The Foreign Service Journal - March 2014 - page 14

Plenty of Blame to
Go Around
n Jan. 15 the U.S. Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence issued a
on the tragic events of
Sept. 11, 2012, when four U.S. officials—
J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone
Woods and Glen Doherty—were killed at
the special mission in Benghazi, Libya.
note that the committee faults the
State Department for failing to increase
security at its mission despite warnings,
and blames the intelligence commit-
tee for not sharing information about
the existence of the Central Intelligence
Agency outpost in Benghazi with the U.S.
military command responsible for Africa.
In addition, the Pentagon did not have
the resources in place to defend the State
Department compound in an emergency.
Due to the document’s importance,
we are devoting this edition of Talking
Points to its findings and recommenda-
tions, as excerpted from the report.
In the months before the attacks on Sept.
11, 2012, the intelligence community [the
IC] provided ample strategic warning that
the security situation in eastern Libya
was deteriorating and that U.S. facilities
and personnel were at risk in Benghazi.
The State Department should have
increased its security posture more
significantly in Benghazi based on the
deteriorating security situation on the
ground and IC threat reporting on the
prior attacks against Westerners in
Benghazi—including two incidents at
the Temporary Mission Facility on April 6
and June 6, 2012.
The State
Department must ensure that security
threats are quickly assessed and security
upgrades are put into place with minimal
bureaucratic delay. The State Department
has made changes since Sept. 11, 2012,
including the creation of a new position
of Deputy Assistant Secretary for High-
Threat Posts. Although this new position
will help the State Department focus on
high-threat posts, the State Department
must make the institutional changes nec-
essary to quickly and efficiently respond
to emerging security threats—especially
those threats that have been identified
numerous times by the U.S. IC.
The committee urges the State
Department to consider the recom-
mendation of its Independent Panel on
Best Practices to, “as a matter of urgency,
establish an Under Secretary for Diplo-
matic Security” to “bring security gov-
ernance into the 21st century and align
security management with the realities
of a post-9/11 threat environment.” As
noted by the chairman of the Indepen-
dent Panel on Best Practices in his writ-
ten testimony to a House committee, this
structural recommendation is not new
and was suggested in a report written 14
years ago, following the 1998 East Africa
embassy bombings.
Only in rare
instances—and only after a formal risk
management plan has been put into
place—should State Department facilities
that fall short of current security stan-
dards be allowed to operate. Facilities
that do not meet these standards should
be prioritized for additional security
measures. In these cases, temporary
facilities should have the physical
security, personnel, weapons, ammuni-
tion and fire safety equipment needed
to adequately address the threat. The
committee understands the need for
State to have the flexibility to operate, on
a temporary basis, out of facilities that fall
short of these standards; however, these
operations are extremely vulnerable, as
seen in Benghazi.
As appropri-
ate, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for
High-Threat Posts should also find con-
sistent ways to coordinate with the CIA to
exchange best practices for high-threat
posts and to discuss common security
The IC and
State Department should ensure all
surveillance cameras at high-risk, high-
threat facilities have sufficient resolution,
nighttime visibility, remote monitoring
capabilities and redundancy to provide
warning and situational awareness in the
event of an attack. The committee notes
that the Independent Panel on Best Prac-
tices has recommended that the State
Department establish a new office “for
field-expedient deployment of hardware,
cutting-edge protective technology and
There was no singular “tactical warning”
in the intelligence reporting leading up to
the events on Sept. 11, 2012, predicting an
attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi on the
9/11 anniversary, although State and the
CIA both sent general warning notices to
facilities worldwide noting the potential
security concerns associated with the
anniversary. Such a specific warning
should not have been expected, however,
given the limited intelligence collection
of the Benghazi area at the time.
The IC must
place a greater emphasis on collecting
intelligence and open-source informa-
tion, including extremist-affiliated social
media, to improve its ability to provide
tactical warnings, especially in North
Africa, the Middle East and other areas
MARCH 2014
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