The report called on Congress to fully fund the request for additional security funds. “For many years the State Department has been engaged in a struggle to obtain the resources necessary to carry out its work with varying degrees of success,” the report said. The result, it said, has been inefficiencies that sacrifice security for savings.
An unclassified summary of the report was posted on the State Department’s Web site. A copy of Clinton’s letter was provided to reporters. More-detailed classified versions were made available earlier Tuesday to congressional leaders and the two committees in preparation for testimony by Deputy Secretaries William J. Burns and Thomas R. Nides on Thursday.
The Benghazi attack became a major issue in the presidential campaign, with GOP candidate Mitt Romney and numerous Republicans in Congress criticizing the Obama administration for what they viewed as poor security at the compound. Republicans also have been critical of initial administration reports that said the attack grew out of protests outside the Benghazi outpost over a U.S.-made anti-Islam video.
The report describes a somewhat loose and confusing arrangement for security and accountability at the site. It notes that everyone involved in Stevens’s trip to Benghazi from Tripoli for a week of meetings with local officials was aware of the potential for increased risk associated with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. As a result, Stevens was confined to the post on that day.
The panel faulted Libyan guards who had been hired to protect the compound, saying that they may have abandoned their posts at the front gate and allowed the attackers to overrun the facility. The report also said that the response of the Libyan government was “profoundly lacking on the night of the attacks, reflecting both weak capacity and a near total absence of central government influence in Benghazi.”
But the report also suggests that Stevens put himself in danger. It notes that he did not perceive an outsize risk created by traveling to Benghazi and that his deep experience in Libya and his management style meant that he made many decisions himself.
“His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy, and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments,” the report said.
The report found significant lapses in judgment and oversight by a few unidentified State Department employees but said no mistake amounted to a dereliction of duty. It did not recommend that anyone be fired.
First among the recommendations in the report is a general improvement in security for front-line posts in conflict zones and other dangerous countries. The United States cannot rely so heavily on the security forces of host countries, the report said.
“The department should urgently review the proper balance between acceptable risk and expected outcomes in high risk, high threat areas,” the report said.
Abandoning such posts is not acceptable, but neither is sending people to them without adequate support and forethought, the report said. It recommends a cost-benefit analysis of the mission, the risk and the responsibilities.
The five-member panel was led by former ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and included retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two men are scheduled to present their findings in closed-door, classified meetings on Wednesday with the Senate and House foreign affairs panels.
Debbi Wilgoren also contributed to this story.