Government Report Faults State Dept. for Poor Security in Benghazi; At Least Three Senior Officials Lose Jobs

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Eric Boswell

The State Department was at fault in numerous ways for the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, according to an independent government investigation. Three officials of the State Department resigned within 24 hours of the report’s release.

 

The five-member panel, which included retired diplomat Thomas R. Pickering and retired admiral Mike Mullen, said the State Department lacked veteran security personnel to guard the mission. The agency also relied too much on local militias to safeguard the compound, according to the Pickering panel.

 

Officials in Washington were also criticized in the panel’s report for not making safety upgrades at the mission and ignoring requests for more guards.

 

Two major State Department offices, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, were blamed for not coordinating more and failing to plan adequate security.

 

The Obama administration accepted the resignations or reassignments of Eric J. Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security; Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security; and Raymond Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. An unnamed fourth official involved in diplomatic security is said to have been placed on administrative leave.

 

Panel co-chairman Mullen noted that the report did not determine that any official had "engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities." However, he added that the panel did conclude that certain high-level State Department officials “demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by the special mission."

Another point of criticism was leveled at intelligence officials for focusing too much on specific warnings of imminent attacks, and not paying more attention to the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, which had experienced multiple assassinations, an attack on a British envoy’s motorcade and a bomb attack outside the American Mission.

 

Mullen said that bureaucratic issues had also contributed to the security lapses, including budget constraints and the fact that the mission buildings were categorized as temporary. 

 

Contrary to charges made by critics, the report found “no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or military combatant commanders,” and that “the departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors.” It concludes that there “simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”

 

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reportedly accepted all of the report’s recommendations and said the State Department would take corrective action to prevent future attacks on diplomatic compounds. Clinton was to have testified at this week’s congressional hearings on Benghazi, but rescheduled to January after contracting stomach flu and suffering a mild concussion from a fall.

 

The Benghazi affair became a political football during the final weeks of the presidential campaign, and fueled heated Republican opposition to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s potential nomination as Secretary of State, contributing to her withdrawal from consideration.

-Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff,

 

To Learn More:

Benghazi Panel Strongly Assails Role of State Dept. in Attack (by Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, New York Times)

State Dept Security Chief Resigns after Benghazi (by Matthew Lee, Associated Press)

Accountability Review Board Report on the Benghazi Attack (pdf)

Failure to Heed 2009 Report on Diplomatic Security May Have Contributed to Benghazi Attack (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

CIA Discloses Covert Team’s Rapid Response to Benghazi Embassy Attack (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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