3 resign in wake of Benghazi inquiry
WASHINGTON — Three State Department officials resigned under pressure Wednesday, less than a day after a report blamed management failures for “grossly inadequate” security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, where militants killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Sept. 11.
The resignations came as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed anger and frustration with the State Department.
“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.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.,
a member of the House intelligence committee, said security was insufficient, intelligence gathering was poor “and our reliance on local militias was sorely misplaced.”
“These are not mistakes we can afford to make again,” he said.
Obama administration officials said those who had stepped down were Eric 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. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly.
Some of the three may have the option of being reassigned to other duties, the officials said.
The department declined immediate comment on the resignation of the officials whose decisions had been criticized in the unclassified version of an independent review panel’s report.
The board’s cochairman, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters that the board had not determined that any officials had “engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities.”
But Mullen, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, added that some State Department senior officials “in critical levels of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability.”
Mullen said the mission’s security fell through bureaucratic cracks caused in part because buildings were categorized as temporary. The report also said budget constraints had caused some officials to be more concerned with saving scarce money than in security.
Co-chairman Thomas Pickering, a retired ambassador, said the personnel on the ground in Benghazi had reacted to the attack with bravery and professionalism. But, he said, the security precautions were “grossly inadequate” and the contingent was overwhelmed by the heavily armed militants.
“They did the best they possibly could with what they had, but what they had wasn’t enough,” Pickering said.
Pickering and Mullen spoke shortly after briefing members of Congress in private.
The House intelligence committee chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, RMich., 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.
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 today on Capitol Hill., Scheduled to testify are 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 Clinton was to have appeared at today’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.
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 highthreat 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.
Boswell Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and deputy assistant secretaries Charlene Lamb and Raymond Maxwell (not pictured), resigned under pressure Wednesday.