WASHINGTON - Both highly critical and bipartisan, a Senate report declared today that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented. The account spreads blame among the State Department, the military and U.S. intelligence for missing what now seem like obvious warning signs.
For the first time in the much-politicized aftermath, the report also points at Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack. It says that the State Department ended a deal with the military to have a special operations team provide extra security in Libya, and that Stevens twice refused an offer to reinstate the team in the weeks before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
The military also takes criticism in the report for failing to respond more quickly on the night of the assault.
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S., armed militants stormed the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, setting the building on fire. Stevens, information technology specialist Sean Smith, and CIA security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALs, were killed over the course of two battles that night.
Stevens died of smoke inhalation after he was taken to a "safe room" in the besieged compound. The Obama administration first described the assault as a spontaneous mob protest of an anti-Islamic, American-made video. Such a protest did occur at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier that day. Republican critics say the administration was reluctant to deal publicly with a terror attack weeks before the presidential election.
Officials corrected their description days after the attack, but by then it had become a hot political issue that has continued to dog the administration.
On that issue, the report dives into the contentious initial talking points issued by the intelligence community, which helped fuel Republican allegations of an Obama administration cover-up of militant links to the violence.