Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dear Director, About Benghazi

Director Robert S. Mueller III
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Mueller:

It has now been six months since four brave Americans were killed in the attack on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. I am writing to request a briefing on the status of the FBI’s investigation into this terrorist attack.

As you are well aware, retired Senator Joe Lieberman and I, in our former capacity as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, conducted a three-month investigation into the attacks in Benghazi. We were not, however, able to have access to the interviews conducted by the FBI of survivors, nor to interview these personnel, due to the pending FBI investigation. While our report was as comprehensive as possible, access to these interviews would have benefited our report.

In the days following the Benghazi attack, the President repeatedly promised the American people that justice would be served. At a press statement in the Rose Garden on September 12, 2012, President Obama said, “make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people,” and in later remarks, “make no mistake, justice will be done.” During a radio interview on October 26, he reiterated, “my biggest priority now is bringing those folks to justice, and I think the American people have seen that’s a commitment I’ll always keep.” Administration officials pointed to the FBI investigation as the means by which the attackers would be identified.

The Administration has not provided the U.S. Senate with an in-depth update on the current status of the FBI investigation. Therefore, I request such a briefing as well as the answers to the following questions:

· Are any of the suspects believed to be responsible for the deaths of these four Americans, including Ambassador Stevens, in U.S. or Libyan custody?

· How many suspects in the attacks are still at large?

· Is there any suspect in the custody of another government to whom the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking access or extradition? Has such access been granted?

· Are the Libyan government and other governments, whose cooperation is beneficial for the FBI’s investigation, fully cooperating?

· In your judgment, are the Libyan security agencies and legal system adequate and sufficiently mature to investigate and bring the individuals responsible for this act of terrorism to justice?

· Have any of the suspects believed to be responsible for the deaths been otherwise captured or held under the existing authority afforded to the American government in the war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates?

I look forward to your response as soon as possible.

Susan M. Collins
United States Senator

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Benghazi Church Attacked Burned

Witnesses: Church used by Egyptian Christians torched in eastern Libya

By Associated Press,
TRIPOLI, Libya — Witnesses say that unidentified assailants torched a church used by Egyptian Christians in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi on Thursday, a week after scores of Christians were detained and reportedly abused by militias there for alleged proselytization.

Flames were seen rising from the church, witnesses said. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning what it described as “assault,” and that the church’s priest was not inside and is unhurt.

Abdel-Salam al-Barghathi, a security official in Benghazi, said his forces stopped angry men from doing more damage to the church. He says they were angry about a protest by Christians in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo, where they set fire to the Libyan flag.

The protests came after death of one Egyptian Christian detainee in Libya, whose family says he died of torture. They say Ezzat Atallah, who died in detention in Tripoli after being transferred from his prison in Benghazi, was one of around 100 Christians, mostly Egyptians, who were detained by militias on suspicion of trying to covert Muslims to Christianity.

Al-Barghathi appeared to blame the Christian protesters for the violence. He said Atallah died of natural causes and that he confessed before his death. “I got everything taped. He confessed and we videotaped his confessions. Why do the Christians burn the flag and replace it with a cross?” he said.

“These incidents will take place once and twice if the reactions on the other side continue like this,” he warned.

Libya has seen multiple outbreaks of disorder since the 2011 civil war that led to the killing and ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The security and political vacuum has allowed hardline Islamist militias to act with impunity, especially since the government has relied on ex-rebel groups to keep order in absence of a functioning police force or a unified military.

On Sept. 11, four Americans including the U.S. Ambassador in Libya Chris Stevens were killed in an assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. An Islamist extremist militia that had been handling some security duties in the city, Ansar al-Shariah, was blamed for the attack. Months later, several Western countries withdrew their nationals from Benghazi citing imminent threats.

Churches, shrines used by traditionalist Muslims, and a Commonwealth war cemetery have also been vandalized in Benghazi and other cities in attacks blamed on hard-line Islamist puritans.

Last week, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry intervened to win the release of 55 Egyptians who were in the group suspected of proselytizing. Thirty-five of them were deported for illegally entering the country, while 20 were cleared to stay in Libya.

Four foreigners under investigation for alleged espionage and proselytizing remain in a Libyan prison. They are a Swedish-American, a South Korean, a South African and an Egyptian.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Government condemns attack on Benghazi church

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has condemned an attack on Thursday on the Egyptian Coptic church in Benghazi in which the priest and his assistant were assaulted.

In a statement today, Sunday, the Ministry voiced its concern at what had happened and expressed regret, saying that the attack was “contrary to the teachings of our Islamic faith and customs and as well as international covenants on human rights and fundamental freedoms and respect for the monotheistic religions”.

The attack followed the arrest earlier in the week of a number of Copts, variously put at between 50 and 100, who were accused being Christian missionaries. Following the intervention of the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr Kamel and the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli, they have now been deported.  Charges of proselytism have been dropped.

There have been concerns about possible Christian missionary activity in Benghazi since earlier reports that four Protestant Christians were arrested in the city on 13 February accused of proselytizing. One of them was also said to be an Egyptian, although it is extremely unusual for Protestants and Copts to have any links whatsoever.

The Copts were arrested in Benghazi’s Suq Al-Jareed area and accused of being missionaries after they were reportedly found in position of bibles and other Christian literature. According to the police, the arrests followed a row at the market. Other Egyptians working there, accused a group of Copts of trying to take over control of it. One of the complaints was that the latter were renting space at the market for LD 1,000 a month and then subletting it for LD 2,000.

Following the complaints, the police say that after they arrested the Copts they found books in a “storage place” which were covered on the outside so as not be identified as Christian. These books, they said, the Copts denied owning.

A display of the books went on show last week at a Katiba building in Benghazi not run by the police.

Insisting that they had nothing against Christianity and that they respected all religions, the Libyan police said that the group’s behaviour aroused their suspicions, including, reportedly, the fact that all had crosses tattooed on their wrists.

