WASHINGTON — Highly critical and bipartisan, a Senate report declared Wednesday the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented. The account spreads blame among the State Department, the military and U.S. intelligence for missing what now seem like obvious warning signs.
For the first time in the much-politicized aftermath, the report also points at Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack. It said the State Department ended a deal with the military to have a special operations team provide extra security in Libya, and Stevens twice refused an offer to reinstate the team in the weeks before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
The military also takes criticism in the report for failing to respond more quickly the night of the assault.
The Obama administration, reluctant to deal publicly with a terror attack weeks before the presidential election, first described the assault as a spontaneous mob protest of an anti-Islamic, American-made video. Such a protest did occur at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier that day. Officials corrected their description days after the attack, but by then it became a hot political issue that continued to dog the administration.
On that issue, the report 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,” adding U.S. intelligence then took too long to correct the error.
The senators also take the administration to task for failing to bring the attackers to justice more than a year later.