News Column

Kerry: Congress Shares Blame for Benghazi

Dec 20, 2012

Congress shares the blame for the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, Sen. John Kerry said Thursday.

Kerry, D-Mass., chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, pointed out the Accountability Review Board report released Tuesday on the attack recommended spending $2.3 billion on security for U.S. embassies and consulates in the next decade.

The attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11 killed Stevens, information officer Sean Smith and two security officers, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs. Four senior State Department officers resigned or were fired Tuesday.

"Congress also bears some responsibility here. Congress has the power of the purse," Kerry said. "We use it for any number of things, but it's our responsibility. And for years, we have asked our State Department to operate with increasingly lesser resources to conduct essential missions. And because of the gridlock and excesses in the Senate and Congress itself, we have not even been able to pursue the regular order of authorizing legislation. That must change, and in the next session of the Congress, I hope it will."

Thomas Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, said the department is re-evaluating security. He said the historic practice of depending on host countries for security does not work in places like Libya where a weak government is dealing with often violent political unrest.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns also testified. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suffering from a stomach virus and the aftermath of a concussion, was absent.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee was also scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday, titled "Benghazi Attack, Part II: The Report of the Accountability Review Board," chaired by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

Clinton said in a letter Monday to the heads of both panels she would answer their questions in January.

The testimony by Burns and Nides comes a day after four State Department officials were removed from their posts after an independent review board criticized "grossly inadequate" security at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

The highest-ranking official, Eric Boswell, head of the Diplomatic Security Bureau, resigned effective immediately, the State Department said late Wednesday. The three others were responsible for other aspects of embassy security and planning for Libya and the Middle East, the department said, without naming them.

They were relieved of their responsibilities and were expected to be reassigned, a senior administration official told The Washington Post.

Two of the three were identified by The New York Times as Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary responsible for North Africa.

The report by the Clinton-appointed Accountability Review Board criticized officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the State Department's security and law enforcement arm, as having displayed a "lack of proactive leadership."

It also said some officials in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs "showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi's security issues."

The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Clinton or Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, who has vigorously defended the State Department's Benghazi decision-making before Congress.

Review board Co-chairman retired U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday the board did not find any officials who had "engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities."

But he said, "We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical levels of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by the special mission."

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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