All Copts have crosses tattooed on their wrists.

On questioning, the police say, the traders disclosed the names of other Copts whom they knew, resulting in the arrest of around 100 in all. The police said they were found without passports or any identity documents and that it was not clear how they entered the country.

Following Egyptian embassy complaints about the treatment of the men, the Interior Ministry took control of the Copts, holding them in prison pending their expulsion on charges of entering the country illegally.

There been claims, however, reported in the online edition of the Egyptian daily Al Ahram, that the Copts were absued. The paper reported a Coptic Church source in Egypt claiming that “the detained Copts had been tortured by their captors, who had also shaved their heads and used acid to burn off the crosses tattooed on their wrists”.

Photos show the men with shaved heads, but no sign of anything else.

The Church source had also claimed that the men had been arrested after “a group of Salafist Muslims” attacked a Coptic church in Benghazi. However, all the indications are that the attack on the church took place after the arrests, not before.

According to today’s Foreign Ministry statement, a committee of enquiry comprising itself, the Interior Ministry, the General Staff and the Intelligence Service and headed by the Ministry of Justice has been set up to investigate the attack on the church. In the meantime, it said the government would be providing security to the building.

The Ministry statement also called on “all Libyan citizens to respect those from friendly and sister countries living in Libya and to respect their beliefs”.

On 30 December, two members of the Coptic church in Misrata died when the building was bombed. The culprits have not yet been found.

Benghazi Attack Organizer in Custody

Benghazi attack organizer in custody
Published time: March 14, 2013 19:02

Authorities say they have apprehended a man that is suspected of being involved in the terrorist attack in Benghazi last year that left four Americans dead.

CNN reports that 46-year-old Faraj al-Shibli (also spelled Chalabi) is being held in Libya and is considered a suspect in the September 11, 2012 assault on the United States consulate in Benghazi.

Chris Stevens, an US ambassador, was among the four Americans killed in the attack.
One source speaking to CNN claims that al-Shibli has been in custody for the past two days after being apprehended during a return trip from Pakistan. A second source has confirmed the story to the news outlet.

The Libyan government first singled in on al-Shibli when his named was added to “wanted” lists administered by both the United Nations and Interpol. Today he remains on Interpol’s “Wanted Persons” list, where he is sought in connection unspecified violent crimes.

Al-Shibli reportedly joined the militant anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamist Fighting Group in the mid-1990s, and has long been considered a suspect in the 1994 murder of German counterintelligence officer Silvan Becker and his wife in Sirte, Libya.

According to earlier news reports, Osama bin Laden was also considered a suspect in the Becker murders, suggesting ties between the possible Benghazi organizer and al-Qaeda.
Barely one month after last year’s assault on the US consulate, Ahmed Abu Khattala of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group gave interviews with western media in which he all but took credit for the terrorist attack,

"These reports say that no one knows where I am and that I am hiding," Khattala said to reporters with Reuters. "But here I am in the open, sitting in a hotel with you. I'm even going to pick up my sister's kids from school soon."

On the record, Khattala said he was present during last year’s terrorist attack but did not mastermind it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Deborah K. Jones New US Ambassador to Libya

6 months after 9/11 Benghazi attack, Obama nominates replacement for slain ambassador Stevens

By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2:25 PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama nominated a new ambassador to Libya on Wednesday, filling a post that has been vacant since Chris Stevens was killed in the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack and signaling the United States’ commitment to the North African country as it undergoes a perilous transition from decades of dictatorship.

The announcement came as Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan, and two days after the six-month anniversary of the storming of the U.S. diplomatic mission in the eastern Libyan city. No one has yet been captured for the attack, which has caused significant political headaches for Obama and his foreign policy team.

“The United States will continue to stand with Libya during this difficult time of transition,” Kerry told reporters. “The Libyan people have begun to chart the course for their own future, and they’re defining it. Obviously there are challenges ahead and we understand that, from building political consensus to strengthening the security and protecting human rights, and growing the Libyan economy.”

Kerry thanked the Libyan government for its cooperation after the Benghazi attack and insisted that “those who killed Americans in Benghazi will be brought to justice.” He promised Zidan that America would continue working for a stable Libya.

“We must not walk away from the difficult work that Chris Stevens and his cohorts were so dedicated to,” Kerry said. Stevens was the first ambassador killed in the line of duty since the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in 1979.

To replace Stevens, the White House tapped Deborah K. Jones, a career diplomat who has served in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and the now-shuttered U.S. Embassy in Syria. Jones, who currently works as a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, also has spent time at embassies in Turkey and Ethiopia.

Jones will assume a difficult position heading the embassy in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. The North African country has been beset by lawlessness, militant group rivalries and political instability since rebels, with the help of the U.S. and other governments, overthrew long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

“She is a very capable and experienced diplomat,” Kerry said of Jones. “I have no doubt that she will help to strengthen the partnership between us.”

Zidan also met with Obama and his national security adviser Tom Donilon at the White House.

The president added his support Libya’s democratic efforts and outlined areas the U.S. could help the government strengthen its institutions and improve the rule of law, according to a statement by Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

From Washington’s perspective, the most pressing problem is insecurity.

Stevens and three other Americans were killed a half-year ago when a large group of men, possibly tied to Islamic extremist groups, assaulted the American outpost in Benghazi, and the help that arrived proved far too little and too late.

The militant group Ansar Al-Shariah is suspected of carrying out the attack, which the administration initially attributed to a protest over an American-made, anti-Islam videothat spiraled out of control. Officials later retracted that account and called it a terror attack. But no one has been punished in Libya or elsewhere for involvement.
Zidan has been trying to reassert government control over Libya. Last month, he called on militias to evacuate buildings and headquarters and join government security forces, vowing that his government will take a hardline stand against any armed group that tries to hijack control of “Tripoli or Benghazi or any other city.”

