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Benghazi report: AFRICOM general offered ambassador help before attack

Jan. 15, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A Libyan man investigates the inside of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, two days after the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the deadly assault Wednesday, laying blame on the State Department, the late Ambassador Chris Stevens and the intelligence community.
A Libyan man investigates the inside of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, two days after the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the deadly assault Wednesday, laying blame on the State Department, the late Ambassador Chris Stevens and the intelligence community. (Mohammad Hannon/AP)
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WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released a report on the deadly 2012 assault on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, blaming the State Department, the intelligence community and even the late Ambassador Chris Stevens for failing to communicate and heed warnings of terrorist activity in the area.

The highly critical report says the U.S. military was not positioned to help the Americans in need, though the head of Africa Command had offered military security teams that Stevens — who was killed — had rejected weeks before the attack.

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration over the Benghazi assault, in part because then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice initially blamed the violence on mob protests over an anti-Islamic film.

Al-Qaida-linked militant groups later were blamed.

Militants overran the temporary U.S. mission on Sept. 11, 2012, and later that night, when militants fired mortars at the nearby CIA annex where the Americans had taken shelter.

Republicans have said the Obama administration has been covering up what they consider misdeeds before, during and after the attack.

Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein, says she hopes the report will put to rest conspiracy theories about the militant attacks that night. Vice chairman Saxby Chambliss says the report shows despite a deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, the U.S. government did not do enough to prevent the attacks or to protect the diplomatic facility.

The Senate report notes that the State Department has created a new assistant secretary position for high-threat posts to focus on such dangerous areas, but it says the department should react more quickly to security threats and only in rare instances use facilities that are inadequately protected.

The report also says the State Department should not rely on local security alone in countries where the host government cannot provide adequate protection.

The report notes that the State Department in 2012 continued to operate the Benghazi facility, despite U.S. intelligence reports showing the danger was growing.

The report faults the military for being unable to help when needed. “No U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend” the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, it says.

Yet it points out that Stevens had rejected additional security. The Defense Department had provided a Site Security Team in Tripoli, made up of 16 special operations personnel to provide security and other help. The report says the State Department decided not to extend the team’s mission in August 2012, one month before the attack.

In the weeks that followed, Gen. Carter Ham, the head of Africa Command, twice asked Stevens to employ the team, and twice Stevens declined, the report said.

The report also says, “Intelligence analysts inaccurately referred to the presence of a protest at the U.S. mission facility before the attack based on open source information and limited intelligence, but without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to corroborate that assertion.”

The report says the U.S. intelligence community then took too long to correct their error.

The senators also criticize the Obama administration for failing to bring the attackers to justice more than a year after the Benghazi attacks. It says U.S. intelligence has identified several individuals responsible, but can’t track them down because of limited intelligence capabilities in the region.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said a number of the committee’s security recommendations are consistent with steps the State Department has already taken.

AP Writers Kimberly Dozier, Julie Pace and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

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