Failure to protect ... the gutted US consulate after the attack that killed four Americans, including the ambassador, Christopher Stevens. Photo: AP
WASHINGTON: The State Department had "grossly inadequate" security at a US mission in Libya before a deadly attack by militants and must overhaul procedures to correct "systemic failures," an independent review panel said.
The panel, appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to investigate the September 11 attack in Benghazi that killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, found the department showed "a lack of proactive leadership and management ability", though no government employees violated their duties.
The findings in the report raise questions about the State Department's leadership under Mrs Clinton, who is preparing to depart the post as one of the most popular figures in President Barack Obama's administration. The panel criticised the performance of "senior levels within two bureaus" under Mrs Clinton without faulting her by name.
Christopher Stevens Photo: Reuters/US State Department
"The report makes clear the massive failure of the State Department at all levels, including senior leadership, to take action to protect our government employees abroad," Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said in a statement.
Three State Department officials resigned under pressure less than 24 hours after the report's release, the Associated Press reported, citing an administration official it didn't name. Among those resigning were Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, the report said.
The chairman of the review board, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, said at a State Department briefing that responsibility for the security failings went up to the assistant secretary's level, "where, if you like, the rubber hits the road".
The panel's vice chairman, retired Admiral Michael Mullen, said Mrs Clinton shouldn't be held personally responsible because it was "not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge" of matters that her staff didn't bring to her attention.
Saying she accepted "every one" of the review board's recommendations, Mrs Clinton vowed to correct the department's failures in a letter to Congress that the State Department released to reporters before sending them the critical report to which she was responding.
Mrs Clinton said her department had begun working to hire additional diplomatic security for US missions and was working with the Pentagon to dispatch hundreds of additional Marine Corps security guards.
No intelligence provided any warning of the attack, in which armed men breached the compound walls, and there wasn't enough time for US military forces to have made a difference in responding after the assault began, the panel said in the report.
The review board also found "no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders," who provided a safe evacuation of US government personnel from Benghazi within 12 hours of the initial attack.
The report repeatedly faults the State Department for producing a "security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," according to an unclassified version of the report by the five-member review panel.