And the report also has some unkind things to say about Obama Inc’s deception about a protest at the Benghazi Mission and inconsistent statements about whether the Benghazi attack was terrorism. Still for the most part there is little new here, the report relies on material from the same old sources, and whatever lies have been told, get retold.
Unlike the fake independent investigation that led to the fake resignations of Charlene Lamb and three other State Department officials, the Senate Committee On Homeland Security report is independent, but it still relies on most of the same sources.
The report blasts the poor security arrangements and the lack of preparation for an attack. However it only raises mild questions about the delay in responding to the attack.
U.S. government security personnel who were based in Tripoli had deployed to Benghazi by chartered aircraft after receiving word of the attack, arriving at the Benghazi airport at 1:15 a.m. They were held at the airport for at least three hours while they negotiated with Libyan authorities about logistics. The exact cause of this hours-long delay, and its relationship to the rescue effort, remains unclear and merits further inquiry. Was it simply the result of a difficult Libyan bureaucracy and a chaotic environment or was it part of a plot to keep American help from reaching the Americans under siege in Benghazi?
The team from Tripoli finally cleared the airport and arrived at the Annex at approximately 5:04 a.m., about ten minutes before a new assault by the terrorist began, involving mortar rounds fired at the Annex. The attack concluded at approximately 5:26 a.m., leaving Annex security team members Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty dead and two others wounded.
The timing on that is quite suggestive, as if clearance were being denied until Libyan officials knew that the next wave of the attack was already underway and it was too late for the Americans to arrive in time.
A FAST platoon arrived in Tripoli the evening (local time) of September 12th, and the other forces arrived that evening at a staging base in Italy, long after the terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi had ended and four Americans had been killed.
There is criticism of State Department officials for failing to assess the dangerous situation in Benghazi.
The Committee has reviewed dozens of classified intelligence reports on the evolution of threats in Libya which were issued between February 2011 and September 11, 2012. We are precluded in this report from discussing the information in detail, but overall, these intelligence reports (as the ARB similarly noted) provide a clear and vivid picture of a rapidly deteriorating threat environment in eastern Libya—one that we believe should have been sufficient to inform policy-makers of the growing danger to U.S. facilities and personnel in that part of the country and the urgency of them doing something about it. This information was effectively shared by the IC with key officials at the Department of State.
And the report makes the point that the US needs to keep up with the evolution of Al Qaeda into franchises.
However, the activities of local terrorist and Islamist extremist groups in Libya may have received insufficient attention from the IC prior to the attack, partially because some of the groups possessed ambiguous operational ties to core al Qaeda and its primary affiliates. For example, public statements by Libyan officials and many news reports have indicated that Ansar al-Sharia Libya (AAS) was one of the key groups involved in carrying out this attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi. The group took credit on its own Facebook page for the attack before later deleting the post. U.S. officials viewed AAS prior to the attack as a “local extremist group with an eye on gaining political ground in Libya.”14AAS has not been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government, and apparently the IC was “not focused” on this group to the same extent as core al Qaeda and its operational affiliates.
This finding has broader implications for U.S. counterterrorism activities in the Middle East and North Africa. With Osama bin Laden dead and core al Qaeda weakened, a new collection of violent Islamist extremist organizations and cells have emerged in the last two to three years.
These groups are not all operationally linked to core al Qaeda or in some cases have only weak ties to al Qaeda. This trend is particularly notable in countries such as Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria that are going through political transition or military conflict as a result of the political upheavals referred to as the “Arab Spring.
Recommendation: U.S. intelligence agencies must broaden and deepen their focus in Libya, and beyond, on nascent violent Islamist extremist groups in the region that lack strong operational ties to core al Qaeda or its main affiliate groups. One benefit of doing so would be improved tactical warning capabilities, the kind of which were not present at Benghazi, but might have been even for an “opportunistic” attack.
The report blasts the State Department for relying on a Muslim Brotherhood brigade for security when the brigade showed every signs of being hostile to the US and was no longer even officially under contract.
Finding 4. Prior to the terrorist attacks in Libya on September 11, 2012, it was widely understood that the Libyan government was incapable of performing its duty to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel, as required by longstanding international agreements, but the Department of State failed to take adequate steps to fill the resulting security gap, or to invest in upgrading the Libyan security forces
Throughout 2012, Department of State officials questioned the February 17 Brigade’s competence and expressed concerns about its abilities.29 U.S. Department of State personnel were also concerned about the involvement of members of the February 17 Brigade in the extrajudicial detention of U.S. diplomatic personnel in at least one incident in Benghazi
Notably, the contract between the State Department and the February 17 Brigade had expired by the time of the attack. In a handoff email to his replacement on August 29, 2012, the principal U.S. diplomatic officer in Benghazi wrote that the contract with the militia “lapsed several weeks ago” but that they were still operating under its terms. He said that “[t]his is a delicate issue, as we are relying on a militia in lieu of the central authorities and [Feb 17 Brigade] has been implicated in several of the recent detentions. We also have the usual concerns re their ultimate loyalties. But they are competent, and give us an added measure of security. For the time being, I don’t think we have a viable alternative.”34 In early September, a member of the February 17 Brigade told another RSO in Benghazi that it could no longer support U.S. personnel movements. The RSO also asked specifically if the militia could provide additional support for the Ambassador’s pending visit and was told no
For the Benghazi mission security to have been any worse, it should have just hired Ansar Al Sharia to provide security.
