National

Collins blasts Obama State Department on Benghazi

on

benghaziWASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its bipartisan report on the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, Republican Sen. Susan Collins criticized President Barack Obama’s State Department for failing to provide adequate security prior to the attack and misleading the American public afterwards.

“This report, as well as other reports examining Benghazi, has found that the State Department failed to act upon some of the lessons learned from previous attacks,” Collins said in a prepared statement.

“A broken system overseen by senior leadership contributed to the vulnerability of U.S. diplomats and other American personnel in one of the most dangerous cities in the world,” she said. “This is unacceptable, and yet the Secretary of State has not held anyone responsible for the system’s failings.  This leads to a perception that senior State Department officials are exempt from accountability because the Secretary of State has failed to hold anyone accountable for the systemic failures and management deficiencies that contributed to the grossly inadequate security for the Benghazi facility.”

In December of 2012, shortly after the terrorist attacks, Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, joined former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in releasing their own report, “Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi,” which was also sharply critical of Obama’s State Department. Their report found that senior officials at the State Department failed to take adequate steps to protect the Benghazi facility.

Collins said the newest analysis of the Benghazi attack provides yet further evidence that the Obama administration could have and should have done more to secure the facility.

“Unfortunately, the promises of the President and other senior Administration officials to bring any of the attackers to justice have ringed hollow thus far,” said Collins. “The report finds that more than a year after the attack, the terrorists who perpetrated the attack have still not been brought to justice.”

On the night of Sept. 11, 2012, more than 125 armed gunmen stormed a U.S. facility in Benghazi. The attack resulted in the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

White House officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, said repeatedly that the terrorist attack was a spontaneous demonstration sparked by a YouTube video critical of the Islamic Prophet Mohammad. Then. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice proceeded to promote that narrative on several Sunday talk shows.

Subsequent investigations into the administration’s handling of the attack have exposed an elaborate attempt to suppress information about what transpired that night.

“Despite the fact that the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi were recognized as terrorist attacks by the Intelligence Community and personnel at the Department of State from the beginning, Administration officials were inconsistent and at times misleading in their public statements and failed for days to make clear to the American people that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack,” said Collins. “It took eight days before the Administration communicated clearly and unequivocally to the American people and to Congress regarding this fact through testimony by NCTC Director Matthew Olsen before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on September 19, 2012.”

“Even after the Administration finally published the complete timeline of the changes made to the talking points, it is baffling how a fundamental, unclassified fact that was known to the IC from the beginning was only communicated clearly to the American people by the Administration after the issue had already been sufficiently muddled to result in confusion,” she said.

To date, the only person punished as a result of the Benghazi attack is Nakoula B. Nakoula, the filmmaker responsible for producing “Innocence of Muslims,” the YouTube video that was falsely blamed for inspiring the attack.

Collins’ statement on the SSCI report appears below in full:

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) “Review of Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, September 11-12, 2012,” represents the most extensive review to date of the actions and analysis of the Intelligence Community (IC) leading up to, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi. I commend the SSCI leaders and staff for drafting a report that joins the only other Senate report on Benghazi, “Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi,” an analysis that Joseph Lieberman, the former Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), and I authored and issued in December 2012.  Our Homeland Security Committee conducted the first bipartisan investigation of what took place during the terrorist attack that cost four Americans their lives.  Although hampered by time constraints and insufficient cooperation by the Administration, our report is an indictment of the State Department’s failure to adequately secure the Benghazi compound despite numerous indications of an extremely dangerous threat environment.

“Like our report, the SSCI report joins an increasing number of analyses to reach the sobering verdict that the State Department could have and should have done much more to prepare for the terrorist attack in Benghazi. The critical findings of this and previous reports regarding the judgments, actions, and management processes at the Department of State beg for accountability, and yet, more than a year after the attack, no one has been held responsible for the critical management failures that contributed to the vulnerability of the American personnel and facilities in Benghazi.

“The SSCI report, while adding considerably to our knowledge, would have been strengthened if it had placed greater emphasis on the lack of accountability for the broader management failures at the State Department.  It would have been premature for earlier reports published in the months immediately following the attack, such as the Accountability Review Board and the “Flashing Red” report, to reach final judgments with respect to the State Department’s personnel actions because the contributing factors to the vulnerability of the facility were still being pieced together.  This report could have more fully evaluated the accountability issues because sufficient time had elapsed for the State Department to demonstrate whether or not decision-makers would be held accountable for poor judgments, refusals to tighten security, and misinformation.

“For example, Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy testified before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last year that the threat environment in Benghazi was “flashing red,” yet our investigation found that Under Secretary Kennedy, and other State Department officials, failed to ensure that a facility he personally approved in December 2011 had the necessary security to match the heightened threat environment.

