responded to the Benghazi compound, finding Sean Smith deceased and Ambassador Stevens missing. After searching for the Ambassador for as long as possible and still taking fire, these agents returned to the CIA annex, bringing with them the personnel from the Mission compound.
The Pentagon did not receive word of the attack until almost an hour after it had started. As soon as the Secretary of Defense and President Obama learned of the attacks, both gave orders to send as much help as possible to Benghazi right away. Slowly, DoD and White House officials started to identify military assets that were available to provide assistance. It became apparent that nobody would be responding quickly as any nearby military assets were either engaged in training exercises, or without transportation. It is important to note here that despite the fact that it was the anniversary of 9/11, no military assets near the Middle East or northern Africa had altered their posture despite the reasonable possibility of an anniversary attack (even after protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier that same day). As discussion was taking place in D.C., the military members stationed at Tripoli Embassy were never identified as an asset that could respond and provide support to those in Benghazi; in fact, the Secretary of Defense was not even aware of their presence in Libya. These military members, dubbed Team Tripoli and led by Glen Doherty, organized themselves and provided support to the Benghazi Mission and CIA annex completely on their own initiative, securing their own transport to Benghazi and then from the Benghazi airport to the annex on the morning of September 12.
Although the President and Secretary of Defense both gave, what they thought to be, clear and final orders to “deploy any necessary assets” immediately after learning of the attack, it was another four hours before any asset was definitively identified and given the order to prepare to deploy; no asset was actually deployed by Washington until 13 hours after the attack had begun. At this time, it was known that Sean Smith was dead and the Ambassador was still considered missing, yet there seemed to be no sense of urgency in the White House to get military or medical aid to Benghazi, or at least to Tripoli. Furthermore, there was no discussion that any assets would actually go to Benghazi; it was assumed, somewhere along the way, that all personnel in Benghazi had been transported or would be transported to the Embassy in Tripoli (although no arrangements were ever made on behalf of the U.S. or Libyan governments for this transport). No asset was ordered to deploy to Benghazi, ever. By the time the last American was killed on the rooftop of the CIA annex on the morning of September 12, still no asset had been deployed to Libya at all.
Part of the reason for the delay in asset deployment was the State Department’s obsession with placating Libyan interests or concerns, real and imagined. The State Department did not allow military forces to deploy until Libya was notified and agreed to the plan; however, according to the Secretary of Defense, a military response never needed Libyan approval (part III, page 115). Once Libyan approval had been obtained (although unnecessary), transport aircraft was finally ordered to depart Ramstein, Germany and pick up a FAST response team in Rota, Spain before proceeding on to Libya. This military asset still did not actually leave Germany until 8 hours later. By that time, four Americans were dead, and those left behind in Benghazi had used their own resources to secure transport from Benghazi to Tripoli.
The Cover Up
Never at any time on the night of September 11, 2012 did those on the ground in Benghazi reference a video, or any protest related to a video, or any protest at all that led to the attack. Despite what the Obama administration insisted, this was no escalation of a peaceful gathering, but a planned and carefully executed attack on U.S. interests. Secretary Clinton knew that the video was not linked to the attack, as she was receiving real-time updates and information from Charlene Lamb, who was in constant and direct communication with those on the ground in Benghazi. About two hours after the attack began in Benghazi, State Department officials were notified via email that Ansar Al-Sharia was claiming responsibility, and looking to attack the Embassy in Tripoli as well.
Regardless of these facts, Secretary Clinton made a public statement around 10:00 p.m. that night making broad generalizations, paving the way for her Department and the entire Obama administration to place blame on some obscure anti-Islam video (part II, page 26). An hour after her public statement in which she made no connection to terrorism but instead alluded to the video, Secretary Clinton sent a private email to her daughter admitting that “two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Qaeda-like [sic] group…I fear more of the same tomorrow” (part II, page 38). In a conversation with the Prime Minister of Egypt on September 12, Clinton stated: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest” (part II, page 45). Secretary Clinton did not confirm to the American public that the attack in Benghazi had indeed been an act of terror until ten days later (part II, page 151). It would take much longer than ten days for anyone in the administration to admit that the American policy (or perhaps lack-thereof) in Libya had directly led to the deaths of Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Ambassador Chris Stevens (part II pages 40, 59-60, 62, 93, 112, 135, 141, 150, 151).
The State Department and entire Obama administration failed incredibly to understand and prepare for the post-Gadhafi situation in Libya. Despite the obviously deteriorating situation in Benghazi and rising security risks, the State Department insisted on keeping a U.S. presence in the city, yet refused to properly secure this State Department facility. Not only did the State Department fail Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith by placing them in this risky situation, but it, along with the Department of Defense, failed Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty when no appropriate rescue mission was ever launched. This same administration then tried to fool the American public (and publicly contradict Libyan officials), by placing blame on a little-known video that had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on the compound. It was one policy failure after another that ultimately led to the deaths of four Americans and the prevalence of Muslim extremists in Libya today.
For all sections and appendices of the report, click here
Below: Parts I-III of the report, with points of interest highlighted