However, the Libyan government heavily depends on security provided by commanders of several powerful militias that the president has labeled “legitimate” forces. Militias in Libya often act with impunity, running their own prison cells, making arrests and taking confessions in total absence of state control and oversight.

The lawlessness also has allowed Gadhafi’s once-vast stock of weapons to fall into the hands of extremists who’ve sparked a civil war in neighboring Mali. A France-led intervention has pushed back the Islamist militants after they seized half the country last year.

Speaking next to Kerry, Zidan thanked Obama and the U.S. for its key contribution in the effort to defeat Gadhafi. He said Libya would partner the U.S. in stabilizing his country and region.

“This relationship will be at the best level,” Zidan, in his first to trip to Washington as prime minister, said through an interpreter.
Associated Press National Security Writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mr Michael Richards
Right into the war zone of post-Benghazi Libya...guess what??...a dud diplomat with little experience. Before being a nothing scholar she was a tester for the Foreign Service...
...Why?...Just to prove you can send a woman that Arabs hate to an Arab country that hates us??

Obama to nominate new Libya ambassador
By Jonathan Easley - 03/13/13 12:58 PM ET

President Obama will nominate Deborah K. Jones as the State Department’s new ambassador to Libya, the White House announced on Wednesday.

If confirmed, Jones would replace Chris Stevens, the ambassador killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The deaths of Stevens and three other Americans ignited a political firestorm at the height of the 2012 presidential election and Jones’s nomination could provide GOP lawmakers theopportunity to again press the administration over the deadly attack.

Jones served as U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait from 2008 to 2011, and has been with the State Department since 1982, holding posts in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Syria.

White House spokesman Jay Carney praised Jones as a "career foreign service officer who has served admirably in diplomatic posts across the world."

Despite her extensive Middle East experience, the Benghazi attack is likely to overshadow her nomination.

Republicans have charged that the State Department, under the leadership of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ignored the existence of credible threats in the region.
GOP lawmakers also criticized U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice after she initially blamed the attacks on a spontaneous protest of an offensive anti-Islam video.
The administration later acknowledged the attack was terrorism and that no demonstration or protest had taken place in Benghazi. But officials defended Rice, saying that her statements had been based on then-current intelligence.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said this week that he does not believe the White House has shared all its information in the incident. Graham said he intended to write to Secretary of State John Kerry and demand access to survivors from the attack.

Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had initially threatened to block John Brennan’s nomination for CIA director until the administration answered their questions, before relenting and voting for this confirmation. Both, though, have vowed to continue investigating the matter.

Democratic lawmakers have charged Republicans with continuing to press the issue for political gain.

Carney on Wednesday also said that Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was arriving for his first official visit to the U.S. Zeidan is meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday afternoon, and will visit the White House later.

Carney did not say whether Jones would be involved in any of those meetings.

Congressional Investigation of Benghazi?

Congressman Frank Wolf Pushes for Investigation of Benghazi Attack, at Six-Month Anniversary of Event

On six-month anniversary of attack, Northern Virginia congressman says 'time is now to right historic wrong.'

Marking the six-month anniversary of the terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans and seriously injured others, Republican Congressman Frank Wolf, who represents Virginia's 10th District, made the following statement Monday:

“Today is the six-month anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi that took four American lives and wounded untold others.  Last week, Fox News confirmed, in response to my recent letter to Sec. Kerry, that at least one survivor is still recovering at Walter Reed – six months later," Wolf said in a statement released by his office.

“Six months later, none of the terrorists involved in the attack are in U.S. or foreign detention," Wolf said. "The FBI has only had access to a single suspect for a mere three hours, after waiting for months.  The FBI is being denied access to another person of interest in Egypt.

“Six months later, none of the survivors have been identified or questioned by Congress about the attack or credited for their heroism.  We don’t know their names, conditions or stories.  

“Six months later, not a single American official has been held accountable or lost their job over the inadequate consulate security, intelligence failures or the administration’s abysmal response during the terrorist attack. 

“After all this time, it’s shameful that the American public, the media, and – most importantly – the Obama administration has turned its back on the families of the victims and allowed terrorists to escape justice for this long.  The time is now to right this historic wrong and pass my resolution to create a select committee to investigate this horrendous event.”

Wolf has been pushing for the creation of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack since last November.  His legislation, H. Res. 36, currently has more than 50 cosponsors.

Related Topics: Benghazi and Congressman Frank Wolf

Sen. Graham claims Benghazi survivors 'told to be quiet' by administration
Published March 15, 2013

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, in an extensive interview with Fox News, alleged that the injured survivors of the Benghazi terror attack have been "told to be quiet" and feel they can't come forward to tell their stories -- as he urged the House to subpoena the administration for details if necessary.

The South Carolina senator said he’s “had contact” with some of the survivors, calling their story “chilling.” He told Fox News that "the bottom line is they feel that they can't come forth, they've been told to be quiet."

The White House is denying any attempt to exert pressure on the surviving victims.
"I'm sure that the White House is not preventing anyone from speaking," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, when asked about the survivors.

But Graham said he thinks the administration is “trying to cover it up,” citing the valuable information the survivors hold.

“The best evidence of what happened in Benghazi is not a bunch of politicians in Washington trying to cover their political ass,” Graham said. “This is the people who lived through the debacle, and I’m going to do all I can to get them before the Congress and American people.”  

He continued: "We cannot let this administration or any other administration get away with hiding from the American people and Congress, people who were there in real time to tell the story.”

Graham continued to voice concern about the inaccurate or incomplete accounts that came from the Obama administration in the days following the attack. He is among a handful of Republican lawmakers pressing for access to and more information about the survivors.

But he had pointed words for the House Republican leadership, as he urged them to issue subpoenas if the administration does not release the names of the survivors.
“To our leadership in the House, you’re gonna have to up your game on Benghazi,” he said.

