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Posts Tagged ‘ARB’

Hillary knows what she has to do tomorrow and long has known what she wants to say in her testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.  She has not been campaigning this week and probably is reviewing briefs and papers that the State Department has provided to the committee.

Most of us will be as glued to various-sized screens watching the proceedings as time and work permit.  In case you feel you need to brush up on any of the information related to the Select committee’s investigation, Correct the Record has put together a handy guide for your convenience.

correcors-benghazi-guide

You can access the pdf of the guide here >>>>

 

Just saying, it would have been nice if Appropriations had granted the State Department an unlimited budget for embassy security in 2011 and 2012 rather than cutting those budget figures, but that’s just me.

House Tea Party Members In Pursuit Of Hillary Clinton: Examine Your Own Role In Cutting Diplo Post Security

Clearly, a great deal of what the State Department could and could not do to increase security, if indeed headquarters was notified of such a need, rested not in the hands of the department itself, but rather in the hands of the same body that is now calling the secretary and her department to task,  the House of Representatives and specifically,  the Appropriations Committee.

Try as they might to somehow blame the Secretary of State for not adequately protecting her colleagues,  the Republican Tea Party House has blood on its hands and should be called to task  as well.  We should not forget their role in this going forward.

Read more >>>>

Remember that the right sidebar here contains links to the complete unclassified Accountability Review Board report and the cover letter that accompanied to to Congress in late 2012 when a good number of the recommendations in that report had already been implemented.  This remains the seminal document covering the events of September 11, 2012.

In case you did not already know.

October 22, 2015

Hillary Clinton Testimony at House Select Committee on Benghazi

Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate there, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others died.

This program has not yet aired

The campaign has provided this brief, which is nice and succinct. if you have time to read nothing else, read this.

The Benghazi Committee, explained.

Hillary is on Capitol Hill today, testifying in front of the House Select Benghazi Committee. Here’s what it’s all about.

What happened in Benghazi

On September 11, 2012, a group of Islamic militia members attacked a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in the terrorist attack: U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glenn Doherty, and Tyrone Woods.

For Hillary, who was serving as secretary of state at the time, the tragedy is personal. She was the one who had asked the late Chris Stevens to serve as ambassador to Libya. She was with President Obama at Andrews Air Force Base when Marines brought home the caskets of the four Americans. Anyone who knows Hillary knows she isn’t the kind of person to stand around wringing her hands after a tragedy—she leapt into action immediately to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

The Benghazi Committee is the eighth—yes, eighth—congressional review of the tragedy.

The events in Benghazi have been scrutinized by countless panels, news organizations, and government agencies. After the attack, Hillary set up a nonpartisan panel known as the Accountability Review board (ARB) to investigate. The panel made dozens of recommendations for improvement. By the time Hillary left office, every single reform was on its way to being implemented.

After the ARB, seven congressional panels have also completed investigations. Five were led by Republicans. None found any wrongdoing. But even with these conclusive findings, House Republicans approved an unlimited budget—yup, we’re talking about your taxpayer dollars—for an eighth congressional review. Enter the House Select Benghazi Committee.

The House Select Benghazi Committee has one goal.

Now, if you’re wondering why Republicans are still at it even after the thorough reviews—or if you’re thinking that sounds a little fishy—you’re onto something. Over the past few weeks, a number of key Republicans—from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to New York’s Rep. Richard Hanna—have copped to the truth about why this committee was established in the first place: to “go after” Hillary Clinton and to hurt her presidential candidacy. A whistleblower has even come forward to say that he was fired because he  objected to how partisan the inquiry was.

Trey Gowdy, the chair of the committee, has predicted the probe will continue well into 2016. Their aim is clear: hurt Hillary’s chances of winning the presidential election. And for those of you who are curious, no, the committee has not been able to produce any new facts about the attack.

What you’ll hear today

“No one wants to find out what happened more than I do.”

Hillary, October 24, 2012

Hillary’s first priority is to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi. That’s the right thing to do—and the way to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s why she has already testified on Capitol Hill about the tragedy (twice, in fact), and she has been asking to testify before the this committee for more than a  year so that the public can hear her answers.

