'Systemic Failure' by State Department in Benghazi Attack, Report Finds


Despite the sharp criticism for the State Department, the board does make it clear that ultimately the gunmen who carried out the attack are ultimately responsible.

"The Board remains fully convinced that responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attack,"

But the report finds that there were warning signs; a sharp increase of attacks on Western interests in Benghazi, a knowledge from the intelligence community that even if there was no actionable intelligence on a future attack it was known that radical Islamic groups were operating in the area, that required better planning and protection than what the consulate had.

Clinton, who is at home recovering from a stomach flu causing her to faint and suffer a concussion, received the report Monday morning. After reviewing it, she issued eight page cover letters to the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees, where she 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 added that she has already established a task force that met for the first time today, which will make sure that the board's findings are implemented "quickly and completely."

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."

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.

The House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees have received the full classified report before being briefed in a closed session by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and member Admiral Mike Mullen in a closed session.

On Thursday Deputy Secretaries of State Bill Burns and Tom Nides will testify before Congress in an open session, representing Clinton, who is unable to attend because of illness.

House Foreign Affairs chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement on Dec. 15 that while the committee accepts Burns and Nides presence at the hearing, the committee will still require "a public appearance by the Secretary of State herself" to answer questions.

On Monday Secretary Clinton sent letters to the chairs of both committees making it clear that she is open to further engagement after the holidays, when Congress is back in session and she is feeling better, said state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

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