The East Africa boards sifted through but ultimately rejected allegations that any specific government employee — civilian or military — had been negligent in addressing the threats or security of the embassies.
Instead, they were blistering in their criticism of government in general for failing to prioritize and invest money in improving security at U.S. diplomatic missions despite a clear rise in threats to American interests abroad and the widely publicized 1985 recommendations of the Inman Report on securing such facilities published two years after the bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut.
"The boards did not find reasonable cause to believe that any employee of the United States government or member of the uniformed services breached his or her duty in connection with the August 7 bombings," they concluded.
"However, we believe there was a collective failure by several administrations and Congresses over the past decade to invest adequate efforts and resources to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. diplomatic missions around the world to terrorist attack," they said.
Several Republican lawmakers have alleged that Stevens and his staff made repeated requests for security improvements at the Benghazi consulate that the State Department denied. Clinton told Congress she was waiting for the results of the investigation before answering those claims directly.
In 1998, there were widespread reports that Prudence Bushnell, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, had sought security upgrades, including possibly moving the embassy away from downtown Nairobi, that were denied or delayed.
The boards found those claims to be factually correct, but stressed that resource constraints made many improvements low priorities given more serious security deficiencies at other embassies.
Republican lawmakers also have claimed that Washington disregarded, played down or shrugged off an increasingly serious stream of threats to U.S. and Western interests in Benghazi.
The same complaints were made in relation to the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings.
Crowe and his fellow board members found in their reports that the threats that U.S. officials had been aware of in the months and weeks before the bombings had not been specific or credible enough to warrant significant changes to the embassies' security postures.
In presenting his reports 13 years ago, Crowe offered what may well end up being the general conclusion of the Benghazi inquiry.
He rejected criticism by media commentators and lawmakers who were "quick to lay the blame totally on the State Department, and to have found a villain, and go after it pretty heavy."
"That is certainly not the view of the commission," he told reporters on Jan. 8, 1999. "We have come to the opinion that (it was) a collective fault for the U.S. government, including the people that appropriate funds in this country, and that terrorism is now threatening to grow to the point where it's everybody's business."
"And everybody's got to accept a role and responsibility," Crowe said. "We would never say that it was totally the State Department's fault."
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