Republicans, on the other hand, are going to exploit whatever they can to mislead voters about Hillary’s record. They’ll grill her about emails and anything else they can think of to discredit her.

But here’s what Hillary is going to do: stay focused, clarify the facts, and offer some lessons that we can learn to protect Americans going forward. The men and women who serve our country deserve nothing less.

Read more >>>>

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This picture is from the May 1, 2009 ceremony when the name of Brian Adkins was added to the memorial wall in the lobby of the Harry S. Truman Building. Brian was a 25-year-old Foreign Service officer killed in his first tour of duty in the consular section of the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Also added to the wall that day were the names of Felix Russel Engdahl, U.S. Consul in Shanghai, who died in 1942 in a Japanese internment camp; Thomas Waldron, first U.S. Consul in Hong Kong, who died of cholera; Edmund Roberts, a special envoy sent by President Andrew Jackson to negotiate a treaty with Japan, who died of dysentery.

It was the first time we saw Secretary Clinton cry.

Date: 05/01/2009 Description: Secretary Clinton at the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Plaque Ceremony in C Street Lobby.   © State Department photo by Michael Gross

 

Hillary Clinton on the Tragedy in Benghazi

Hillary Clinton’s Video Remarks on the Deaths of American Personnel in Benghazi, Libya

Yesterday, our U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. Heavily armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our buildings. American and Libyan security personnel battled the attackers together. Four Americans were killed. They included Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer, and our Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals.This is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world. We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence, and we send our prayers to the families, friends, and colleagues of those we’ve lost….

In the lobby of this building, the State Department, the names of those who have fallen in the line of duty are inscribed in marble. Our hearts break over each one. And now, because of this tragedy, we have new heroes to honor and more friends to mourn….

… we must be clear-eyed, even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post.

May God bless them, and may God bless the thousands of Americans working in every corner of the world who make this country the greatest force for peace, prosperity, and progress, and a force that has always stood for human dignity – the greatest force the world has ever known. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

 

President Obama and Secretary Clinton at the White House and State Department

Hillary Clinton on the Deaths of Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty in Benghazi, Libya

Hillary Clinton at State Department Eid ul-Fitr Dinner

Religious freedom and religious tolerance are essential to the stability of any nation, any people. Hatred and violence in the name of religion only poison the well. All people of faith and good will know that the actions of a small and savage group in Benghazi do not honor religion or God in any way. Nor do they speak for the more than one billion Muslims around the world, many of whom have shown an outpouring of support during this time.

Unfortunately, however, over the last 24 hours, we have also seen violence spread elsewhere. Some seek to justify this behavior as a response to inflammatory, despicable material posted on the internet. As I said earlier today, the United States rejects both the content and the message of that video. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. At our meeting earlier today, my colleague, the foreign minister of Morocco, said that all prophets should be respected because they are all symbols of our humanity, for all humanity.

Benghazi-Spin: Myth-Busting and Reality Check

Myth:  Hillary Clinton said the attack on the Benghazi installation was an outgrowth of a demonstration against an anti-Islamist video on the internet.

Not exactly.  Here are her words on September 12, 2012.

We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault. Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet.

There were demonstrations against such a video at many U.S. embassies world-wide and in the region,  however.

Sep 11, 2012

Cairo protesters scale U.S. Embassy wall, remove flag

Egyptian demonstrators climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today and pulled down the American flag to protest a film they say is insulting to the prophet Mohammad.

This Wikipedia entry gives a pretty complete treatment.  All of these embassies were under the oversight of the State Department.  The American School in Tunisia was destroyed.  Secretary Clinton, just back from a tour that ended in Vladivostok,  did have her hands full, but she did not blame this attack on the video.

Hillary mentions a precedent: Terry Jones burning the Quran the previous year and the resultant deadly protest in Afghanistan.    Jones was also promoting the offensive video.

