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– Domani Spero
On January 15, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released its 85-page report on Benghazi. As we noted previously, the report itself is 42 pages long with its findings and recommendations. As well, there are “Additional Views” attached to the report: a 5-page one from the Democrats on the SSIC (Senators Feinstein, Rockefeller IV, Wyden, Mikulski, Udall, Warner, Heinrich and Maine Senator Angus King); a 16-page one from the GOP members of the Committee namely, Vice-Chairman Chambliss and Senators Burr, Risch, Coats, Rubio and Coburn and a 4-page statement by Maine Senator Susan Collins who co-authored with then Senator Joe Lieberman the HSGAC 2012 report, “Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi.”
The appended 5-page “additional views” from the Democrats talks about — talking points, terrorists vs. extremists, dropping the term “Al-Qa ‘ida”, no protest, and talking points, again going through the interagency process. It concludes with this:
“The Majority agrees that the process to create the talking points was not without problems, so we join our Republican colleagues in recommending-as we do in the report-that in responding to future requests for unclassified talking points from Congress, the IC should simply tell Congress which facts are unclassified and let Members of Congress provide additional context for the public. However, we sincerely hope that the public release of the emails on May 15, 2013, that describe the creation of the talking points, and the evidence presented in this report, will end the misinformed and unhelpful talking points controversy once and for all.”
The appended “additional views” from the Republicans is 16-page long, almost a report in itself. It complains of “Disturbing Lack of Cooperation by the State Department”
“As the Committee attempted to piece together key events before, during, and after the attacks, we faced the most significant and sustained resistance from the State Department in obtaining documents, access to witnesses, and responses to questions.”
We’re sure the State Department sees it differently. The same day the SSCI report came out, it released its Fact Sheet on the Benghazi ARB Implementation.
The GOP’s “additional views” mentions former Secretary Clinton just once, saying that “Ultimately, however, the final responsibility for security at diplomatic facilities lies with the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.” It also point fingers at senior officials at the State Department. Who gets a special mention?
Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy
“We believe the background of one senior State Department official made him uniquely situated to anticipate the potential for a terrorist attack on the Benghazi facilities. Prior to the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings which killed 12 Americans, Under Secretary Kennedy was serving as the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, and concurrently served as the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security. Coincidentally, some of the same failures identified by the report of the Accountability Review Board following the 1998 Embassy bombings were noted by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board. Mr. Kennedy later served in key positions in Iraq, in the immediate aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein, and in the IC. The threat of terrorism, including against U.S. facilities, was not new to him, and given the security situation in Benghazi, the attacks could have been foreseen. Given the threat environment, Mr. Kennedy should have used better judgment and should be held accountable.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs – Charlene Lamb
“While many individuals with information relevant to our review were more than forthcoming with the Committee, we are particularly disappointed that Charlene Lamb, who was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, has refused to explain to the Committee why certain decisions were made concerning enhanced security at the Temporary Mission Facility and who ultimately was responsible for those decisions. The Committee extended invitations to Ms. Lamb on three occasions prior to and after her reinstatement each time, she refused to meet with the Committee.154 Unfortunately, even after Ms. Lamb was returned to full duty, the State Department did not make her available to the Committee, something we believe should have been a priority for both Ms. Lamb and the State Department. Based on what we have learned during the Committee’s review, we believe Ms. Lamb’s testimony is critical to determining why the leadership failures in the State Department occurred and the specific extent to which these failures reached into its highest levels.”
If the Committee really “believe” that Ms. Lamb’s testimony is “critical to determining why the leadership failures in the State Department occurred” how come it did not subpoena her to appear before the Committee? Well, maybe just half the Committee believe that? Or maybe they had other issues to squabble about? Or like most of the American public, did they all get Benghazi’ed out?
GOP Senator Susan Collins, not noted for her extreme views or for presidential ambition, also appended a 4-page statement to the SSCI report:
The SSCI report, while adding considerably to our knowledge, would have been strengthened if it had placed greater emphasis on the lack of accountability for the broader management failures at the State Department. It would have been premature for earlier reports published in the months immediately following the attack, such as the Accountability Review Board and the “Flashing Red” report, to reach final judgments with respect to the State Department’s personnel actions because the contributing factors to the vulnerability of the facility were still being pieced together. This report could have more fully evaluated the accountability issues because sufficient time had elapsed for the State Department to demonstrate whether or not decision-makers would be held accountable for poor judgments, refusals to tighten security, and misinformation.
A broken system overseen by senior leadership contributed to the vulnerability of U.S. diplomats and other American personnel in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. This is unacceptable, and yet the Secretary of State has not held anyone responsible for the system’s failings. This leads to a perception that senior State Department officials are exempt from accountability because the Secretary of State has failed to hold anyone accountable for the systemic failures and management deficiencies that contributed to the grossly inadequate security for the Benghazi facility.
While I support the SSCI report and appreciate its thorough analysis of much of what went wrong, I believe that more emphasis should have been placed on the three issues I have discussed: (1) the Administration’s initial misleading of the American people about the terrorist nature of the attack, (2) the failure of the Administration to hold anyone at the State Department, particularly Under Secretary Kennedy, fully accountable for the security lapses, and (3) the unfulfilled promises of President Obama that he would bring the terrorists to justice.
The SSCI report does not include details about the Benghazi fallout at the State Department. Except for one mention of Charlene Lamb, none of the other three officials put on administrative leave by the State Department made it to the report.
And life goes on. Perhaps in time, history.state.gov will afford us a view of the memcons during the internal deliberations at Foggy Bottom during and after this crisis — who said what and when, and who did what, where and when. We still haven’t seen all the Kissinger telcons so, this may take a few decades, too.
* * *
- Why No One Will Ever Be Blamed for Benghazi (foreignpolicy.com)
- Senate Report on Benghazi: Nothing Surprising, Spreading the Blame, Notable Details (diplopundit.net)
- WSJ: FSO Gregory Hicks About That Twice “Declined” Security Team Offer From Gen. Ham (diplopundit.net)