“The SSCI report describes many of the management deficiencies that contributed to the inadequate security posture: excessive confusion in the State Department’s security decision-making process, uncertainty regarding the facility’s future, and the absence of sufficient communication at State Department headquarters. As referenced in the report, the State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) also found that the Department lacks a conceptual framework and process for risk management, and the Independent Best Practices panel found that security standards waivers for overseas facilities are commonplace. Of the 29 Accountability Review Board (ARB) recommendations, fully 26 relate to systemic management reforms in the Department according to the OIG.

“Furthermore, this report, as well as other reports examining Benghazi, has found that the State Department failed to act upon some of the lessons learned from previous attacks.  The State Department OIG’s September 2013 audit of the ARB process listed four pages of recommendations by the Benghazi ARB that mirror similar recommendations from the report of the ARBs following the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings nearly fourteen years earlier.  The OIG blamed this outcome, in part, on the absence of sustained oversight among Department principals, who are defined as the Secretary, deputy secretaries, and under secretaries.

“A broken system overseen by senior leadership contributed to the vulnerability of U.S. diplomats and other American personnel in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.  This is unacceptable, and yet the Secretary of State has not held anyone responsible for the system’s failings.  This leads to a perception that senior State Department officials are exempt from accountability because the Secretary of State has failed to hold anyone accountable for the systemic failures and management deficiencies that contributed to the grossly inadequate security for the Benghazi facility.

“To be clear, the responsibility for the attack lies with the attackers themselves.  Unfortunately, the promises of the President and other senior Administration officials to bring any of the attackers to justice have ringed hollow thus far.  The report finds that more than a year after the attack, the terrorists who perpetrated the attack have still not been brought to justice.

“The report includes an important recommendation I requested, in consultation with the Chairman and Vice Chairman, that the U.S. government must bring the attackers to justice in spite of the unwillingness or lack of capacity of the Libyan government to assist in this effort.  Failure to do so would be to repeat one of the mistakes that contributed to the lethality of the attack, which was the excessive reliance on a local Libyan security force that lacked the capacity or willingness to defend the compound.

“The failure to follow through on this promise undermines the credibility of the United States, diminishes the commitments made to the families who lost loved ones that night, and ignores the fact that our adversaries pay very close attention to our response to terrorist attacks.  In general, inaction has not made the United States any safer.  The failure of the United States to respond meaningfully, in the view of our adversaries, to attacks prior to 9/11/01, such as the 1998 al Qaeda attack against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 USS Cole bombing, served only to embolden the terrorists to plan and execute larger and more deadly attacks.

“Finally, the report does not go far enough to address the Administration’s failure to correctly label the incident as a deliberate and organized terrorist attack in the days following the attack. As our “Flashing Red” report found, there was never any doubt among key officials, including officials in the IC and the Department of State, that the attack in Benghazi was an act of terrorism.  Yet, high-ranking Administration officials, including the President himself, repeatedly cast doubt on the nature of the attack, at times attributing it to the reaction to an anti-Islamic video and to a spontaneous demonstration that escalated into violence.

“The SSCI report accurately describes that the IC moved too slowly to correct errors about a protest that never happened, and describes eyewitness testimony that should have been made available or pursued by the intelligence community more aggressively.  The report does not, however, describe all of the operational reporting that should have been available to the IC after the attack.

“The “Flashing Red” report identified two emails from the State Department Diplomatic Security Operations Center on the day of the attack,September 11, and the day after, September 12, 2012, which characterized the attack as an “initial terrorism incident” and as a “terrorist event.”  In addition to the eyewitness testimony and the State Department reports, agencies and offices responsible for terrorism, including the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis, and the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, were immediately involved with gathering information about the attack.  Indeed, how could there have been any doubt in anyone’s mind that, when a large number of armed men break into a U.S. diplomatic facility, set fire to its building, and fire mortars at Americans, that is by definition a terrorist attack?

“Despite the fact that the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi were recognized as terrorist attacks by the Intelligence Community and personnel at the Department of State from the beginning, Administration officials were inconsistent and at times misleading in their public statements and failed for days to make clear to the American people that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack. It took eight days before the Administration communicated clearly and unequivocally to the American people and to Congress regarding this fact through testimony by NCTC Director Matthew Olsen before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on September 19, 2012.

“Even after the Administration finally published the complete timeline of the changes made to the talking points, it is baffling how a fundamental, unclassified fact that was known to the IC from the beginning was only communicated clearly to the American people by the Administration after the issue had already been sufficiently muddled to result in confusion.

“While I support the SSCI report and appreciate its thorough analysis of much of what went wrong, I believe that more emphasis should have been placed on the three issues I have discussed: (1) the Administration’s initial misleading of the American people about the terrorist nature of the attack, (2) the failure of the Administration to hold anyone at the State Department, particularly Under Secretary Kennedy, fully accountable for the security lapses, and (3) the unfulfilled promises of President Obama that he would bring the terrorists to justice.”

Steve Robinson
Editor, Maine Wire
serobinson@themainewire.com

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

Recommended for you

Comments