The House GOP recently released its interim report on the terrorist attacks on the temporary facilities in Benghazi. The report is released under the GOP committee chairs of the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
We won’t repeat the whole long woeful report in this blog but if you want to read the 45-page report, click here (via The Hill).
The kraken is still hungry!
Right upfront the report says this:
The Committees will continue to review who exactly was responsible for the failure to respond to the repeated requests for more security and for the effort to cover up the nature of the attacks, so that appropriate officials will be held accountable.
Translation #1: one assistant secretary and three DASes did not work. The kraken is hungry for more!
Translation #2: this is going to go on and on until 2016 unless the kraken choke first or wants a different menu.
But perhaps the most striking, and the thing that undermines this report for us, more than the fact that this is done by only one side of the house is this:
We certainly cannot say whether or not Secretary Clinton approved or saw these critical cables, but to cite these cables as evidence is either poor investigative work or simply aims to further obfuscate the matter.
Look, all cables that originates from the State Department when the secretary of state is in country go out under his/her name. So in this case, whether she saw, read, approve this cable OR not, it went out under “CLINTON.” Just because her name appears under the cable does not mean she sent it or she read it.
All cables that originated from US Embassy Tripoli when Ambassador Gene Cretz was chief of mission went out under CRETZ. Unless the cables have handling restrictions or are official-informal (slugged for a specific person, see example here via Wikileaks), you can be almost certain that neither the secretary of state nor the ambassador drafted their own cables. Or read all the cables for that matter. They have people under them to do that, dudes! And there is a clearance procedure in place that goes on no matter what because it’s — oh, my god, the bureaucracy’s heart goes on just like in the Titanic!
Now if these committees really wanted to find out the originator of these “critical” cables, they could have asked for the cables that included the raw content – name of drafter/s, who cleared the cables, who approved the cables, the distribution and which office the cables originated from (see example here via Wikileaks, a NODIS cable from Eagelburger to Kissinger). If all that’s floating around is a routine or immediate cable with a Clinton signature at the bottom, and you call it a smoking gun or whatever, then there are 1.2 million cables that looks exactly the same in State’s cable arsenal, and they’re all too wet to blow up.
About building leadership:
When draft talking points were sent to officials throughout the Executive Branch, senior State Department officials requested the talking points be changed to avoid criticism for ignoring the threat environment in Benghazi. Specifically, State Department emails reveal senior officials had “serious concerns” about the talking points, because Members of Congress might attack the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings” about the growing threat in Benghazi.56
After slight modifications were made on Friday, September 14, a senior State Department official again responded that the edits did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership,” and that the Department’s leadership was “consulting with [National Security Staff].”57 Several minutes later, White House officials responded by stating that the State Department’s concerns would have to be taken into account and asserted further discussion would occur the following morning at a Deputies Committee Meeting.5
This reaction would not be beyond the realm of possibility but it would be interesting to see which senior official did this, and if “building leadership” referenced to here went as high as the under secretaries or up to the deputies and the secretary.
Yes, go ahead and um, enhanced interrogate that senior official to find out what he/she knows about this “building leadership.” As far as we know, that’s not even a single individual with SSN. More like a Borg collective. May we know at least, if the senior official is Locutus of Borg?
Accountability Review Board Legislation Coming
While Secretary Hillary Clinton claimed she accepted “responsibility” for Benghazi, the Committees remain concerned that the ARB neglected to directly examine the role that she and her Deputy Secretaries played in overseeing the gross mismanagement or the “systemic failures” within the Department. The Committees note the Board has failed to provide a satisfactory explanation as to why it did not interview Secretary Clinton or her Deputies. In a similar vein, it is unclear why the ARB report made no reference to Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy’s decision to withdraw a SST from Libya, despite multiple warnings from Ambassador Stevens of a deteriorating security environment. The ARB’s complete omission of the roles played by these individuals undermines the credibility of its findings and recommendations.
The Committees have determined that this Accountability Review Board was staffed by current and former State Department employees. The Board’s reluctance to undertake a more comprehensive investigation, and to make more forceful recommendations, may have stemmed from the fact that the State Department’s decisions and actions were investigated internally, undermining public confidence that the review was objective and conducted by individuals free from institutional bias. The current “in-house orientation” of an ARB may have provided a built- in motivation or prejudice, even for the best-intentioned investigators, to deflect blame and to avoid holding specific individuals accountable, especially superiors. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will soon introduce legislation to increase the ARB’s independence and objectivity. Although the report did provide some helpful recommendations regarding various State Department procedures, the Committees conclude it stopped well short of a full review of the policymakers, policies, and decisions that created the inadequate security situation that existed at the Benghazi Mission on September 11, 2012.
This part on the ARB we definitely would like to see. We have written briefly about our disenchantment with the Accountability Review Board in its current form. If the ARB is to be the sole vehicle for assigning accountability, the regulation that dictates it should be improved significantly – from the composition of the council that recommends convening an ARB to the secretary of state, to how the ARB reports are released/disposed of, as well as how and who tracks the implementation of these recommendations. Congress might even decide that the ARB should not reside in the institution that is the subject of its investigation. And that would not be a bad thing altogether.