Much early discussion centered on embassy security.  Many wrongly assumed that Marine Embassy Guard were stationed at every embassy (untrue) and that their mission was to guard personnel.  Hillary points out the error as did Victoria Nuland shortly after the attacks.

Clearing The Air On How Embassy Security Works

Hillary went to Capitol Hill to testify as soon as she had gathered the necessary information and her schedule permitted.  She answered every question posed to her and also announced the appointment of the required Accountability Review Board (ARB).

Hillary Clinton with Indonesian FM Marty Natalegawa

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go up to the Congress today. I will be briefing in two separate sessions, the House and the Senate, in a classified setting, along with my interagency colleagues, as we continue to work together, and with governments around the world, to ensure that our people and our facilities are safe. I will be joined today by the Director of National Intelligence, General Clapper, by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sandy Winnefeld, along with experts from the FBI, the State Department, and elsewhere in the government.

Now, I anticipate that this briefing will cover our security posture before and during the events, and the steps we have taken since to do everything we can with host governments to protect our people and our embassies and consulates. The Director of National Intelligence will speak to the intelligence issues surrounding these events in Libya. Deputy Secretary Carter will brief on the superb support we have had from the U.S. military in the wake of these events, and we are at the very early stages of an FBI investigation. The team from the FBI reached Libya earlier this week. And I will advise Congress also that I am launching an accountability review board that will be chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering.

Partisan attacks began early.  We went on the defensive here.

House Tea Party Members In Pursuit Of Hillary Clinton: Examine Your Own Role In Cutting Diplo Post Security

Issa Flips The Coin And The Game Is On

In the course of the four-hour testimony there were some obvious gaps in congressional knowledge of how embassy security operates.  As Victoria Nuland pointed out on September 17,  internal security (walls inward) is the task of the guest country, and external security (walls outward) is up to the host country,  Marine Embassy Security Guard (MESG) is posted at embassies (not usually at consulates) primarily to secure documents not personnel.   That task  falls under the purview of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security headed by Eric Boswell who testified in camera along with Secretary Kennedy yesterday to the same committee.

Hillary Clinton at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony to Honor Those Lost in Attacks in Benghazi, Libya

In the days since the attack, so many Libyans – including the Ambassador from Libya to the United States, who is with us today – have expressed their sorrow and solidarity. One young woman, her head covered and her eyes haunted with sadness, held up a handwritten sign that said “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi nor Islam.” The President of the Palestinian Authority, who worked closely with Chris when he served in Jerusalem, sent me a letter remembering his energy and integrity, and deploring – and I quote – “an act of ugly terror.” Many others from across the Middle East and North Africa have offered similar sentiments…

This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable…

The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts.

 

Hillary Clinton’s Media Interviews on Benghazi

For more than a month Hillary had been taking responsibility, talking to Congress and the press, providing explanations and information such as she could (some information was classified and later declassified, e.g. the fact that “the annex,” as the second building was called, was actually a CIA operation and the related fact that two of the four Americans killed were actually CIA officers and not State Department personnel).

Look, I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department, 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts.

Nevertheless, when Hillary, traveling abroad in Peru, used those words to CNN’s Elise Labott it was breaking news across prime time cable.  Remarkable. Proving that when it comes to Hillary Clinton even saying the same thing differently somehow generates headlines.

(Recently she mentioned that she would decide whether or not to run in 2016 “after the first of the year.”  The story went viral despite that fact that for three months she had been saying that she would not make that decision “before the end of the year.”)

Aftermath … Benghazi, The Great Debate, and Hurricane Hillary

Hillary does not mention that, ill and injured,  she was handling her duties from home and at one point from her hospital room during the weeks in December when the ARB Report came to her.  We owe her dedication a great debt.

She has told us many times that we should take criticism seriously but not personally.  Her summary of the ARB findings stand as an excellent example.  In fact the ARB did not find fault with her or with any particular personnel.  The faults they did spotlight were functional and procedural.   Hillary addressed these with alacrity.  She accepted all 29 recommendations and ordered them implemented.  She pledged not to leave office until all were in the process of implementation and met that goal.

