Today, US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a redacted version of its review of attacks of US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya on the night of September 11th-12th, 2012. The attacks led to the death of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens and other US personnel and has become a major point of domestic debate in the US. The review takes a highly negative view of the response to the attack itself and to the aftermath by a number of federal agencies.
The review, available in full here at Codebook: Africa, includes fourteen individual findings and subsequent recommendations that touch on issues regarding intelligence gathering, force protection, response to attacks on diplomatic facilities, interagency cooperation, and more. The review also analyzes the unclassified talking points on the attacks provided to House and Senate intelligence committees in the wake of the attacks. These talking points have been a divisive issue in the domestic debate. Additional “views” provided by the Committee’s majority, which noted that they felt the attacks were in their opinion “likely preventable” given the evidence gathered, and specific Senators are also provided. These include a serious criticism of General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the attack, who remains in that post. The State Department was also soundly criticized for its actions at the time and what members of the Committee described as a lack of cooperation and accountability during the review process.
It is worth noting that even before this review, both the US Department of Defense and Department of State had already been reviewing and changing elements of their force protection policies and crisis response capabilities. On the military side, the US Marine Corps was directed to expanded its Marine security guard elements and activated a Marine Security Augmentation Unit (MSAU) at Marine Corps Base Quantico, which could provide additional personnel to embassies in need. The US Marine Corps also activated Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR), currently station in Rota, Spain, to provide a rapid response capability for diplomatic facilities in need in the region. The US Army also directed the activation of crisis response force elements around the world, including the East Africa Response Force (EARF) at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Both SPMAGTF-CR and the EARF have deployed in response to the recent crisis in South Sudan, where they bolstered embassy security and helped evacuate US citizens and other foreign nationals.