For his part, Graham vowed to “make life difficult in the Senate” in order to get the information he wants, suggesting that would involve holding up nominations.
“(The public needs) to hear from people who were on the ground, their desperate situation. They need to understand from people who were there for months how bad it was getting and how frustrated they were that nobody would listen to them and provide aid when they were requested,” Graham said. “This is a story of an administration deaf and blind to the reality of what people were living with every day in Libya.”
He said they should be able to “tell their story without fear,” accusing the administration of “hiding from the American people and Congress the primary source of truth in Benghazi – people who lived through it.”

A congressional source tells Fox News that Hill staffers investigating the attack believe about 37 personnel were in Benghazi on behalf of the State Department and CIA on Sept. 11. With the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, about 33 people were evacuated. Of them, a State Department official confirmed there were three diplomatic security agents and one contractor who were injured in the assault -- one seriously.
A diplomatic security source told Fox News the State Department diplomatic security agent who was in the most serious condition suffered a severe head injury during the second wave of the attack at the annex.

This agent was described as the likely State Department employee visited at Walter Reed Medical Center by Secretary of State John Kerry in January.

While not denying the details, the State Department official offered no comment on the nature of the injuries or whether the agent was visited by Kerry or Hillary Clinton before she left office.

Leading Republicans in the Senate and House have been calling on the State Department to identify the injured and make them available to congressional investigators. So far, they say their calls have gone unanswered.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the administration has provided "zero" documents on the matter and has not provided names of those attacked.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has gathered about 60 signatures in support of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi terrorist attack. Wolf has said the committee is the most thorough and efficient approach to resolving the lingering underlying questions rather than the competing and overlapping committee jurisdictions.

Wolf, along with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and leading Senate Republicans Graham, John McCain of Arizona, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire have pressed the State Department for answers.

Fox News' Bret Baier and Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

Lessons from Benghazi

Lessons from Benghazi: Investigation Leaves Important Questions Unanswered


The September 11, 2012, attack on the Special Mission compound and annex in Benghazi, Libya, not only resulted in the tragic death of America's first Ambassador killed abroad since 1988, it served as a stark reminder of the myriad dangers facing the nation's diplomatic presence overseas.Following this deadly attack, an Accountability Review Board (ARB) was convened by the U.S. State Department with the task of investigating and reporting on the incident. The ARB's findings, along with other investigations, serve as an indictment of the State Department's unpreparedness before the Benghazi attack, and suggest a need for greater communication and transparency in preparing for, and anticipating, future dangers. Key questions remain and necessitate answers in order to better protect U.S. diplomatic facilities, and the people who serve in them, in the future.

When armed terrorists stormed the United States Special Mission compound in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, it was not the first such breach of a U.S. diplomatic installation. In fact, it was one of four such attacks that occurred over the course of the week in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya.

This recent spate of violence underscored the often tenuous relationship that exists between evolving power structures in the Middle East, as exemplified by the Arab Spring and subsequent regime changes in Egypt and Libya, as well as the sometimes precarious security of America’s diplomatic presence abroad. This phenomenon, however, is nothing new; nor is it relegated to the Middle East. Several significant acts of terror have occurred over the past 50 years, which have resulted in the deaths of American citizens deployed abroad.

Given this history of violence, questions arise about whether lessons should have been learned that could have led to more appropriate action prior to the Benghazi attack. Questions also arise about the scope and nature of the information received by the State Department and White House before the onset of violence in Benghazi, and to what extent that information should have inspired a different course of action. Despite Congress’s efforts to investigate the events surrounding the attack, these and other key concerns remain unanswered. Fully understanding what and who was behind the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi is vital to preparing for future security threats to American embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions.
To ensure that the remaining questions are answered, Congress should establish a select committee, preferably bicameral, to examine the details of the attack and determine how to improve U.S. diplomatic security. At the same time, in order to address future diplomatic security, Congress and the Administration should:

Recognize the true nature and scope of the Islamist terrorist threat,
Conduct frequent and extensive threat assessments for diplomatic facilities abroad,
Combat stovepiping in addressing diplomatic security and ensure a comprehensive government response, and
Require that the investigations result in meaningful legislative and executive branch follow-up.

History of Violence Toward U.S. Diplomatic Facilities

During the second half of the 20th century, there were at least 40 major security breaches and attacks against U.S. diplomatic installations throughout the world[1] In 1968, Viet Cong fighters stormed the U.S. embassy in Vietnam and engaged in a firefight with U.S. Marines. After nearly nine hours of fighting the embassy was secured; however, the attack unnerved the United States, whose presence in the region had begun only two years earlier[2]

More infamously, the Iranian Hostage Crisis commenced on November 4, 1979, setting off a diplomatic and national security stalemate that lasted for 444 days. In the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, hundreds of students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, took over 50 Americans as hostages and effectively severed U.S. and Iranian diplomatic relations. The hostage crisis came to an end only on January 20, 1981, following the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan[3]

More recently, in 1998, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in near-simultaneous attacks that resulted in 223 deaths and over 4,000 injuries. The attacks were led by al-Qaeda, introducing the terror organization and its leader Osama bin Laden into the American lexicon[4]

On the same day as the attack in Libya, September 11, 2012, an angry mob in Egypt climbed onto the U.S. embassy compound in Cairo and tore down the American flag, resulting in a confrontation with security personnel in which 13 people were injured[5] Less than two days later, hundreds of demonstrators also stormed the gates of the U.S. embassy in Yemen, smashing windows of the embassy building and burning cars. Fifteen people were injured before security personnel were able to contain the situation[6]

As violence erupted in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, similar uprisings began to foment throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In Kuwait, nearly 200 demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. embassy chanting anti-American slogans[7] Protests formed around the U.S. diplomatic presence in Tunisia, Morocco, and Sudan; protestors in Bangladesh and Iran took to the streets in similar fashion. Even more recently, and unrelated to the pattern of violence last fall, a suicide bomber at the U.S. embassy in Turkey left one dead and one wounded when he detonated his bomb at the security checkpoint[8]

Unfortunately these incidents represent only a fraction of the nearly four dozen known and significant acts of violence and aggression that have been directed toward U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular personnel over the past 50 years.

