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The Benghazi failure

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Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

The latest report on last year's tragedy at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya — this one from the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee — paints a devastating picture of the State Department's failure to prepare for such an attack.

The consulate already had been attacked twice before Sept. 11. The report says State made “a grievous mistake” by not closing it long before, despite knowing that Libyan authorities couldn't protect it and that Benghazi was a hotbed of Islamist extremism.

Nor had State and the Department of Defense “jointly assessed the availability of U.S. assets ... in event of a crisis,” leaving Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans who were killed without military help “close enough to reach Benghazi in a timely fashion.”

The report also says U.S. intelligence agencies quickly knew the attack was not a spontaneous reaction to a U.S.-made, anti-Muslim video but the work of al-Qaida-linked Libyan militia Ansar al-Shariah, which publicly claimed responsibility.

Yet mention of Ansar al-Shariah's role was removed from declassified “talking points” on the attack to “protect sources and methods.”

That's unlikely to end concerns about why it took the Obama White House so long after the attack to label it as what it plainly was: terrorism. And many, at State and elsewhere, remain to be held fully accountable for their roles in a textbook case of how not to protect a U.S. diplomatic mission.

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