WASHINGTON — Administration officials should have anticipated the terrorist threat to the American consulate in Benghazi before it was attacked in 2012, according to a Republican analysis released Tuesday.
The report from GOP members of a House subcommittee formerly chaired by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, says the White House overstated its security preparations around the globe before the incident, which took place on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
“We were woefully unprepared militarily when it came to what assets we had that were available once it was clear this was an attack,” Roby said.
Roby chaired the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations during its review of the military response to the attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The report is similar to one issued last spring by several congressional committees, but contains more detail from military personnel in Washington about the attack, which stretched over seven hours at two facilities in Benghazi. Roby’s subcommittee largely absolved the U.S. military of blame, saying the Pentagon did everything it could that night with the resources it had.
“The lack of communication from Washington to those on the ground in the weeks and months leading up to the attack is devastating,” Roby said.
Roby’s subcommittee did not have oversight of the intelligence or diplomatic decisions. The report instead blames the national security staff for not ordering more military resources to the region after other attacks on western facilities in previous months.
“If this public information was insufficient to cause grave concern to policy makers, those privy to classified intelligence evaluations should have been even more alarmed,” the report states. It also faults the administration for beefing up security in Yemen without doing the same in Libya.
Pentagon officials testified there was no information about a specific imminent threat in Benghazi.
The report acknowledges the Defense Department cannot respond immediately to “every conceivable global contingency.”
“Ensuring that preparations exist for some likely possibilities is not to be confused with the ability to anticipate all prospective circumstances, especially in highly volatile regions,” the GOP committee members wrote.
Although Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee participated in hearings and interviews during the subcommittee’s investigation, they did not sign on to Tuesday’s report.
In a joint statement, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the full committee, and Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, top Democrat on the subcommittee, said they hope the report will end the GOP investigation.
“While Republicans in both the House and Senate have continued to attack the motivations and actions of those who serve in our country’s national security apparatus, this Republican-prepared report clearly states that the Department of Defense responded appropriately, quickly, to the best of its ability at that time, and that no ‘stand down’ order was ever issued,” they said.
Democrats also endorsed the report’s conclusions that the Pentagon has appropriately changed some procedures based on lessons learned from Benghazi. For example, more military guards have been posted at diplomatic facilities and the Pentagon has rearranged resources to respond faster if they are attacked.
Smith and Tsongas argued Republicans were still searching for evidence of a scandal, unlike in 1983, when two attacks in Lebanon killed 304 U.S. personnel stationed there.
“Afterwards, there were no calls for an impeachment of President Reagan, or an extensive political sideshow like the one Republicans have orchestrated for more than a year,” they said.
Roby left the Armed Services Committee to take a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.