Libya, Pre-Attack

In late 2010, popular uprisings across North Africa emerged in protest to the region’s oppressive autocrats. By February 2011, the Arab Spring reached Libya where the opposition sought the removal of dictator Muammar Qadhafi, who had ruled for over 40 years. With support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Gulf States, the opposition advanced from Benghazi toward the capital city, Tripoli. On October 20, 2011, rebels captured and killed Qadhafi outside his hometown of Siirte.
Since the regime fell, Libya has struggled to restore stability. It took nine months after Qadhafi’s death for the opposition’s political body, the National Transitional Council (NTC), to hold elections. Despite electing a national congress and a president, the government has failed to unify the country. Armed militias have rebuffed attempts by the government to integrate them with the Libyan military, and extremist groups are active throughout the country. In particular, the report by the Accountability Review Board, convened by the Department of State, details incidents demonstrating the dangerous circumstances in which American diplomats were operating in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya. These include armed robberies, attacks on U.S. and international diplomatic personnel as well as on nongovernmental organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross[9]

Furthermore, during the civil war, the regime’s arms warehouses were bombed and looted and their contents proliferated throughout the region. Tanks, machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades are just a few of the thousands of weapons that authorities have reclaimed. While the United States, NATO allies, and Libyan authorities have had a degree of success in tracking down some munitions, large numbers are still missing. These include thousands of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), demonstrated to be capable of downing commercial jetliners[10]

Fallout has not been limited to Libya. Immediately after Qadhafi’s death, well-armed Tuareg fighters, once loyal to the regime, returned to their homeland in Niger and Mali. Those that returned to Mali joined the ranks of the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which was already engaged in fighting the Malian army. This set off a chain of events that contributed to a military coup and the occupation of northern Mali by a coalition of Islamist terrorist groups[11 ]

It is evident that there was a clear and present security threat against U.S. interests in Benghazi.

Ultimately, the inability of Libya’s fledgling government to implement law and order has contributed to insecurity throughout the region. Considering the violent conditions on the ground, it is evident that there was a clear and present security threat against U.S. interests in Benghazi, although no specific threat of attack on the Special Mission had been cited by U.S. intelligence. Nevertheless, despite the lack of intelligence on September 11, 2012, this threat quickly became reality when armed terrorists descended on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. In doing so, the attackers perpetrated an act of terror that claimed the life of the first American Ambassador murdered since 1988.

The Benghazi Attack

Early in the evening of September 11, 2012, Ambassador Christopher Stevens ended a meeting with the Turkish consul general and concluded his workday. Shortly thereafter, just before 9:45 p.m., a mob descended upon the Special Mission compound[12] The consulate building, surrounded on three sides by orchards and a soccer field, was quickly overwhelmed[13]

The compound was guarded by four unarmed members of the local guard group, the Blue Mountain Libya (BML); three armed members of the local militia, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade; and five U.S. diplomatic security (DS) officers. When the attack began, the February 17 Brigade members and the BML guards fled without raising the alarm. The DS officers, on the other hand, immediately raised the alarm, alerted the nearby CIA annex and the embassy in Tripoli, and went into action, trying to get the Ambassador and other personnel to safety[14]

By 10 p.m. the compound building was engulfed in flames. One DS officer was with Ambassador Stevens and foreign service officer Sean Smith in the “safe area” within the compound. When the smoke became overwhelming, the DS officer attempted to lead them out of the building through a window, but was separated from them in the smoke and chaos. Later, the other DS officers and the annex security team located Smith’s body. All attempts to locate the Ambassador were unsuccessful. All other American personnel retreated to the nearby annex[ 15]

At approximately 11:15 p.m. an unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle, diverted from another mission by the Department of Defense, reached the facility in Benghazi. After midnight, looters pulled the unresponsive body of Ambassador Stevens from the burning Special Mission building. The Ambassador’s body was brought to the nearby Benghazi Medical Center where he was attended to as an unidentified patient. He was declared dead at approximately 2:00 a.m[16]

Around 5:00 a.m. intense fighting again resumed, now at the nearby CIA annex where diplomatic personnel had holed up. American security forces, joined by recently arrived personnel from the embassy in Tripoli, engaged the terrorists in a ferocious firefight that claimed the lives of DS officers Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs[17]

Fighting continued for several more hours before the first flight carrying American consular personnel left Benghazi between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Around 8:30 a.m., Ambassador Stevens’s body was brought from the hospital to the airport via ambulance. One of the DS officers that had been at the compound positively identified the body. By 10:00 a.m. the final flight carrying the last remaining Americans, including Ambassador Stevens’s body, left Benghazi, drawing the evening to its tragic conclusion[18]

The Investigation

On September 20, 2012, less than 10 days after the deadly Benghazi attack, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board (ARB) to investigate and report on the attack in Benghazi. Clinton’s authority to convene such an inquiry stemmed from the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986[19]

The omnibus bill, itself an outgrowth of a myriad of diplomatic security breaches and embassy attacks, stipulated that “[a] Board shall consist of five members, 4 appointed by the Secretary of State, 1 appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence.”[20] Such a board would be charged with responsibility for examining the “facts and circumstances surrounding the serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at or related to a United States Government mission abroad.”[21]

Similarly, the Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) produced a report analyzing the conditions and actions that precipitated the Benghazi attack on September 11. Nearly three months after both investigations were initiated, the ARB and HSGAC issued their public findings, on December 18, 2012, and December 31, 2012, respectively[22]

The ARB, chaired by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, as well as the HSGAC, issued a number of critical findings. These include:

Security Gaps. Per international standards, a host nation is generally recognized to be responsible for helping to maintain the security of other nations’ diplomatic facilities within its borders. In Libya, however, the turmoil that followed the fall of the Qadhafi regime left the country without a strong central authority. More than a year later, Libya’s National Transitional Council is still struggling to restore stability. According to the HSGAC report, the State Department failed to augment the compound with additional security staff, despite being fully aware of the Libyan government’s inability to adequately provide security for the Mission in Benghazi. It was within the context of a recognizably deficient Libyan government support system that the United States relied heavily on local, indigenous security, namely the February 17 Brigade and Blue Mountain Libya.

