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Senate report: Benghazi preventable, al-Qaeda affiliates involved

WASHINGTON -- A newly declassified Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack says the State Department missed key warning signs and that al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists participated in the attack.

Georgia U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the committee's top Republican, had this to say:

“The committee’s bipartisan report provides many needed and deserved answers to the American people, and most importantly, to the families of those killed in the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi. In spite of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and ample strategic warnings, the United States Government simply did not do enough to prevent these attacks and ensure the safety of those serving in Benghazi.

"I hope that the Administration—and most specifically, the Intelligence Community, the State Department, and our military—will review this bipartisan report carefully and quickly adopt the committee’s recommendations.”

One of the key disputes about Benghazi concerns whether or not al-Qaeda was involved. The New York Times found no evidence of any international terrorist groups. The Intelligence Committee did (page 40):

Individuals affiliated with terrorist groups, including AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], Ansar alSharia, AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], and the Mohammad Jamal Network, participated in the September 11, 2012, attacks. Intelligence suggests that the attack was not a highly coordinated plot, but was opportunistic; however, well-armed attackers easily overwhelmed the Libyan security guards and the five U.S. Diplomatic Security agents present at the Temporary Mission Facility.

The committee disputed theories that President Barack Obama delayed a military rescue:

"There were no U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend the Temporary Mission Facility and its Annex. Unarmed U.S. military surveillance assets were not delayed when responding to the attack, and they provided important situational awareness for those under siege during the attacks."

Here are the committee's recommendations for the Obama administration, as summarized in the news release:

  • The State Department must ensure that security threats are quickly assessed and security upgrades are put into place with minimal bureaucratic delay.

  • Only in rare instances—and only after a formal risk management plan has been put into place—should State Department facilities that fall short of current security standards be allowed to operate, and facilities that do not meet these standards should be prioritized for additional security measures.

  • The IC should expand its capabilities to conduct analysis of open source information including extremist-affiliated social media, particularly in areas where it is hard to develop human intelligence or there has been recent political upheaval. Analysis of extremist-affiliated social media should be more clearly integrated into analytical products, when appropriate.

  • It is imperative that the State Department, Department of Defense and the IC work together to identify and prioritize the largest gaps in coverage for the protection of U.S. diplomatic, military and intelligence personnel in the North Africa region and other high-threat posts around the world.

  • Intelligence analysts should more aggressively request and integrate eyewitness reporting—especially from U.S. government personnel—in the aftermath of a crisis.

  • In responding to future requests for unclassified talking points from Congress, the Intelligence Community should simply tell Congress which facts are unclassified and let Members of Congress provide additional context for the public.

  • The U.S. government cannot rely on local security in areas where the United States has facilities under high threat or where the host nation is not capable of providing adequate security.

  • The U.S. government must swiftly bring the attackers to justice, in spite of the unwillingness or lack of capacity of the Libyan government to assist in this effort.

You can read the entire report here.

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