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Why No One Will Ever Be Blamed for Benghazi

A Senate committee released on Wednesday its long-awaited findings on the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Its findings are a case study in how no one and everyone in the State Department, the U.S. intelligence community, and the White House has been held responsible for an attack that has fueled a political firestorm in Washington -- and left four Americans dead.

The report principally spreads blame for the attack across the State Department and the CIA and shows how the department was slow and nearly negligent in upgrading security procedures at its Benghazi outpost. It documents in detail the repeated security warnings generated by American intelligence agencies that the security situation in eastern Libya was deteriorating during the fall of 2012 and that the likelihood of an attack against U.S. personnel in Benghazi had significantly increased.

Despite these repeated warnings, the report, a product of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, did not find a specific, tactical warning that might have predicted an attack the claimed the life of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other U.S. personnel.

"The committee found the attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya -- to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets -- and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission," the Senate committee said in a press release.

In concluding that the attack could have been prevented, the report lambastes both the State Department and the CIA for failing to adequately communicate with one another. The CIA comes under fire for failing to disclose to the regional commander, General Carter Ham, that the agency had put in place a facility for its personnel -- the so-called annex -- in the restive city. The State Department, meanwhile, failed to take seriously repeated warnings about the deteriorating security conditions in Benghazi. The department is harshly criticized for failing to install adequate security measures at its Benghazi compound. That building lacked adequate perimeter defenses, hardened doors, and while it had been provided with additional video cameras for surveillance purposes, they were never installed. Notably, the report reveals that the CIA took steps to upgrade security at the annex while the State Department did little to harden its facility, which was no more than a few miles from the agency's building.

The report does address in detail the most politically explosive aspect of the Benghazi attack, talking points which the Obama's administration's Republican critics were doctored to downplay the terrorist origins of the attack and whether the attack had been spontaneous or had been long in the works. Regarding the planning of the attacks, the report appears to cautiously endorse the finds of the U.S. intelligence community that the attacks "were deliberate and organized, but that their lethality and efficacy did not necessarily indicate extensive planning."

While the report notes that there is little evidence to corroborate the notion that specific intelligence predicting the attack ever existed, it argues that, among other things, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies should step up their monitoring of open source and social media in order to prevent such attacks in the future.

More disturbingly, the report also reveals that at least 15 people who have in some way assisted the FBI in their investigation in the aftermath of the attack have been killed. Their killing, the report states, underscores "the lawless and chaotic circumstances in eastern Libya" and claims that it "is unclear whether their killings were related to the Benghazi investigation."

The report, which broadly blames the American intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracies, does not make clear whom within these agencies bears responsibility for failing to act on security warnings in Benghazi.

The report, which broadly blames the American intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracies, does not make clear whom within these agencies bears responsibility for failing to act on security warnings in Benghazi. In that way, despite the report's many revelations, it tells a story that was already known.

Read the report:

U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Review of the terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghaz...

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National Security

How Did a German Man End Up Dead in a U.S. Drone Strike?

On Feb. 16, 2012 a missile launched from an American drone struck a pickup truck outside the city of Mir Ali in Pakistan's rugged tribal region. As many as 15 men died in the attack, which many reports claimed killed mostly "Uzbek Islamists."

Now, nearly two years after the fact, it turns out a German man was among the dead that day. According to a report in the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, a man known as Patrick was killed in the attack. A convert to Islam, Patrick had at one point allegedly served as an informant for the German security services, reporting on the Islamist scene around Bonn.

It's an irony that surrounds much of the initial reporting on American drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. Initial reports cite the deaths of various "suspected insurgents." Only later do the actual identities of those killed in the strike emerge -- be they civilian or combatant.

In the case of Patrick, the death of a former informant for the German security services raises as many questions as it answers. According to the Suddueutsche Zeitung, Patrick had been converted at the age of 16 during the winter of 2001 and had been briefly arrested in Bonn ahead of a gathering of Social Democrats there that was subject to various terror threats. Those threats turned out be empty, and Patrick disappeared shortly thereafter. His family reported him missing.

It was only this week that he turned up once more -- in a jihadist propaganda video announcing his death. Patrick appears to have joined up with a group known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group with strong ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Two German brothers -- Mounir and Yassin Chouka -- run the group's propaganda outfit and produce high-quality German-language propaganda videos for consumption back home.

While Patrick's alleged work for the German security services remains unconfirmed, that line on his resume raises two tantalizing questions. First, could Patrick have been sent back to Pakistan as a German agent? Second, if Patrick wasn't a double agent, what was a fluent German speaker doing still in Pakistan? Shouldn't such a man be given a haircut, a suit, a ticket to Karachi, and an order to await further instructions? Few better candidates exist for terror missions in Western Europe.

The answers to these questions -- to the extent they're answerable, anyway -- offer something of a snapshot of the current jihadist movement and the threat it poses to European countries.

Guido Steinberg is an expert on jihadist groups, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and, according to him, the likelihood that Patrick was sent to Pakistan as a double agent is extremely unlikely. "The German services have never managed to infiltrate these networks," Steinberg, who is a senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told Foreign Policy. "At one point they did here in Berlin for a very, very short time. I'd be surprised -- it doesn't really fit their normal activities." The idea that Germany spies would be able to launch such an operation is, in fact, somewhat laughable. "Our services are virtually helpless without the help of the Americans," Steinberg added.

European security services are currently consumed with the fear that members of their growing Muslim minority will travel abroad to participate in jihadist movements only to return later and apply what they have learned on the battlefields of Syria and Pakistan in terrorist attacks at home. The intensifying conflict in Syria has only exacerbated that fear, and that country has now surpassed Afghanistan and Pakistan as the prime destination for European jihadists. "The global jihad has prioritized the Syrian conflict as its principal front," a Spanish intelligence official told Newsweek in October.

So far, the fear among European security officials toward returning jihadists appears to have paid off. There have been no major attacks in recent years, and European security services have proven fairly competent at foiling such attacks. The result, Steinberg says, is that foreign terrorist groups are loath to send their fighters back to Europe when in all likelihood they'll get caught or killed anyway.

Instead, Steinberg says, groups like IMU have turned toward utilizing savvy propaganda strategies to inspire attacks inside Germany, including a failed attempt to kill a right-wing politician. That's a familiar reality for American security officials. For example, Maj. Nidal Hassan, the man responsible for killing 13 people at the American military base at Ft. Hood, became radicalized in part by watching sermons online.

In the digital era, old notions of double agents and moles aren't as relevant as they used to be. It's fanciful to imagine that a rogue German be sent back from the wilds of Pakistan to carry out an attack in Berlin. What's more likely is that some anonymous-looking kid carries out the deed after getting radicalized online.

That's a target America's drones can't hit.

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