Hearings in Congress today pile on the political debate over the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. The hearings come on the heels of the Pickering-Mullen report, which looked at the actions of the State Department and foreign service leading up to the attack, finding serious deficiencies in management and “grossly inadequate” security at the consulate. As a result four senior State Department officials resigned.
The senior State Department staffers who resigned included Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security; Charlene Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security; and another unnamed person in the diplomatic security bureau, officials said. Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who oversaw Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, was identified by the Associated Press as the fourth official to resign.
They were held responsible for failing to act on requests for more guards and better fortifications for the U.S. compound in Benghazi, a city overrun by armed militiamen.
I don’t think foreign policy experts would describe Benghazi as “overrun,” but the larger point here is that these State Department officials actually took a measure of responsibility for their actions.
Smelling blood, Senate Republicans pounced today, saying they need the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to personally come in and testify (she’s recuperating from a concussion). She’s already scheduled for testimony next month before the Foreign Relations Committee, but hearings are a time for bloviating.
The report does not describe any kind of cover-up about the Benghazi affair. It does not aver that the White House sought to minimize political damage from the event by claiming that it was inspired by an anti-Muslim video, for example. Really we have a situation where embassy security budgets fell, predictably, since the whole of government’s budget fell in the years described. And the calls for increased security in this specific embassy were not met with action. I would like to be a fly on the wall at the House Republican appropriations committee meeting, if a request for increased embassy security ever got discussed, just to see the variance between how that gets discussed there rather than in the open air.
Certainly there were failures at State and possibly in the intelligence gathering process; that could be the focus of post-Benghazi efforts, if the political shroud over this lifted.