Benghazi’s costly lessons
The men and women of our armed forces aren’t the only Americans sent into harm’s way by the U.S. government. Diplomatic personnel also risk their lives in distant realms. But while those hazards are inevitable, the State Department should take sensible precautions to minimize them.
Unfortunately, such vigilance was lacking at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where a Sept. 11 terrorist attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
On Thursday, congressional hearings on that outrage — and on its prelude and aftermath — produced assurances of needed corrections of high-stakes mistakes.
Those tragic blunders include the failure of the State Department’s “threat analysis” to address justified concerns expressed by security personnel months before the attack.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton missed Thursday’s hearings because she’s still recovering from a concussion suffered in a household accident. But she is expected to answer questions from lawmakers next month.
Maybe then we’ll finally learn what Secretary Clinton knew —and when she knew it — about the situation in Benghazi.
At least Mrs. Clinton has already signaled that she plans to implement all 29 recommendations of an Accountability Review Board. Chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering, that panel investigated what went wrong in Benghazi.
The board’s recommendations, issued this week, include putting more Marines at U.S. diplomatic installations and getting “key security-related threat information into the right hands more rapidly.”
Meanwhile, Congress must provide the funding needed to strengthen security at our diplomatic outposts. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the likely successor to Secretary Clinton, correctly stressed that point Thursday.
And Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We have learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better.”
Some heads have already rolled at State, with one department official resigning this week and three others “disciplined.”
Another diplomat who suffered a career setback from this story is Susan Rice, the current U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Five days after the 9/11 terror attack in Benghazi, Amb. Rice appeared on five television shows at the behest of the White House and maintained that the attack was part of a “spontaneous” protest over an anti-Muslim video.
The controversy stirred by Amb. Rice’s attempts to advance that notion, whether or not she knew it was false, ultimately cost her the chance to become Secretary of State.
But what Mr. Burns acknowledged as “systemic” shortcomings helped cost Amb. Stevens and those other three Americans their lives.
And in a dangerous world where U.S. diplomats are targets, the nation they so bravely serve must do more to protect them.