In the wake of the September terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead, officials launched an independent inquiry, which took three months to scrutinize not only the violence, but the conditions that led to the deadly outcome.
Last night, as Rachel noted on the air, the panel's findings were released to the public, and showed sharp criticism of the State Department for poor security decisions, including insufficient safety upgrades, a lack of qualified security personnel, an overreliance on untested local militias, and a failure to prepare for dangerous contingencies.
"Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus," the report said, resulted in security "that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."
Looking ahead, the investigators proposed 29 specific actions the State Department should take to prevent similar tragedies in the future, and as of last night, each of the panel's recommendations will be adopted.
In response to the panel's findings, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a letter to Congress that she was accepting all 29 of the panel's recommendations, five of which are classified. "To fully honor those we lost, we must better protect those still serving to advance our nation's vital interests and values overseas," Mrs. Clinton said in the letter. She is already taking specific steps to correct the problems, according to officials.
They say the State Department is asking permission from Congress to transfer more than $1.3 billion from contingency funds that had been allocated for spending in Iraq. This includes $553 million for hundreds of additional Marine security guards worldwide; $130 million for diplomatic security personnel; and $691 million for improving security at installations abroad.
The entirety of the 39-page, unclassified version of the report is available online here (pdf). A longer, classified version of the report was sent to Congress yesterday, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a closed hearing today to discuss its findings with retired diplomat Thomas R. Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, both whom helped write the Benghazi report.