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Stinging Benghazi report leads to three resignations (+video)

An independent panel faults two State Department offices for the security shortcomings that contributed to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.

By Staff writer / December 19, 2012

The US Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during Sept. 11. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that she accepted the findings of an independent panel that faulted the State Department for security shortcomings that contributed to the deadly September attack and has ordered widespread changes to bolster US diplomatic security overseas.

Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters/File

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Washington

A stinging independent inquiry into the Sept. 11 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, faults a confused and unresponsive State Department for security shortcomings that contributed to the deaths of four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya.

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On Tuesday night, the investigative panel released its declassified version of the report, which concludes with more than two dozen recommendations for improving diplomatic security in dangerous places like Benghazi and eastern Libya. The recommendations range from keeping security personnel on a particular assignment longer so they develop knowledge of local conditions to calling for US security at diplomatic missions to become more “self-reliant.” (The US had turned to local militias to help protect the Benghazi site.)

Three State Department officials, including two involved with security at Benghazi, resigned Wednesday in the wake of the report, according to news reports.

Tuesday's report shifts the focus on the Benghazi attack away from the political questions of who knew what and when to the broader question of diplomatic security in increasingly unstable places.

Republican outrage at how the Obama administration initially characterized the attack has already led Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, to withdraw her name from consideration as a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State. Ambassador Rice famously appeared on Sunday news shows and characterized the attack as a demonstration against an anti-Islam video. She did not link it to terrorists.     

The Benghazi attack was carried out on a lightly guarded diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA annex by extremists at least loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Secretary Clinton, who has already accepted full responsibility for the Benghazi tragedy, said in a letter to Congress that she was committed to acting on each of the report's 29 recommendations. Some of the steps are already being taken, department officials say.

For example, the State Department is asking Congress to allow it to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in budgeted spending to security measures, such as assigning more US Marines to diplomatic posts. It has also named a senior diplomat to focus on diplomatic security in dangerous places.

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