The reliance of the State Department on such local security groups, however, remains unnerving given their lack of skill, obstinacy, and near-abdication of duties following a dispute over salaries and working conditions prior to the September 11, 2012, attacks. According to the ARB:

Although the February 17 militia had proven effective in responding to improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on the Special Mission in April and June 2012, there were some troubling indicators of its reliability in the months and weeks preceding the September attacks…. At the time of Ambassador Stevens’ visit, February 17 militia members had stopped accompanying Special Mission vehicle movements in protest [over salary and working hours]. The Blue Mountain Libya (BML) unarmed guards, whose primary responsibilities were to provide early warning and control access to the SMC, were also poorly skilled[23]

Indeed, the ARB indicated that it found little evidence that the February 17 Brigade and BML provided meaningful assistance in securing the facility in Benghazi during the attack.

The State Department failed to augment the Benghazi compound with additional security staff, despite being fully aware of the Libyan government’s inability to adequately provide security.

Also complicating security efforts in Benghazi was the fact that the Special Mission remained a temporary facility, the impact of which is twofold. First, personnel were stationed at the Special Mission for short periods of time. This made it difficult to develop consistent security protocols, and it also meant that no personnel were there long enough to become experienced in their roles. Second, there was a great deal of ambiguity surrounding security funding and resource decisions. Indeed, according to the HSGAC report, “Because the Benghazi facility was temporary, no security standards applied to it.”[24]This included the provision of physical security measures and barriers at the facility.

Leadership Failures. Ultimately, the ARB found that responsibility for the gaps in security in Benghazi rested in part on “[s]ystemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department.”[25] The lack of preparation and adequate staffing likely resulted from an inchoate sense of where ultimate authority rested in making final decisions related to security staffing needs. The ARB concluded that among Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi, “[t]here appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.”[26]

At the same time, security decisions appear to have been stovepiped, rather than being viewed as a “shared responsibility” among the appropriate actors in Washington[27] Greater cooperation appears to be needed between the intelligence community, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense to protect American diplomatic facilities in the future. Indeed, in Benghazi, Defense Department–support decisions may have been hindered by the lack of shared information and operational awareness between the Defense and State Departments. The Defense Department’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) was responsible for working with the State Department in developing security assessments and evacuation plans. However, it appears that the State Department did not know how long it would take the Defense Department to respond in the event of a crisis, nor did the Defense Department seem to know how many individuals were present at the Benghazi facility—which is important to know in the event of an evacuation[28]

Intelligence Deficiencies. Addressing the intelligence gaps that preceded the attack, the Accountability Review Board found a discontinuity in the understanding, and anticipation, of terrorist activity at or near the Special Mission compound in Benghazi. “Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist,” the ARB concluded.

Similarly, the HSGAC report concluded that the lack of specific intelligence warnings may have partially stemmed from the narrow focus of the intelligence community in Libya on al-Qaeda and its known affiliates: “[T]he activities of local terrorist and Islamist extremist groups in Libya may have received insufficient attention from the IC [intelligence community] prior to the attack, partially because some of the groups possessed ambiguous operational ties to core al-Qaeda and its primary affiliates.”[29] This finding seems particularly relevant given that the local extremist group that has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia Libya, is neither directly tied to al-Qaeda nor a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
The ARB concluded that amongst Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi, “[t]here appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.”

Ultimately, both the ARB and HSGAC cautioned against an over-reliance on “warning intelligence” in preparation for the onset of violence at high-risk, high-threat diplomatic missions[30] Instead, the State Department should increase its awareness of the wide array of other factors that could alert it to any rapid or ongoing deterioration of regions in which a mission is operating. Indeed, a wealth of information existed prior to the attack indicating that the security situation in Benghazi was deteriorating. This information could have been used by State Department officials to inform security needs at the Special Mission facility. Unfortunately, this reactionary mentality seems to be par for the course, as the Administration continues to broadly treat terrorism under a law enforcement paradigm that focuses on response-oriented policies and prosecuting terrorists. This approach takes the place of proactive efforts to enhance intelligence tools and thwart terrorist attacks long before the public is in danger[31]

Secretary Clinton’s Testimony

On January 23, 2013, after the release of each report’s respective findings, Secretary Clinton testified before Congress[32] Her testimony offered few answers to the questions that remained. Clinton attempted to place the Benghazi attack within the historical context of violence against diplomatic missions and seemed to convey a sense of incredulity at the public nature of Congress’s inquiry. “This committee never had a public hearing about the 17 other ARBs because they’re classified,” Clinton stated[33] Of the 19 ARBs convened since 1988, only two unclassified versions have been released[34]
The now former Secretary of State, while openly taking responsibility for the September 11, 2012, attack, downplayed the extent to which she was personally aware of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi as well as the formal requests for additional security. Clinton testified that those security requests were handled by security professionals and did not reach her desk. Unfortunately, this equivocation does not indicate that Clinton’s office fully acknowledged its own failures in understanding and reacting to the evolving threat situation in Benghazi.

In one of the most contentious moments of her testimony, Secretary Clinton reacted angrily to questions posed by Senator Ron Johnson (R–WI) concerning the nature and origins of the Benghazi attacks by declaring:

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night, [who] decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator[35]

The differences, of course, between a coordinated terrorist attack, a planned protest, or an impromptu event spurred by “guys out for a walk” are manifold. Secretary Clinton’s argument lacked resonance because the advent of a coordinated terrorist attack could have been prevented through improved intelligence-gathering mechanisms and concurrent increases in security, a scenario far less conceivable in the face of a spontaneous riot.

