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State Department Faulted For Inadequate Security In Benghazi Attack

An independent panel has sharply criticized the State Department for inadequate security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the day of an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

In an unclassified summary of the report released tonight, the Accountability Review Board cites several key mistakes. It said that security depended heavily on local Libyan militias and that the State Department ignored requests for additional security assistance in the period leading up to the attacks.

Despite those failures, the board found that no individual U.S. official ignored or violated his or her duties and no cause for any disciplinary action.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton convened the panel to look into security procedures at the consulate and make recommendations on how to prevent another attack. In letters sent today to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton said:

"The Accountability Review Board report provides a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic challenges that we have already begun to fix. I am grateful for its recommendations for how we can reduce the chances of this kind of tragedy happening again. I accept every one of them."

NPR's Michele Kelemen tells our Newscast Unit that Clinton has named a new State Department official to oversee high-threat posts and the U.S. will send hundreds of additional Marine guards overseas.

Officials told The New York Times that in order to act on the recommendations:

"[T]he State Department is asking permission from Congress to transfer $1.3 billion from funds that had been allocated for spending in Iraq. This includes $553 million for additional Marine security guards; $130 million for diplomatic security personnel; and $691 million for improving security at installations abroad."

Ambassador Chris Stevens; Sean Smith, a U.S. Foreign Service officer; and two embassy security personnel, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed Sept. 11, when gunmen set fire to the consulate and attacked a nearby annex.

The incident set off a political firestorm in Washington, with Republicans accusing U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice of making misleading statements and downplaying the role of terrorists in the days following the attack. The criticism ultimately led Rice to remove her name from consideration for secretary of state.

Members of the review board, chaired by former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, are expected on Capitol Hill tomorrow. Clinton's deputies are to appear in public hearings Thursday, while Clinton recovers from a concussion.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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