Sullivan Report on Embassy Security Flaws Leaks Out — Uh-oh, It’s Not/Not Diplomatic

— By Domani Spero

The NYT just reported that an independent review panel headed by Mark Sullivan, a former Secret Service director has concluded that with American embassies and consulates facing an increasing threat of terrorist attacks, the State Department office overseeing diplomatic security is mired in the agency’s sprawling bureaucracy and must be elevated in importance.

The panel’s new findings, which have not yet been publicly released, do not specifically address the department’s handling of the Benghazi attacks. But they implicitly criticize Mr. Kennedy’s office as not paying enough attention to the bureau that oversees security at 275 installations, and recommends “as a matter of urgency” establishing a new under secretary job to give security matters more clout within the department’s highest policy-making circles.

Creating the latest review panel, which was led by Mark Sullivan, a former Secret Service director, was one of 29 recommendations proposed by Mr. Pickering’s inquiry, called the Accountability Review Board. Mr. Sullivan’s five-member panel was charged with identifying “best practices” used in the public and private sectors to address security, intelligence, accountability and risk management, all problems at the State Department.

The panel provided its report to the department late last week. A copy was given to The New York Times by someone who felt it was important to publicize the panel’s findings on diplomatic security.

Continue reading here.

Trevor Aaronson writing for Al Jazeera America has more details:

Among the most damning assessments, the panel concluded that the State Department’s failure to identify worsening conditions in Libya and exemptions from security regulations at the U.S. Special Mission contributed to the tragedy in Benghazi. Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy approved using Benghazi as a temporary post despite its significant vulnerabilities, according to an internal State Department document included with the report.

The panel cataloged a series of failures by State Department officials to address security issues and concluded that many Foreign Service officers are unclear about who is in charge of security.

The panel, chaired by former U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, was convened on the recommendation of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board, which investigated what happened in Benghazi. Sullivan’s panel evaluated State Department security at high-threat diplomatic missions around the world and issued 40 recommendations linked to safety issues at overseas missions.

Among the problems Sullivan’s panel identified in the report:

  • The State Department’s management of its security structure has led to blurred authority and a serious lack of accountability. The undersecretary for management oversees security issues while also handling many other responsibilities. A newly created undersecretary for diplomatic security would allow the State Department to better focus on security issues affecting diplomatic posts around the world, according to the report. Left unaddressed, the control problem “could contribute to future security management failures, such as those that occurred in Benghazi.”
  • The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the State Department security arm created following the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, does not have a review process in place to learn from previous security failures. Inexplicably, Diplomatic Security officials never conducted what is known as a “hot wash” debriefing of Benghazi survivors to learn from their experience.
  • No risk management model exists to determine whether high-threat posts, such as the one in Benghazi, are necessary given the danger to U.S. officials. Risk decisions are made based on “experience and intuition,” not established professional guidelines.
  • None of the five high-risk diplomatic facilities the panel visited in the Middle East and Africa had an intelligence analyst on staff, described as a “critical” need.
  • Diplomatic security training is inadequate, with no designated facility available to train agents to work at high-risk diplomatic posts.
  • Even low-risk diplomatic posts are vulnerable. The Obama administration, concerned about potential attacks, ordered the closure of diplomatic posts in the Middle East and North Africa in August 2013. Of the 19 posts closed, only four were designated as high threat.

The panel added: “It is unlikely that temporary facilities, in areas such as Benghazi, will ever meet Inman standards. The Department therefore identifies missions with special terminology to avoid its own high, but unattainable, standards and then approves waivers to circumvent those standards, thus exposing those serving under Chief of Mission authority to an unacceptable level of risk.” 

Continue reading:  Exclusive: Benghazi report details security flaws at US diplomatic posts.

Update @7:29 am PST:  The report as well as related documents are now online at Al Jazeera America.

Is it just me or does it feel like somebody was making sure the Sullivan panel’s report gets a public reading?  Trying to hunt a copy of the report.