Unanswered Questions Remain

The ARB and HSGAC report articulated several areas where the State Department failed to properly anticipate and implement adequate security measures to protect diplomatic personnel in Libya. However, there remained glaring omissions within the reports. Many had hoped that Secretary Clinton’s testimony would shed greater light on the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack before its culmination and address many of these omissions. Yet, several key questions remain unanswered, including:
Which counterterrorism and early-warning measures were in place to address security threats? To learn how to prevent future attacks against U.S. overseas facilities, it is necessary to know what counterterrorism efforts, if any, were in place to reduce the threat of an attack in the first place. Open-source documents reveal that eastern Libya has long been a hotbed of instability and that U.S. facilities in Libya were operating under high-risk conditions. More analysis and information is needed to determine which procedures were followed to identify and disrupt terrorist operations aimed at diplomatic personnel and facilities.

Which risk assessments were performed and which risk-mitigation measures were adopted before the attack? Since the fall of Muammar Qadhafi’s regime, Libya’s fledgling government has been unable to stem the influence of extremist entities. The instability on the ground therefore created an apparent risk to U.S. personnel. Risk assessments that evaluate threats, criticality, and vulnerability are needed. Then, the most prudent combination of risk-mitigation measures can be adopted. Together, these methods are a proven strategy for enhancing physical security.

What kind of contingency planning was undertaken and exercised to respond to armed assaults against U.S. facilities in Benghazi? Early-warning planning and risk assessments are essential to countering threats against U.S. personnel and facilities, but they have their limits. Incomplete data and inaccurate judgments are challenges that could result in unforeseen consequences. Contingency planning must be flexible and adaptable in order to ensure an adequate response to security threats. To fully assess the Administration’s response to the Benghazi attack, any future investigating committee would need to know which contingency plans were in place, how developed they were, and to what extent they were implemented.

How was the interagency response to the incident organized and managed? When a crisis puts the lives of U.S. personnel and U.S. interests at risk, the whole of government should respond with all reasonably available resources. Future investigations should address the command, control, and coordination of efforts to organize and integrate interagency responses after a threat becomes evident.

Clinton’s testimony aside, understanding the level of requests for additional security, or warnings of worsening conditions on the ground, that reached within the State Department, is crucial. This understanding naturally leads to questions regarding how deeply the State Department and White House have communicated on this issue.
In the immediate aftermath and weeks following the Benghazi attacks, the White House promoted a narrative centered on the notion that an impromptu demonstration against a crudely made YouTube video insulting the prophet Mohammed unraveled into the chaos and violence that engulfed the mission in Benghazi. Although the investigation is still ongoing, evidence suggests that officials at the State Department and White House believed within hours of the Benghazi incident that this was not the case. Instead, they believed it was an attack coordinated by al-Qaeda and the Libyan group Ansar al-Sharia.
Given the conflicting narrative produced by the Obama Administration, there are two possible explanations. One possibility is that officials within the White House were uninformed, meaning communication with the State Department was woefully lacking. The other is that individuals within the White House consciously and deliberately promoted a public explanation of the Benghazi attack that was at odds with reality.
Vulnerabilities Found by Government Investigators

Long before the Benghazi attack, in November 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing U.S. diplomatic security challenges. The report found three specific areas of concern: (1) a greater number of missions in dangerous locations; (2) insufficient and inexperienced staffing and inadequate building security, and (3) a lack of strategic planning in diplomatic security.

According to the GAO report, maintaining missions in increasingly dangerous locations had stretched the State Department’s ability to provide adequate security. The GAO found that the State Department was maintaining missions where it previously would have evacuated personnel or closed the post. Missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other unstable nations required “unprecedented amounts of security resources.”[36] For example, diplomatic security agents in Afghanistan and Iraq reported that safely transporting diplomatic officials was their greatest challenge due to the assets required. These include armored vehicles, contractors to maintain equipment in rough terrain, and in some cases an air wing for transportation, surveillance, and search and rescue operations[37]

The GAO found that the State Department was maintaining missions where it previously would have evacuated personnel or closed the post.

The GAO also found serious challenges with security staffing and maintaining adequate building security. In 2008, around one-third of the State Department’s domestic security offices operated with a vacancy rate of 25 percent or higher, with some offices operating at as low as 35 percent capacity[38] When GAO staffers visited three posts overseas, for example, they found that the Regional Security Office in Abuja, Nigeria, had only one of four assigned security staff members while the office in New Delhi “had only two of its seven allocated special agents until fall of 2008.”

While the State Department tried to hire more special agents, it takes three or more years to train these agents, even after the State Department condensed agent training. Unfortunately, the pressing need for agents ultimately led to 34 percent of security positions being “filled with officer below the positions grade,” with such experience gaps threatening to compromise diplomatic security[39] The GAO also found that “many buildings and their occupants may remain vulnerable to attack” due to a failure to meet embassy security standards[40]

Lastly, diplomatic security growth has been reactive, not strategic. While security will always be partially reactive, planning ahead is critical to ensure that staffing and resource priorities are met. The GAO found:

Past efforts to further plan Diplomatic Security resources have gone unheeded. Diplomatic Security’s bureau strategic plan for fiscal year 2006 (written in 2005) identified a need to (1) develop a workforce strategy to recruit and sustain a diverse and highly skilled security personnel base and (2) to establish a training float to address recurring staffing problems. As of September 2009, Diplomatic Security had not addressed either of those needs[41]

Many of these gaps still remain today.