The Libyan government, despite the facade being executed in DC, London and Paris had no ability or willingness to provide security.
Prior to Ambassador Stevens’ visit to Benghazi in September 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi had made a request to the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs for additional security in Benghazi to support the visit. At a minimum, these requests included appeals for a 24/7 police presence consisting of a vehicle and personnel at each of the compound’s three gates. The only Libyan government response appears to have been an SSC police vehicle parked in front of the front gate (which, as the ARB noted, sped away as the attack began).
And the Senate Committee on Homeland Security makes the vital point that the refusal to talk honestly about Islamic terrorism led to Benghazigate.
Finding 9. Although the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi was recognized as a terrorist attack by the Intelligence Community and personnel at the Department of State from the beginning, Administration officials were inconsistent in stating publicly that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack.
One of the key lessons of this Committee’s six-year focus on the threat of violent Islamist extremism is that, in order to understand and counter the threat we face, we must clearly identify that threat.
During the Committee’s investigation into the Fort Hood massacre, for example, we found systemic problems with the way the military addressed violent Islamist extremism in its policies and procedures (treating this specific threat within the broader context of “workplace violence”).
Similarly, while we welcomed the Administration’s release last year of a national strategy and implementation plan for countering radicalization domestically, we expressed our disappointment in the Administration’s continued refusal to identify violent Islamist extremism as our enemy.
The enemy is not a vague catchall of violent extremism, but a specific violent Islamist extremism. It is unfair to the vast majority of law-abiding Muslims not to distinguish between their peaceful religion and a twisted corruption of that religion used to justify violence.
Finally there are a number of pages dedicated to criticism of Obama Inc’s doubletalk on Benghazi.
There are related lessons to be learned from the Administration’s public comments about Benghazi, which we believe contributed to the confusion in the public discourse after the attack about exactly what happened.
The NCTC and U.S. law define terrorism as the “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”Senior officials from the IC, the Department of State, and the FBI who participated in briefings and interviews with the Committee said they believed the attack on the mission facility in Benghazi to be a terrorist attack immediately or almost immediately after it occurred.
The ODNI’s spokesman also has publicly said, “The intelligence community assessed from the very beginning that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.” In short, regardless of questions about whether there had been a demonstration or protest outside the Temporary Mission Facility in advance of the attack, the extent to which the attacks were preplanned, or the role of an anti-Islamic video which had sparked protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and elsewhere earlier on September 11th, there was never any doubt among key officials, including officials in the IC and the Department of State, that the attack in Benghazi was an act of terrorism.
For example, two emails from the State Department Diplomatic Security Operations Center on the day of the attack, September 11, and the day after, September 12, 2012, characterized the attack as an “initial terrorism incident” and as a “terrorist event.”
Agencies and offices responsible for terrorism, including the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis, and the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, were immediately involved with gathering information about the attack.
However, the IC’s assessment was not reflected consistently in the public statements made by Administration officials, several of whom cited the ongoing investigation, in the week following the attack:
The unnecessary confusion in public statements about what happened that night with regards to an alleged protest should have ended much earlier than it did. Key evidence suggesting the absence of a protest was not widely shared as early as it could have been, creating or contributing to confusion over whether this was a peaceful protest that evolved into something more violent or a terrorist attack by an opportunistic enemy looking for the most advantageous moments to strike.
As early as September 15th, the Annex team that had been in Benghazi during the attack reported there had been no protest.
This information was apparently not shared broadly, and to the extent that it was shared, it apparently did not outweigh the evidence decribed above that there was a protest. The next day, the President of Libya’s General National Congress, Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf, also stated on the CBS News show Face the Nation that the attack was planned and involved Al Qaeda elements.
On September 15th and 16th, officials from the FBI conducted face-to-face interviews in Germany of the U.S. personnel who had been on the compound in Benghazi during the attack. The U.S. personnel who were interviewed saw no indications that there had been a protest prior to the attack.
We also found documentation that one DS agent apparently concluded there had been no protest as early as September 18th. On that date, a State Department DS agent who had seen national press reporting about the attacks asked an agent at the DS Command Center in an email, “Was there any rioting in Benghazi reported prior to the attack?” The reply from the Command Center agent: “Zip, nothing, nada.”
Zip, nothing and nada also happens to be the response from the Obama Administration to Benghazi, during the act and afterward.