Let’s give Obama and Hillary Clinton some credit–in stark contrast to the utter failure of George W. Bush to hold anyone accountable for the failures leading to 9/11/2001, at least three people have resigned in the wake of a report that places significant blame on State Department officials for the failure to protect the Special Mission in Benghazi. That failure contributed to the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans.
According to the Accountability Review Board findings:
1. The attacks were security related, involving arson, small arms and machine gun fire, and the use of RPGs, grenades, and mortars against U.S. personnel at two separate facilities – the SMC and the Annex – and en route between them. Responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.
2. Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”) resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.
Security in Benghazi was not recognized and implemented as a “shared responsibility” by the bureaus in Washington charged with supporting the post, resulting in stove-piped discussions and decisions on policy and security. That said, Embassy Tripoli did not demonstrate strong and sustained advocacy with Washington for increased security for Special Mission Benghazi.
The short-term, transitory nature of Special Mission Benghazi’s staffing, with talented and committed, but relatively inexperienced, American personnel often on temporary assignments of 40 days or less, resulted in diminished institutional knowledge, continuity, and mission capacity.
Eric Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Diplomatic Security, and Charlene Lamb, the inarticulate Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, have resigned. In addition, a senior official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, also walked the plank. This is a move in the right direction, but it also is telling that Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy, who oversaw both Diplomatic Security and the Accountability Review Board, received no reprimand or criticism, at least in the unclassified report.
Hillary Clinton, who said she accepted full responsiblity? She’s still on the job. If she truly accepted full responsibility she would resign.
What is truly fascinating are the topics avoided and the people not named in the report? As I noted above, Pat Kennedy was the boss of Eric Boswell. Kennedy should resign for his failures on this matter.
The ARB tries to ignore “the Annex,” which was a facility apparently under the control of the CIA, but lets slip some intriguing details that raise further questions. Check out the following timeline:
The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice. Timing for his trip was driven in part by commitments in Tripoli, as well as a staffing gap between principal officers in Benghazi. Plans for the Ambassador’s trip provided for minimal close protection security support and were not shared thoroughly with the Embassy’s country team, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound. (p. 6)
Ambassador Chris Stevens arrived in Benghazi, Libya on September 10, 2012, accompanied by two temporary duty (TDY) Assistant Regional Security Officers (ARSOs) from Tripoli. (p. 18)
Information Management Officer (IMO) Sean Smith, who arrived in Benghazi one week earlier to provide TDY communications and management support; (p. 18)
After the Ambassador’s arrival at the Special Mission on September 10, . . . the Ambassador visited the Annex for a briefing. (p. 19)
At approximately 1940 local, Ambassador Stevens and an accompanying ARSO escorted a Turkish diplomat to the SMC’s main exit at the north C1 gate, where nothing out of the ordinary was noted. Some 30 minutes later, between 2010 and 2030 local, a UK security team supporting a day visit by British diplomats dropped off vehicles and equipment at the SMC (per arrangements made after the UK diplomatic office in Benghazi suspended operations in June 2012). (p. 20)
Stevens decision to go to Benghazi had nothing to do with his traditional State Department role. That’s why it was not fully coordinated with the country team. He was engaged in supporting a White House led intelligence activity to provide support to Syrian rebels with the help of Turkey. That’s why Sean Smith was sent out a week in advance. This was not a spontaneous, sudden visit. It was planned.
What happened a week earlier that was relevant? CIA Director Petraeus was in Turkey to discuss US concerns about military assitance finding its way into the hands of Al Qaeda operatives. Stevens’ mission? Close the loop in Benghazi with the Turks, the Brits and the intel operators at the Annex.
That’s why Stevens went to the Annex for a briefing and then met with Turkey’s Ambassador at the so-called “Consulate.”
In reading this report it becomes clear why State Department did not feel obligated to spend resources on this facility–the activites in Benghazi were largely intelligence related and had nothing to do with the traditional diplomatic activities of an Embassy or a Consulate.
I do have one word of caution for Republicans. Enough with the nonsensical comparison to Watergate. You make yourselves sound stupid and desperate. The cover up in Benghazi is because the Administration is trying to avoid exposing an idiotic policy of supporting the jihadists in Syria. It is not illegal, but it is dumb. Richard Nixon and his boys broke real laws and were trying to subvert the electoral process. He obstructed justice.
Obama is not obstructing justice, but he is busy trying to cover up White House fingerprints on an intelligence operation that Ambassador Stevens was carrying out at his behest.