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Obama blames 'sloppiness' for Benghazi attack

Published December 30, 2012 6:32 pm

Politics • President says massacre in Newtown worst day as president.
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Washington • President Barack Obama, in his most detailed comments on an independent inquiry's report on the attack against the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, said Sunday that the security and management flaws identified were "huge problems" that reflected "sloppiness" in how the State Department safeguards its missions abroad.

Obama, in an interview on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," reaffirmed a decision by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to carry out all 29 of the panel's recommendations, including dispatching 225 additional Marine guards to embassies and consulates and revamping how threat warnings are used to secure diplomatic posts overseas.

"My message to the State Department has been very simple, and that is we're going to solve this," Obama said. "We're not going to be defensive about it; we're not going to pretend that this was not a problem — this was a huge problem."

Obama said one major finding — that the State Department relied too heavily on untested local Libyan militias to safeguard the compound in Benghazi, Libya — reflected "internal reviews" by the government.

"It confirms what we had already seen based on some of our internal reviews; there was just some sloppiness, not intentional, in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don't have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies," Obama said.

Four State Department officials were removed from their posts this month after the five-member panel led by a former ambassador, Thomas R. Pickering, criticized the "grossly inadequate" security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been one of the fiercest critics of the administration's handling of the Benghazi attack, said Sunday that the Senate should delay confirmation hearings on Obama's choice to be his next secretary of state, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, until Clinton fulfills her promise to testify to Congress about her role in the matter.

"I want to know from the secretary of state's point of view, 'Were you informed of the deteriorating security situation?' " Graham said on "Fox News Sunday." "'Were all these cables coming out of Benghazi? Did they ever get up to your level? And if they didn't, that's a problem. If they did, why didn't you act differently?' I think it's very important to know how the intelligence coming from Libya, how it was received in the State Department, so we can learn and correct any mistakes."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, also said on the same program that it was important to hear from Clinton.

"The problem was the right people apparently either didn't make the decision or didn't analyze the intelligence, because I think if you looked at the intelligence, you would have substantially beefed up the security in that particular mission, in Benghazi," Feinstein said. "It didn't happen sufficiently."




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