(WASHINGTON) -- Congress received the State Department's Benghazi attack report Tuesday along with recommendations to better protect the U.S. embassies and consulates.
A courier delivered a copy of the Benghazi report to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she continued recovering from a concussion at home. Sec. Clinton commissioned a team to take immediate action on the report's recommendations on preventing future attacks. Only members of Congress will see the report's classified sections, but the State Department is making the rest public. Sec. Clinton sent her deputies to congressional hearings as she recovers from her fall.
According to the report outlining the findings from an internal investigation into the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, the State Department found failures at many levels, totally inadequate security and other problems. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other State Department workers were killed in the attack. Despite requests, they never got the proper security detail.
The report finds systemic failures in leadership and management deficiencies at a senior level within two bureaus at the State Department. Those deficiencies, according to the report, resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi, and they say grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.
The board members who authored the report say they found a pervasive realization among personnel who were in Benghazi that the special mission there was simply not a high priority for Washington, when it came to security-related requests.
Still, investigators said that those in Benghazi acted bravely, despite not having the proper force they had long requested. They praised the people who were there, essentially calling them heroes. In the report, investigators say those in Benghazi fought hard to get people out of there once the facility came under attack, and that they demonstrated good coordination with the interagency groups and the military.
Additionally, they found that early reports of protests in Benghazi were not correct, according to the report.
The first thing they saw when viewing footage of the attack from security cameras was armed people going over the gates to attack. The report says unequivocally that there was never any protest before the attacks.
In two eight-page cover letters to the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees, Secretary Clinton said that she accepted the report’s conclusions in their entirety.
“The Accountability Review Board report provides a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic challenges that we have already begun to fix,” said Clinton. “I am grateful for its recommendations for how we can reduce the chances of this kind of tragedy happening again. I accept every one of them.”
Clinton said she has already established a task force that met for the first time Tuesday, which will make sure that the board’s findings are implemented “quickly and completely.”
Among the actions she has taken in light of the report are a worldwide review of embassy security, including partnering with the Pentagon to have Interagency Security Assessment teams evaluate the most dangerous posts, dispatching “hundreds” of additional Marine security guards to various posts, requesting additional funding in 2013 to improve the physical premises of U.S. embassies and consulates including making them more fire retardant, and providing more training and equipment to Diplomatic Security officers.
Clinton also addressed the issue of chain and command and bureaucracy problems between the field and Washington. She announced she is naming the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of High Threat Posts, a senior level position devoted solely to focusing on security at high-risk posts. Clinton also said that in the future regional Assistant Secretaries based in Washington at the highest levels will have greater responsibility and accountability for their people and posts in the field.
“Ambassadors are charged by the President to ‘take direct and full responsibility’ for the security of all personnel under their authority ‘whether inside or outside the chancery gate,’” said Clinton. “The leadership of our regional bureaus will be embracing the same accountability and responsibility for the staff serving in these areas.”
Secretary Clinton closed her letter by giving a spirited defense of diplomacy, stressing that while the attack showed systematic problems in how the State Department addresses security, the work of diplomats cannot be dictated by security concerns alone. She asks Congress to continue to support the work of the State Department.
“The United States refuses to be intimidated. We will not retreat. We will continue to do what America always does: pull together, learn and emerge stronger and better,” said Clinton. “We will keep leading and engaging, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake."
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