In a hearing on November 15, 2012, the GAO stated that it had found that the State Department still “needs to take action in order to strategically assess the competing demands on Diplomatic Security and the resulting mission implications.”[42] Failure to remedy these concerns led to serious diplomatic security vulnerabilities at posts throughout the world, and will continue to do so unless they are addressed.

The Future of Diplomatic Security

The attack in Benghazi and the most recent attack in Turkey on February 1 represent only the latest incidents in which the security of U.S. diplomatic missions was breached. The tragic loss of life that resulted from these incidents should not serve simply as a reminder of the many dangers facing U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad. They should also act as a clarion call for improving the standards by which diplomatic security is assessed and implemented.

The U.S. State Department currently manages more than 200 posts throughout the world[43] Most of these diplomatic installations require unremarkable security needs. However, many of the United States’ most sensitive diplomatic missions operate in tenuous security environments. It is in these areas that one most often finds the need for enhanced security measures.

The findings from the ARB and HSGAC reports, and the fact that many of the most important questions failed to receive adequate scrutiny, should motivate action. Congress and the Administration should take the following steps to anticipate and mitigate the omnipresent threats facing the nation’s diplomatic facilities and personnel abroad:
Establish a Congressional Select Committee to find answers to remaining questions. Questions still remain after the release of the ARB and HSGAC reports, along with the related committee hearings, briefings, and letters to Administration officials. These various investigations have not only failed to provide complete answers to some of the crucial questions on embassy security and the events of September 11, 2012, but have at times resulted in contrasting and confusing accounts. There is historical precedent for the formation of congressional select committees in the aftermath of similar security crises—such as the Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities in response to the Watergate scandal, and the joint congressional committee that was established to investigate the Iran–Contra affair. Such a committee would not only help to provide answers to the remaining questions surrounding the attack, but would enable the relevant congressional committees to work together to ensure the future safety of U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad.

Recognize the true nature and scope of the Islamist terrorist threat. Time and time again the Administration has failed to recognize the true threat posed by Islamist extremism. In the days immediately following the attack in Benghazi, the Administration failed to identify the assault as an act of terrorism, instead publicly subscribing to the belief that the attacks were born of a spontaneous riot. Not only does this show that the Administration may have failed to appropriately connect the dots following the attack, but also that it is continues to fail to grasp the ideological motivations of Islamist terrorists. So, too, it appears that the intelligence community may have failed to identify warnings of the attack due to its narrow focus largely on al-Qaeda and its affiliates, excluding groups not directly affiliated with al-Qaeda. In order to better protect U.S. interests in the future, both the Administration and the intelligence community must recognize that while Osama Bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and other Islamist extremists continue to actively plot to harm the United States, its interests, and its citizens.

Conduct frequent and extensive threat assessments for diplomatic facilities. Such assessments should be made for any and all potential dangers, both anticipated and unanticipated, that could confront any diplomatic mission—especially those operating in high-threat environments. These threat assessments should include input from numerous agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, the Defense Department, and the State Department itself. The assessments should also include regular briefings reaching the highest levels of both Congress and the White House. As the ARB report highlighted, simply relying on “warning intelligence” is not enough. Risk assessments that evaluate threats, criticality, and vulnerability, along with a frank assessment of mission priorities, risks, and costs, should be conducted on a regular basis and used to inform security decisions and resource allocations.

Combat stovepiping in addressing diplomatic security and ensure whole of government response. As previously stated, when a crisis puts the lives of U.S. personnel and U.S. interests at risk, the whole of government should respond with all reasonably available resources. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has testified that there was not enough time to get armed assets to Benghazi to aid in fending off the attack. Nevertheless, investigations have also indicated that coordination between the Defense and State Departments on matters of security were lacking. Similarly, while enough evidence existed to suggest that the security situation in Benghazi was deteriorating, it was not used to inform strategic decisions. This also suggests a serious failure in communication and coordination. As the ARB report asserted, security in Benghazi was not recognized as a “shared responsibility” across the whole of government. This must change. Greater effort is needed to combat such stove-piping in addressing diplomatic security and ensure a government response to not only ensure that other nation’s diplomatic facilities are secure, but also to allow a swift response in the face of threats.

Assign a permanent Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Mediterranean. As Libya and many other Northern African nations remain politically unstable, it is necessary for the U.S. to deploy more robust, mobile, and flexible security forces in the region. The U.S. Marine Corps should therefore permanently assign a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to the Mediterranean to provide this capability. An MEU consists of roughly 2,200 Marines, three Navy amphibious assault vessels, a rapidly deployable infantry battalion, and various aviation assets. Because an MEU operates from Navy vessels, it can deploy relatively large forces to a point of conflict rapidly, while not having the diplomatic concerns of establishing a temporary base on foreign soil. A permanent MEU presence in the Mediterranean will also enable a robust force to evacuate U.S. officials and citizens from an area of tumult quickly and with reduced risk of harm.

Require that the investigations result in meaningful legislative and executive branch follow-up. Too often, security breakdowns are reported and recorded, and the recommendations are never implemented. Congress should enact legislation that requires the State Department to submit a follow-up report on Benghazi within a year specifically addressing the progress made on implementing the recommendations. It should also press the State Department to implement the recommendations issued by the GAO.

Ensuring that Lessons Are Learned

The tragedy that took place in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, shocked and saddened the United States. Both the State Department and the Senate tried to figure out what went wrong, in hopes of ensuring that such a tragedy would not happen again. The State Department’s Accountability Review Board and the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released unclassified versions of their findings. While many important issues were addressed, there remain glaring omissions that still need to be addressed. In order to better protect U.S. diplomatic facilities, these questions must be answered and a more focused and effective holistic government approach created from the lessons demonstrated by this possibly avoidable disaster.

—Scott G. Erickson is a police officer in California; his focus is on identifying terrorist organizations. Jessica Zuckerman is a Research Associate in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, and Steven P. Bucci, PhD, is Director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The authors wish to thank Allison Center intern Sarah Friesen for her help in preparing this paper.