December 19, 2012

4 State Department officials resign after Benghazi report

The resignations came as lawmakers expressed anger and frustration over the findings of an independent review panel.

The Associated Press

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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pauses as he speaks to reporters following a closed-door briefing on the investigation of the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. An Accountability Review Board's report indicates serious bureaucratic mismanagement was responsible for the inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

"My impression is the State Department clearly failed the Boy Scout motto of 'be prepared,'" said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

"They failed to anticipate what was coming because of how bad the security risk already was there. ... They failed to connect the dots," he said. "They didn't have adequate security leading up to the attack and once the attack occurred, the security was woefully inadequate."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House intelligence committee, said security was "plainly inadequate, intelligence collection needs to be improved, and our reliance on local militias was sorely misplaced.

"These are not mistakes we can afford to make again," he said.

The House intelligence committee chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said the report laid bare "the massive failure of the State Department at all levels, including senior leadership, to take action to protect our government employees abroad," and complained that no one was being held accountable.

Rogers also said he was dissatisfied with the lack of progress in finding the attackers.

Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security who was in charge of embassy protection, testified in October before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and defended the security measures.

"I made the best decisions I could with the information I had," Lamb said at the time. "We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11."

She also told Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., that she rejected requests for more security in Benghazi, instead training "local Libyans and army men" to provide security, a policy in force at U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world.

Pickering and Mullen set the stage for public hearings set for Thursday on Capitol Hill. Scheduled to testify were Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who is in charge of policy, and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who is in charge of management.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was to have appeared at Thursday's hearings, but she canceled after fainting and sustaining a concussion last week while recovering from a stomach virus. Clinton is under doctors' orders to rest.

Senate Republicans and Democrats said they hoped Clinton would testify on the Hill even though she is planning to step down from her Cabinet post.

In a letter that accompanied the transmission of the report to Capitol Hill, Clinton thanked the board for its "clear-eyed, serious look at serious systemic challenges" and said she accepted its 29 recommendations to improve security at high-threat embassies and consulates.

She said the department had begun to put in place some of the recommendations. They include increasing by several hundred the number of Marine guards stationed at diplomatic missions throughout the world; relying less on local security forces for protection at embassies, consulates and other offices; and increasing hiring and deployment of highly trained Diplomatic Security agents at at-risk posts.

Clinton agreed with the panel's finding that Congress must fully fund the State Department's security initiatives. The panel found that budget constraints in the past had led some management officials to emphasize savings over security, including rejecting numerous requests from the Benghazi mission and the embassy in Tripoli for enhanced protection.

House and Senate negotiators working on a defense bill agreed on Tuesday to fund 1,000 more Marines at embassy security worldwide.

The report singled out the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs for criticism. It said there was a lack of cooperation and confusion over protection at the mission in Benghazi, a city in eastern Libya that was relatively lawless after the revolution that toppled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

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