Some questions are answered in the unclassified version, many remain unanswered. Here's what I noticed:
1. Stevens was in Benghazi for the first time in 10 months (since becoming Ambassador). The report says he was there to spell a temporary-duty head of mission and to attend a ceremony at a local school. His meeting with the Turkish Ambassador was mentioned but not explained. Was the Turk person there to attend a school ceremony, too?
2. The report lists a series of incidents in the months leading up to the attack, including two apparently pulled off by a jihadist group named after Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (the Blind Sheikh locked up here in the US), which suggests a link to Egypt and AQ. This linkage was apparently unremarkable to United States personnel.
3. The tic-toc on the attack still seems thin in spots. If the complex was initially attacked and virtually overrun how did the annex security staff get back in? The report mentions the first 2 car convoy to leave the mission heading to the annex and its precarious journey, including taking fire from automatic weapons and attempts by several locals to lead it into a trap, yet it doesn't list any problems with annex personnel either heading to the mission later or leaving the mission. Was that classified? Did they use some kind of James Bond vehicle or had the crowds dispersed by then?
The dispersal explanation doesn't sound logical since the report says the annex security team was told by local militias to leave immediately--even without recovering the ambassador's body--because the mission might be 'overrun', even though it was presumably overrun earlier resulting in the bombing and arson of several buildings and the deaths of Stevens and Smith.
4. The report denies there was any 'stand down' order at the annex, it merely mentions a time gap of about 20 minutes after they learned of the attack and the teams leaving for the mission. One report several months ago stated that two of the annex security contractors denied the stand down orders and proceeded to the mission on foot; this was not mentioned but it was not ruled out.
5. It still seems strange that the lead mission security officer or various others could not locate Stevens' body after several attempts to return to the building yet the Libyan locals apparently found him in a room inside later. This could be explained by the thick smoke but presumably the ambassador had strayed far from the route taken by the lead mission security officer from the bathroom to the outside. Would gas masks or night vision goggles have worked in the smoke?
5. There was no mention of AQ leader al-Liby and Zawahiri's message on 9/10/12 calling on the faithful to avenge his death. There was no explanation of the notebook (diary) found by CNN reporters several days after the attack wherein Stevens feared he was on an al Qaeda 'hit list'.
6. Was there a gap between the time the quick-reaction force from Tripoli landed at Benghazi airport and the time they got to the annex to join in the fight? The tic-toc handles this on page 27:
The seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli arrived in Benghazi to lend support. It arrived at the annex about 0500 local.Notice the tic-toc did not provide a time of arrival of the Embassy Tripoli quick response team at Benghazi airport, just that 'they arrived'. It then lists their time of arrival at the annex. Fifteen minutes after the arrived at the annex it came under attack by rockets and mortars, which tragically resulted in the loss of Mr. Doherty and Woods.
This failure to nail the time gap seems consequential since one can presume that if the Tripoli team had arrived earlier and begun an evacuation to the airport earlier then the second attack might not have occurred or at least would not have been successful. Hopefully Congressional members can get answers to some of these questions, including the back-links to jihadist groups in Cairo and elsewhere who might have planned the attacks.
Overall the report blames no one; doesn't get into details about how connected the White House was to the event; whitewashes the time gap between the Tripoli quick-reaction force and their arriving at the annex; downplays any intelligence related to AQ; and doesn't comment on whether Stevens was on a 'hit list' as per his own diary; doesn't mention the CIA whatsoever; says the military could not have responded in time. The main shortfalls noted included the use of temporary duty personnel to staff the facility; the residential nature of the mission; and denials for added security. Of course extra security might have been crucial in running the operation they were running, which also wasn't mentioned in the report.
But since the report mentioned lapses in security it will satisfy part of Obama's two-pronged response to the event, which was finding out what happened and making sure it never happens again and finally, retaliation. This report basically blames no one so nobody was at fault; security will be increased here and there; and at some point they will retaliate although the report lists no single responsible entity. Nevertheless Hillary agrees with all the recommendations despite her concussion so this is what the media will run with, which has a near-zero interest level for the public. The lack of a protest mob was mentioned but had been established some time ago--besides, Susan Rice is no longer in the running for SoS anyway. Problem solved, back to gun control.
LET ME BE CLEAR 12/20/12
State sent a couple of unknowns up to the hill to testify on behalf of Mrs. Clinton, who was presumably still foggy-headed from her football injury. Nothing occurred except the usual finger-pointin-politickin (to the delight of the administration).
Jay Carney was 'grilled' a little about the report today and said the president stands by all the recommendations and findings in the report, including the accountability fallout of lowering the axe on four subordinate State employees (only one resigned, the others may be reassigned).
So let me be clear...the report is a McGuffin.
The real questions are 1) what the hell was going on there in the first place, 2) why did the administration blame it on a video even though the report today indicated there was not a mob protest outside the facility, which was NOT a consulate nor even a mission, it was a 'special mission', 3) why did Hillary tell the father of one of the slain ex-SEALS that the government was pursuing the filmmaker? These questions were not addressed by the report, obviously by design. It's up to the press to ask, and they did not. Instead the spokesman chastised the reporter and his news organization for daring to insinuate that any funny business might be going on. We are screwed as a nation when the press becomes as cowed as they are now.