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Lawmakers Say Report On Benghazi Attack Raises Tough Questions

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll CAll File Photo
Corker, who is expected to become the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee in the next Congress, said improving security for America’s diplomats abroad will require all branches of government to step up.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of funding, as we will see in the open hearing tomorrow,” she said after her committee’s briefing with members of the review board. “If they would not spend money on programs like climate change, there are funds available. Any requests for additional security in Benghazi would have been taken care of, and no such requests were made.”

Ros-Lehtinen said the report reflected “systematic failures of the State Department and all agencies.”

But Corker said that improving security for America’s diplomats abroad will require all branches of government, including Congress, to step up.

“I think we can all do a better job, in fairness,” Corker said. “We as a country need to determine what we want to do with expeditionary setups like this, where we’re in a place where the country does not have control of the country itself.” One of the things the review board found was that the weak Libyan government and a loosely affiliated Libyan militia the State Department was relying on for additional security were both woefully unequipped to assist the United States in protecting its facilities in the country, which is fresh off an Arab Spring-inspired revolution.

“And we need to understand what the value to American diplomacy is of having people in a place like Benghazi,” Corker continued.

The Weak Spots

Democrats and Republicans alike hailed the independent panel’s report as serious, comprehensive and frank. And they applauded Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying she would implement all of the panel’s recommendations, and more.

The ARB report made clear that Foggy Bottom, and specifically the State Department’s Diplomatic Security and Near Eastern Affairs bureaus, did not properly coordinate or respond adequately to security concerns in Benghazi, a city in Eastern Libya that was the heart of the uprising that toppled longtime Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. The Associated Press reported that three senior State Department officials resigned Wednesday morning as a result of the report, including Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell and Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security.

The report said the physical security and personnel at the consulate were “grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” which killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The consulate’s perimeter wall, the report noted, was scaled “immediately” by dozens of armed attackers, members of an Islamist militia.

“Washington showed a tendency to overemphasize the positive impact of physical security upgrades, which were often field-expedient improvements to a profoundly weak platform, while generally failing to meet Benghazi’s repeated requests to augment” its security personnel, the report said.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., accused the administration of trying to mislead the American people on some of the details related to the attack.

“I am deeply concerned that the unclassified report omits important information the public has a right to know,” Issa said Wednesday in a written statement. “This includes details about the perpetrators of the attack in Libya as well as the less-than-noble reasons contributing to State Department decisions to deny security resources.”

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