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US State Dept. security chief resigns over Benghazi attacks

By AP - Dec 20,2012 - Last updated at Dec 20,2012

WASHINGTON — Three US State Department officials resigned under pressure Wednesday, less than a day after a damning report blamed management failures for a lack of security at the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, where militants killed the US ambassador and three other Americans on September 11.

An administration official said Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and an unnamed official with the Bureau of Near East Affairs, had stepped down. 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to discuss personnel matters publicly.

The report said poor leadership in both bureaus left the post under-protected.

“Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus” resulted in a security level that was “inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place”, according to the report released late Tuesday by the independent Accountability Review Board.

The review board was led by Thomas Pickering, a retired ambassador, and Mike Mullen, a retired admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

They testified in closed sessions before frustrated lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“My impression is the State Department clearly failed the Boy Scout motto of be prepared,” said Senator John Barrasso, a Republican.

“They failed to anticipate what was coming because of how bad the security risk already was there. ... They failed to connect the dots. They didn’t have adequate security leading up to the attack and once the attack occurred, the security was woefully inadequate.”

Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said security was “plainly inadequate, intelligence collection needs to be improved, and our reliance on local militias was sorely misplaced.” Schiff,  a Democrat,  added that “these are not mistakes we can afford to make again”.

The House committee chairman, Representative Mike Rogers,  a Republican, 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.

The board determined that no individual officials ignored or violated their duties and recommended no disciplinary action. But it also said poor performance by senior managers should be grounds for disciplinary recommendations in the future.

In a letter that accompanied the transmission of the report to Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thanked the board for its “clear-eyed, serious look at serious systemic challenges” and said she accepted all of its 29 recommendations to improve security at high-threat embassies and consulates.

Clinton agreed with the panel’s finding that Congress must fully fund the State Department’s security initiatives. The panel found that budget constraints in the past had led some management officials to emphasise savings over security, including rejecting numerous requests from the Benghazi mission and the embassy in Tripoli for enhanced protection.

House and Senate negotiators on the pending defence bill agreed on Tuesday to fund another 1,000 Marines at embassy security worldwide.

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