The Accountability Review Board, established by Hillary Clinton in the wake of the 9-11-12 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, has released its report, an unclassified version of which you can find here. It is a travesty. On the issues of who made the decisions to deny requests for greater security in Benghazi, why they made those decisions, and why our government sent no military assets in response to the attack that lasted over seven hours, the report is an utterly worthless whitewash. The Board excuses failure, ignores relevant fact, makes bald assertions disclaiming responsibility, and holds no one liable.
Here is the ARB's first finding:
The attacks were security related, involving arson, small arms and machine gun fire, and the use of RPGs, grenades, and mortars against U.S. personnel at two separate facilities – the SMC and the Annex – and en route between them. Responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.
Let's pull that apart. Yes, responsibility for the loss of life lies with the terrorists. But that statement, implying as it does that the people who made the decisions denying greater security in Benghazi bear no responsibility is simply beyond the pale. Those decisions were not merely reckless, they were, in the context, criminally reckless. This ARB attempt to remove all moral and ethical condemnation from those who denied the security requests is a set up for the ARB's later finding that no one is culpable for the policies and decisions that left four Americans dead, including a U.S. Ambassador.
As to the Board's conclusion that there was no protest prior to the attacks – well, it would be impossible to claim otherwise at this point. As to their conclusion that the “attacks . . . were unanticipated in their scale and intensity,” that is ridiculous. The report itself lays out a list of 20 significant attacks that occurred in or near Benghazi in the run up to September 11. The report neglects to note that a month prior to the attack, the security personnel in Benghazi sent a report addressed to Hillary Clinton laying out their concerns that such an attack as occurred on 9-11 might happen, and that it would over-run the U.S. compounds. How much more “anticipated” could this attack have been?
The Board gets a bit more specific on this issue in their fifth finding, but it is no more accurate in its factual underpinnings, nor more acceptable in its conclusion:
The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection. However, the Board did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty.
At no point in this report is there a discussion of precisely why each request for security was denied, merely some vague references to failures in management and leadership and a suggestion of budgetary problems. There is no reference whatsoever to the policy decision to “normalize” the security posture in Benghazi, and of course no identification of who originated that policy. And the finding that, despite criminally reckless decisions not to have adequate security in Benghazi, no one is liable, can only be described as very convenient for the administration. There is no reason for the decision makers to tell their side of the story if they are being protected in their jobs. This is despicable.
Lastly, the Board issued the finding that “there simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.” That is made as a bald assertion, with no discussion of the assets available and their response times. No facts whatsoever are given in support of this assertion. And indeed, some of the facts given in the report suggest otherwise. The report makes clear that the people in Benghazi had ongoing communications with “Washington.” It also makes clear that AFRICOM was able to quickly get drones in the air over Benghazi. Indeed, the bald assertion of the ARB is in contravention to all of the known facts regarding the potential for deployment of our military in response to the Benghazi attack.
On the issues of who made the decisions to deny security and why, and on the issue of the failure of the U.S. to respond militarily to the attack, this report is less than worthless. It gives no answers, merely excuses. The Board's report does not, as many MSM and blogs are asserting today, rip the State Department - it covers for it.