State Department ignored facts on ground in Benghazi, House committee chair says
By Andrew Conte
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 3:58 p.m.
A lack of security and bureaucratic confusion seemed like obvious contributors to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Compound in Benghazi, Libya, security and intelligence experts said Wednesday.
They responded to findings of the State Department's Accountability Review Board that “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” led to a situation that allowed the attack to occur.
“The threat situation was going up and the security footprint was going way down,” Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, told the Tribune-Review. “That was very clear, and unfortunately, some very good people just made what clearly was a bad call.”
Hayden said he once worked with Eric Boswell, the State Department's head of diplomatic security who resigned along with two others after the report's release.
Hayden called Boswell a “serious public servant” and “a good man” who probably did “what he thought was correct.”
On Capitol Hill, where members of the House Foreign Affairs committee expect to take testimony from State Department officials on Thursday, lawmakers said they want to avoid repeating mistakes. Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee received a classified briefing on the report.
“The State Department's dismissal of the reality and facts on the ground in Libya” left the Benghazi compound vulnerable to attack, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who chairs the committee, said in a statement.
She said the Obama administration must be held accountable for “its dangerous systemic and management failures” to avoid another Benghazi-type attack.
Diplomats are brave people but perhaps there are places they should not go — at least not without serious security, said Rep. Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican on the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees.
“We've got to be extra vigilant,” Rooney said. “If we're putting diplomats in places where we can't help them or rescue them in a time of despair, maybe they shouldn't be there in the first place.”
Yet incidents such as the Benghazi attack cannot be eliminated because foreign service, by its nature, carries risk, said Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a Washington nonprofit composed of former diplomats.
“It comes with the turf,” said Neumann, who testified about the Benghazi attack before the Foreign Affairs committee in November. “We have to do certain things in order to serve the nation's foreign policy, and some of them have risk.”
Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or email@example.com.
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