Benghazi review slams State Department on security; three resign
WASHINGTON — Three State Department officials resigned under pressure Wednesday, less than a day after a damning report blamed management failures for a lack of security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, where militants killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Sept. 11.
An administration official said Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and an unnamed official with the Bureau of Near East Affairs, had stepped down. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly.
The report said poor leadership in both bureaus left the post underprotected.
"Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus" resulted in a security level that was "inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," according to the report released late Tuesday by the independent Accountability Review Board.
The board was led by Thomas Pickering, a retired ambassador, and Mike Mullen, a retired admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They testified in closed sessions before frustrated lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"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. They didn't have adequate security leading up to the attack and once the attack occurred, the security was woefully inadequate."
Rep. Adam Schiff, 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." Schiff, D-Calif., added that "these are not mistakes we can afford to make again."
The House 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 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. "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.
The classified testimony by Pickering and Mullen set the stage for public hearings Thursday with 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 canceled after fainting and sustaining a concussion last week while recovering from a stomach virus. Clinton is under doctors' orders to rest.
The board determined that no individual officials ignored or violated their duties and recommended no disciplinary action. But it also said poor performance by senior managers should be grounds for disciplinary recommendations in the future.
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