…. the day before yesterday!
More from the ARB briefing with Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen:
MS. NULAND: Let’s go to New York Times. Michael Gordon, please.
QUESTION: Ambassador Pickering, your report was extremely critical of the performance of some individuals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the NEA, the Middle East Bureau. And – but these bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of an hierarchical organization known as the Department of State, and each has a chain of command. The NEA reports up the policy chain, and Diplomatic Security, I presume, reports up the management chain, their Under Secretaries, and indeed deputy secretaries, and the Secretary herself, who oversees these bureaus. What is the highest level at the Department of State where you fix responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?
AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road. And one of the interesting things about the statutory basis for the Review Board was that it clearly was biased against the idea that one could automatically hold, as one often does, the leader of a particular department or agency responsible without pinpointing the place where the failures took place and where the lessons that we derived from that ought to be important to fixing the problem. And so fixing the problem and finding the locus of the difficulties was the major task we had to undertake.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: And I would add to that, Michael, that, I mean, certainly that was a concern that we had as we initiated the review and we just found. And as someone who’s run large organizations, and the Secretary of State has been very clear about taking responsibility here, it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff, and over time, certainly didn’t bring that to her attention.
NYT’s Michael Gordon who later filed this report writes:
The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to Congress.
At the same time, the report that Mr. Pickering oversaw suggested that there was a culture of “husbanding resources” at senior levels of the State Department that contributed to the security deficiencies in Benghazi. Without identifying Mr. Kennedy or other senior officials, the report said that attitude “had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation.”
We are deeply bothered by that “We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level” response.
The State Department is a traditional organization with a top-down hierarchy. For as long as we’ve been studying it, it has never been a flat one, unless you’re talking about the base of a pyramid. There are chains of command like any bureaucracy. You can get in trouble for driving outside your lane.
Are we to believe that the decision to have a presence in Benghazi was done at the DS and NEA bureaus?
That the decision to have a light footprint in Benghazi was done at the DS or NEA bureau?
That the policy at embassies worldwide to hire a local guard force was fixed at DS alone?
That the practice of filling Benghazi with short TDY staff rotations was decided by DS or NEA but not DGHR?
That the allocation of 4-5 Regional Security Officers (RSOs) to Benghazi, as opposed to 200 assigned to US Mission Iraq was a DS bureau decision?
That the DS or the NEA bureau negotiated with the CIA on whatever security agreement there was in Benghazi?
C’mon folks, for us to believe that is like suspending disbelief as we do when we watch HBO’s Homeland.
The Cable’s Josh Rogin @joshrogin tweeted:
Assistant Secretaries are just high up enough to take the fall but not quite high up enough to do anything to defend themselves #Benghazi
Well, that’s not right. We recognize that bureaucratic life isn’t fair, but this bothers us a great deal.
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