A Senate report released Monday confirmed what many media outlets and critics of the State Department had long suspected - that the decision to keep the U.S. embassy in Benghazi open despite increasingly dangerous threats and the knowledge that the mission's security detail would be inadequate to deal with the threats was a "grievous mistake," resulting in the deaths of four Americans on September 11th of this year.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee's report on the terrorist attack which killed U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, placed blame on US intelligence agencies for not providing enough focus on Libyan extremists and terror groups. It also highlighted errors by the State Department, mainly their under evaluation of the threat from these groups and the fact that they insisted on waiting for specific warnings instead of acting on security.
The assessment comes in the wake of a particularly scathing report, compiled by an independent State Department accountability review board, which led to the resignation of a top security official and forced three others at the department to step down.
The attack placed a magnifying glass on many of the US's diplomatic missions in tumultuous countries across the Middle East and has led to a re-evaluation of diplomatic security practices at posts in these fragile, unstable areas. It has also placed the American public in doubt on whether or not the government has tried to downplay the effusiveness of terror networks in the region.
After supporting Arab springs in the region, many of his detractors believe Obama had a lot to lose by revealing that some parts of the region were unsafer than before.
The Senate report said the lack of specific intelligence of an imminent threat in Benghazi "may reflect a failure" in the intelligence community's focus on terrorist groups that have weak or no operational ties to al Qaeda and its affiliates.
"With Osama bin Laden dead and core al Qaeda weakened, a new collection of violent Islamist extremist organizations and cells have emerged in the last two to three years," the report said, adding that the intelligence community failed to focus on these terrorist groups with little or no ties to al-Qaeda and its offshoots. These groups have emerged in the "Arab Spring" countries undergoing political transition or military conflict, it said.
The report recommended that these agencies "broaden and deepen their focus in Libya and beyond, on nascent violent Islamist extremist groups in the region that lack strong operational ties to core al Qaeda or its main affiliate groups."
However the report did not place blame on any one group responsible for the attacks. President Obama, in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, said the US had some "very good leads" about who carried out the attacks, but did not provide any details.
The report added, "Despite the inability of the Libyan government to fulfill its duties to secure the facility, the increasingly dangerous threat assessments, and a particularly vulnerable facility, the Department of State officials did not conclude the facility in Benghazi should be closed or temporarily shut down. That was a grievous mistake."