September 4, 2013

New Independent Report: Clinton State Department’s Culture Of Lax Security Contributed To Benghazi Failures

The New York Times cites a new review, which blamed the State Department’s culture of lax security standards and poor coordination for diplomatic security risks across the world and particularly in Benghazi. 

Among the report’s findings also covered by Al Jazeera were “the State Department’s failure to identify worsening conditions in Libya,” a “blurred authority and a serious lack of accountability” in security, inadequate systems for analyzing security risks or training security personnel and the stunning revelation that no one debriefed the survivors of the Benghazi attack.

It’s worth noting that according to former Ambassador Chris Stevens deputy Gregory Hicks, Hillary Clinton personally orderedAmbassador Stevens to the Benghazi diplomatic facility despite the deteriorating security situation.

“According to Chris, Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post. Timing for this decision was important. Chris needed to report before September 30th, the end of the fiscal year, on the physical — the political and security environment in Benghazi to support a — an action memo to convert Benghazi from a temporary facility to a permanent facility,” Hicks said.

The report by an independent panel of five security and intelligence experts describes how the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, which left Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, exploited the State Department’s failure to address serious security concerns at diplomatic facilities in high-risk areas. 

Among the most damning assessments, the panel concluded that the State Department’s failure to identify worsening conditions in Libya and exemptions from security regulations at the U.S. Special Mission contributed to the tragedy in Benghazi. Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy approved using Benghazi as a temporary post despite its significant vulnerabilities, according to an internal State Department document included with the report. 

The panel cataloged a series of failures by State Department officials to address security issues and concluded that many Foreign Service officers are unclear about who is in charge of security. …

Among the problems Sullivan’s panel identified in the report: 

The State Department’s management of its security structure has led to blurred authority and a serious lack of accountability. …

Inexplicably, Diplomatic Security officials never conducted what is known as a “hot wash” debriefing of Benghazi survivors to learn from their experience. …

Risk decisions are made based on “experience and intuition,” not established professional guidelines.

None of the five high-risk diplomatic facilities the panel visited in the Middle East and Africa had an intelligence analyst on staff, described as a “critical” need. 

Diplomatic security training is inadequate, with no designated facility available to train agents to work at high-risk diplomatic posts.  …

Although the State Department reopened the embassy on Sept. 22, 2011, the Special Mission in Benghazi remained open despite serious security concerns. In December 2011, Undersecretary for Management Kennedy approved a one-year extension of the Benghazi post. …

State Department officials  effectively waived the security requirements. For years, the State Department has fostered a culture of waiving such requirements when officials choose not to meet them.  …

In the six months leading up to the attack in Benghazi, the warning signs were ominous: security in the city had deteriorated and threats against Western officials were increasing. 

From March through August 2012, 20 significant acts of violence occurred, including a homemade explosive device thrown over the wall of the U.S. Special Mission and an attack on the Benghazi International Committee of the Red Cross with rocket-propelled grenades. 

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2012, diplomatic security officers issued a report that described Libyan security forces as “too weak to keep the country secure.”