A bipartisan committee of the Senate has concluded that the Sept. 11, 2012, death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans during an attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, was entirely preventable.
From everything we have read, it is an accurate and damning summation of the obvious.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report, although somewhat redacted, seems right on the money when it rebukes the State Department for not properly responding to multiple warnings that the threat to Westerners in the area was growing daily.
Interestingly, the committee also noted in a footnote that while it had been supplied many documents from the federal agencies involved in this fiasco, it had also encountered a great deal of resistance — especially from the State Department — that had actually hindered the investigation.
We find that appalling and shameful, but it is perhaps why the report pulled no punches when it wrote, “The attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya — to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets — and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission.”
It also spreads blame to the intelligence services and the Defense Department.
It faults the CIA for not informing the U.S. military command in Africa about an annex it was operating in Benghazi and it says that the Pentagon didn't have the proper resources in place to defend the diplomatic compound in an emergency.
Responding to the report, the State Department on Wednesday issued an update of its efforts to improve security at overseas posts. Better late than never, we suppose. We hope that the tragedy of Stevens' death can at least serve as a template for how not to run an operation in an unstable foreign land that is deteriorating by the day.
Not surprisingly, the report does little to address the charges that the Obama administration deliberately misled the public by downplaying and incorrectly characterizing the origins of the attacks because the presidential election was less than two months away.
However, the committee report did question why it took intelligence officials six days to publicly acknowledge that “there were no demonstrations or protests” at the diplomatic compound “before the attacks,” as they had previously reported.
Foreign posting in the diplomatic service always carries its share of risk, but it's important work and Americans who choose to serve their country in that way deserve all the protection the nation can reasonably give them. The four Americans who died in Benghazi didn't get that. As a nation we should vow that it will never happen again.