Three State Department officials resigned today, following the publication of a severely critical report detailing “systemic” failures within their departments during and leading up to the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks in Libya. Eric Boswell (the head of diplomatic security), Charlene Lamb (deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security) and a third yet unnamed official, all tendered their immediate resignations. The third person belonged to the department’s Bureau of Near East Affairs.
An independent committee, called the “accountability review board” released the report today. The review board was led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen. The report pinpointed the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs as lacking in cooperation and generating confusion in their efforts to protect the U.S. missions in Libya. The report referred to the two departments as being “grossly inadequate to deal with the attack.” No specific names were mentioned in the report.
“We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability,” said Adm. Mullen at a press conference on Wednesday.
The report also highlighted the need for full congressional funding of the State Department’s security initiatives overseas, stating that there had been instances of senior management putting money saving tactics above providing adequate security.
“For many years the State Department has been engaged in a struggle to obtain the resources necessary to carry out its work with varying degrees of success,” stated the report. This “had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation,” it continued.
Speaking specifically of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, which killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, Adm. Mullen offered up additional commentary:
“Absence of a strong central government presence in Benghazi meant the special mission had to rely on a militia with uncertain reliability and an unarmed local contract guard force with skill deficits to secure the compound. Neither Libyan group performed well on the night of the attacks,” he said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton penned a letter to Congress following the release of the report. In the letter, Clinton accepted all 29 of the review board’s recommendations. Clinton is recovering from a concussion and has stated that she will not be in attendance at the upcoming congressional hearings regarding the Benghazi attacks. Neither the letter to Congress, nor Clinton’s proposed Capitol Hill absence, did much to appease some lawmakers today.
House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman, Ileana Ros-lehtinen (R-Fla.) announced that Clinton “absolutely” must testify before the house. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) went even further:
“I think that is very important to her, I think it is very important for our country, and I think it is very important to really understand the inner workings of the State Department itself,” said Sen. Corker, saying also that it was “imperative” for Clinton to appear before Congress as soon as possible.
The entire official Benghazi report can be read at the State Department website.