The revelation that at least one survivor of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi remains hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Hospital has provoked renewed demands for accountability and answers.
“Why hasn’t Congress had access to these survivors? Don’t we have an obligation to hear from them and recognize their service and sacrifice? It’s time for clear answers to these questions,” asked Representative Frank Wolf (R–VA) in a “Dear Colleague” letter, H. Res. 36, which has been signed by over 50 other Members.
What happened to the survivors is only one of the many unanswered questions lingering from the Benghazi disaster. Heritage notes that even following the official reports by the Accountability Review Board and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, along with other committee hearings, briefings, and letters to Administration officials, “[t]hese various investigations have not only failed to provide complete answers to some of the crucial questions on embassy security and the events of September 11, 2012, but have at times resulted in contrasting and confusing accounts.”
Heritage notes that more than 40 embassy attacks, including Benghazi, are on the record, and recommends several critical steps to improve security for American officials serving the national interest overseas:
- Create a congressional select committee. This could help provide answers to the remaining questions surrounding the attack, and also enable the relevant congressional committees to cooperate on the future safety of U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad.
- Recognize the true nature and scope of the Islamist terrorist threat. The Obama Administration’s failure to identify the Benghazi assault as an act of terrorism shows that the Administration may have failed to connect the dots following the attack and that it continues to fail to grasp the ideological motivations of Islamist terrorists.
- Conduct frequent and extensive threat assessments for diplomatic facilities. The FBI, the CIA, the Defense Department, and the State Department should have a part in regular briefings reaching the highest levels of both Congress and the White House. Risk assessments that evaluate threats, criticality, and vulnerability, along with a frank assessment of mission priorities, risks, and costs, should be conducted regularly and form the basis of security decisions and resource allocations.
- Combat stove-piping in addressing diplomatic security and ensure an adequate response. As previously stated, when a crisis puts the lives of U.S. personnel and U.S. interests at risk, the government should respond with all reasonably available resources.
- Assign a permanent Marine expeditionary unit to the Mediterranean. As Libya and many other Northern African nations remain politically unstable, it is necessary for the U.S. to deploy more robust, mobile, and flexible security forces in the region. The U.S. Marine Corps should therefore permanently assign a Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Mediterranean to provide this capability.
- Require that the investigations result in meaningful legislative and executive branch follow-up. Congress should require the State Department to submit a follow-up report on Benghazi and press the State Department to implement the Government Accountability Office’s 2009 recommendations.
The tragedy of Benghazi must not be allowed to slip into the annals of diplomatic history without further investigation and demands for accountability. It is the critically important role of Congress to make sure that does not happen.