A guide for much better diplomatic security
The withering report by the special Accountability Review Board on the Sept. 11 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, not only established clear responsibility for security failures but established a good guide to prevent such attacks at other high-risk posts.
Led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, the panel said the State Department was guilty of systemic failures in assessing security needs and providing adequate security for the Benghazi consulate. The attackers killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Three high-ranking State Department officials resigned upon the release of the report, even though it found that no disciplinary action was warranted against anyone in the State Department. The panel made 29 recommendations, all of which were embraced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The report cited confused lines of communication in Libya and between Libya and Washington, so that there was confusion about who was responsible for different aspects of security. It faulted the Libyan government for its failure to meet its obligation to protect U.S. diplomatic posts, and the practice of contracting with private companies. Libyan employees of a U.S. security firm, for example, had stopped accompanying U.S. diplomatic convoys to protest wages and working conditions.
A key finding was State Department policy that based responses to security requests on intelligence regarding specific potential incidents, rather than on the overall security environment.
The State Department and the Pentagon have dispatched security assessment teams to 19 high-risk diplomatic posts and they have requested that $1.3 billion in as-yet unused development funds for Iraq be used instead to beef up diplomatic security.
There was no spontaneous demonstration in Benghazi, the report said, but made no finding as to why several administration spokesmen cited a demonstration after the attack.
Although the report won't settle the political fallout from the attack, it does establish specific accountability and, more important, a guide for much better diplomatic security.