Washington has issued yet another stinging report on the killing of American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, and while it breaks little new ground, it reaffirms the conclusions of last year’s report that found security lapses for which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took responsibility and promised reforms.
The bipartisan report does add new details to the events of Sept. 11, 2012, though, as it concludes that the deaths of Stevens and three other Americans were preventable. That same conclusion was evident in the independent report issued in December 2012. That report also cited “grossly inadequate” security at the diplomatic outpost and led to the ouster of four State Department officials.
Clinton, herself, appeared before Congress in a contentious hearing the next month, just before her already-planned resignation. In it, she accepted responsibility for the attack and noted that she has already taken some of the steps the report recommended to diminish the chances of another such attack. Congress should be following through to make sure that enough is being done.
Beyond highlighting failures of the State Department, the Senate’s 42-page report also criticized the intelligence community for not moving more quickly to correct inaccurate initial reports of a demonstration outside the Benghazi outpost. And, like the independent report, the Senate document also criticizes Stevens, himself, for ignoring deteriorating conditions and putting himself at risk. The Senate report also dismisses allegations that would-be rescuers were delayed in responding to the attack.
A Republican addition to the report takes a shot at Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for “significant deficiencies in command.” Mostly, though, the Republicans take the opportunity – predictably – to attack Clinton, whom many see as the Democrats’ most potent presidential candidate in 2016. Democrats would have done the same, were the roles reversed, but the fact is that nothing new came out of this report to change whatever conclusions there are to draw about Clinton’s role in this tragic episode.
But it’s how our political system works, and a presidential campaign looms in less than two years. Whether it is merited or not, we will be hearing more about Benghazi.