Security in Benghazi was lax - inquiry

Official inquiry harshly criticises US State Department over Benghazi attack.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton delivered a lecture at the University of the Western Cape on 8 August 2012. Picture: Regan Thaw/EWN

WASHINGTON - Security at the US mission in Benghazi, Libya was grossly inadequate to deal with a September 11 attack that killed a US ambassador and three others because of failures within the State Department, an official inquiry found on Tuesday.

In a scathing assessment, the review cited "leadership and management" deficiencies at two department offices, poor coordination among officials and "real confusion" in Washington and in the field over who had the responsibility.

What was also confusing about the attack was who had the power to make decisions that involved policy and security concerns.

The attack killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans and set off a political furore.

Republicans used the issue to attack President Barack Obama before the November 6 election in which he won a second term in office.

The report's harsh assessment seemed likely to tarnish the four-year tenure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She said in a letter accompanying the review that she would adopt all of its recommendations.

"Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," said the unclassified version of the report by the official "Accountability Review Board."

The board specifically faulted the department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, the regional office which is responsible for the Middle East and North Africa, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, its law enforcement and security arm.

The five-member board said US intelligence provided no "specific tactical warning" of the attack and that there was "little understanding of militias in Benghazi.

There was also the threat that they posed to US interests" in the eastern Libyan city, where the central government has little influence.

The incident has raised questions about the adequacy of security at US embassies around the globe and where to draw the line between protecting American diplomats in dangerous places while giving them enough freedom to do their jobs.