Editorial: Benghazi mishandled from every angle
The U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi released this week its much-anticipated report on the Benghazi terror attacks that killed four Americans in September 2012. Setting aside the partisan spin, the report from the Republican-led committee details clear security and intelligence failures by the State Department leading up to the attacks, and coordinated actions by the Obama administration afterward to mislead the American people about what caused them.
Benghazi was mishandled from every angle. The disaster was orchestrated at least in part by Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president who is citing her leadership and crisis management skills in her campaign.
That makes the report’s findings more than information for the archives.
Republican House members filled more than 800 pages with information from witnesses, transcripts, emails and other evidence, but two key elements have stood out in this investigation.
First, Clinton’s State Department failed to adequately protect Americans abroad, and the administration failed to efficiently deploy military resources once the attacks were underway.
There were warnings leading up to the attacks that conditions surrounding the temporary mission facility in Benghazi were deteriorating. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell conceded before the committee that “intelligence failures” occurred.
Intelligence reports showed Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups were present in Libya, and there had been multiple previous attacks against other nations’ diplomatic missions. The report discusses at least 10 previous terror attacks in Benghazi before Sept. 11, including two IED attacks on the American compound.
But hundreds of requests for additional security for Americans there were unanswered or denied, even in the days and hours leading up to the attacks, which occurred on the anniversary of 9/11.
Then-Secretary of State Clinton also received memos the month before the attacks detailing how hostile the area had become, and recommending the department act with urgency.
But security was never strengthened. And even after Obama and Panetta agreed to send in troops during the attacks, Clinton was part of a small group that delayed their departure for hours, debating things like whether Marines should be wearing uniforms.
Meanwhile, the final two Americans were killed.
That was a critical lapse in judgment, and one that undermines Clinton’s claims she is prepared to guide the country through any crisis as president.
Clinton and Obama made political calculations. Libyan foreign policy was to be Clinton’s crowning achievement as secretary of state, a sentiment expressed in her emails with adviser Sidney Blumenthal.
Admitting the instability following the overthrow of dictator Muamar Qaddafi with no replacement plan would be bad optics – for Clinton and Obama, who was in the middle of a re-election campaign.
Obama was also committed to keeping ground troops out of Libya.
More troubling than the decision making is the deceit.
The report cites Clinton emails revealing a coordinated effort among agencies to carefully script talking points to separate the public story from private acknowledgment of what took place.
The attacks were not spontaneous reactions to a YouTube video denigrating Muslims, as Clinton claimed for days afterward. They were planned acts of violence in response to U.S. policies in Libya.
That level of deception is not acceptable, especially to the families who lost loved ones in the attacks.