A report by an independent panel on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, probably won’t do anything to dissuade conspiracy theorists or Obama-critics who insist the U.S. president misled Americans about the attack out of fear it would hurt his re-election campaign. But it makes fascinating – even page-turning – reading, particularly in a timeline that lays out step-by-step the sudden attack and ensuing efforts to defend Ambassador Chris Stevens and others trapped in the compound.
The panel was headed by Retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, who studied thousands of pages of cables and other documents, hours of video and intelligence and interviewed more than 100 people, including survivors. The key findings are somewhat astonishing, given the date, the location and the background of the situation. While U.S. security personnel and government officials responded quickly and often courageously, the picture painted is of a grossly under-defended mission in an incredibly dangerous area that relied on inadequate intelligence and suffered from State Department bungling. Some key points it makes: