3 US state dept officials quit over Benghazi attack

Three US State Department officials resigned under pressure on Wednesday following a report that detailed “grossly inadequate” security measures at the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, on the night assailants besieged it in September, leaving four Americans dead, The Associated Press reported.

The A.P., quoting an unidentified administration official, said Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, had resigned. The third person, who was not identified, was an official with the department’s Bureau of Near East Affairs, The A.P. said.

The report, by a panel called an accountability review board, investigated the attack on the diplomatic mission and the C.I.A. annex in Benghazi on Sept. 11, which led to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It criticized those State Department officials for ignoring requests from the American Embassy in Tripoli for more guards for the mission and for failing to make sufficient safety upgrades.

“We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability,” Adm. Mike Mullen, a panel member who is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

“State Department bureaus that were supporting Benghazi had not taken on security as a shared responsibility, so the support the post needed was often lacking and left to the working level to resolve,” Admiral Mullen said.

The panel, led by Thomas R. Pickering, a retired diplomat, presented its report to the State Department on Monday, and an unclassified version was made public on Tuesday night. It is authorized by a 1986 law intended to strengthen security at United States diplomatic missions.

In response to the panel’s findings, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a letter to Congress that she was accepting all 29 of the panel’s recommendations, five of which are classified because they refer to intelligence and personnel matters, and specific recommendations for tightened security.

“Diplomacy, by its very nature, must sometimes be practiced in dangerous places,” William J. Burns, a deputy secretary of state, told reporters. “Chris Stevens, my friend and colleague, understood that our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. And we have a profound responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our diplomats and development experts in the field.”

At the White House, reporters shouted questions on the Benghazi report at President Obama as he left the briefing room after making a statement about the shootings in Newtown, Conn., but Mr. Obama did not turn around to respond.

The independent inquiry also sharply criticized the State Department for relying on untested local militias to safeguard the compound.

“Absence of a strong central government presence in Benghazi meant the special mission had to rely on a militia with uncertain reliability and an unarmed local contract guard force with skill deficits to secure the compound,” Admiral Mullen said. “Neither Libyan group performed well on the night of the attacks.”

The review board also found that the mission in Benghazi, a temporary residential compound, suffered from a shortage of trained security guards and staff members, who often rotated as frequently as every 40 days. The panel recommended extending those tours to at least a year.

NY Times