Earlier this morning, I posted briefly on the Benghazi report issued yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee (the report itself was approved about a month ago, but was only declassified yesterday). Several news outlets, including The New York Times, have pointed out that the report is “broadly consistent with the findings of previous inquiries into the attack on Sept. 11, 2012.”
The report, however, does break new ground on one front: it has been over a year since the attack, but this is the first time the government has publicly acknowledged (and provided an analysis of) the alleged lack of communication between the State Department and the CIA leading up to the attack. The report, referred to by The New York Times as “stinging,” goes as far as to call the deadly attack “preventable.”
At Transparent Policy, we are devoted to analyzing government practices and policies as they relate to national security issues. Frequently, for example, at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, we find that the government does not provide the level of transparency that was promised by the current administration. In an undated Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (presumably disseminated towards the beginning of his tenure as President), President Obama writes:
“Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.”
This Benghazi report is an example of the level of transparency necessary to promote government accountability and keep citizens informed and knowledgable. The public needs to know the bad along with the good; in the case of Benghazi, there was a series of high-level communication errors and failed intelligence warnings, that ultimately led to a deadly terrorist attack. By acknowledging this lapse and failure on the part of the government, this report will help to increase the public’s level of trust in the government. By revealing failures as well as triumphs, it is allowing the public to understand that the government is honest and open with the public, and helps to promote a strong sense of trust in the government. Further, the government’s taking responsibility for its errors by acknowledging that the Benghazi attack was likely preventable will help to ensure that the same mistake is not made again. By identifying where communication failed and intelligence warnings were ignored (and making the public aware of these failures), we can rest assured that the government will correct these errors to be certain that there is never a Benghazi 2.0 in our history books, and that our government is working at the highest possible level to promote these values of openness, freedom, and democracy on which we place such a high premium.
Kelly Ann Taddonio, Senior Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research