Here is a link to the ARB Report and the cover letter she sent with it to Congress.

Hillary Clinton’s Cover Letter to Congress and the Unclassified ARB Report

She testified on Capitol Hill as soon as her doctors permitted (which may have been earlier than they recommended).

Video: Hillary Clinton’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Benghazi

As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure…

… let me underscore the importance of the United States continuing to lead in the Middle East, in North Africa, and around the world. We’ve come a long way in the past four years, and we cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root; our interests suffer; our security at home is threatened.

That’s why I sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi in the first place. Nobody knew the dangers better than Chris, first during the revolution, then during the transition. A weak Libyan Government, marauding militias, terrorist groups; a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel, but he did not waver. Because he understood it was critical for America to be represented there at that time.

Our men and women who serve overseas understand that we accept a level of risk to protect the country we love. And they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. They cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. So it is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need, and to do everything we can to reduce the risks.

Video: Hillary Clinton Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Benghazi

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.

Hillary speaks eloquently in this chapter in her own defense.  She really should not have to, but Benghazi became a political football the very day after it happened and the fact that she was out of politics when it happened and that those who testified before Congress were career diplomats and not politically aligned mattered nothing to the people who intended a witch hunt.

None of us can really know what we might have done as colonial residents of Salem if our neighbors were accused of witchcraft.  A rapidly dwindling number of Americans knows how they reacted when asked by Congressmen or an ambitious and wrong-headed Senator to name names of “enemies” in the entertainment industry, the military, and even in the very department Hillary headed. I, however, did know what I could do to defend Hillary, so I have included in this post not only her words, but my own defenses of her – some of them.

I know Hillary does not agree with some of what I have said, and I did go ahead and name names as she has not.  None of it is secret.

The Tea Party v. Hillary Clinton: It Never Ends

Part of the partisan offensive was a review of the Accountability Review Board reporting system initiated by some in Congress who, as Hillary points out, refused to be satisfied or simply refused to listen.  It was a silly, frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars.

Hillary Clinton and the ARB Reporting System Reviewed: Things You Should Know

Hillary Clinton and the ARB Reporting System Reviewed: More Things You Should Know

 

Benghazi was the event that drew a dividing  line through the Hillary team.  People I had known since her 2008 campaign peeled off.  It was fast and furious in dramatic, stunning contrast to the pro-Hillary passion they had professed up until that point.

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Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>

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According to the Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process (ISP-I-13-44A), the Permanent Coordinating Committee (PCC)  is the body within the State Department that must convene ASAP after a serious security incident at a U.S. mission abroad and determine whether or not to recommend that the secretary of state convene an Accountability Board Review (ARB).

P 7  ¶ 1 Permanent Coordinating Committee
“The Committee will, as quickly as possible after an incident occurs, review the available facts and recommend to the Secretary to convene or not convene a Board. (Due to the 1999 revision of the law requiring the Secretary to convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such period may be extended for one additional 60-day the Committee will meet within 30 days of the incident, if enough information is available.) In addition, the Committee will meet yearly to review the ARB process, existing policies and procedures, and ensure that any necessary changes are effected.” – 12 Foreign
Affairs Manual 032.1

On October 7, 2012 Hillary Clinton announced that not only had the recommendation been made but also that the ARB had been formed and would commence meeting that very week – well within the timeline stated in the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). Many of you will remember that the Tea Party was already stridently calling for this review, however it is clear from the FAM directive that this process went a good deal more quickly than was required.

P 16  ¶ 8  Secretary’s Report to Congress
“Report to Congress: the Secretary will, no later than 90 days after the receipt of a
Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such
recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that
recommendation.” – 12 Foreign Affairs Manual 036.3a.

The delivery of the completed report along with a cover letter dated December 18, 2012 delineating in detail many steps Hillary had already taken to address weaknesses in security at U.S. missions worldwide also came in well before the deadlines outlined in the FAM.  The cover letter is a brilliant analysis and well worth the read.  If you happen to find yourself in a discussion on the  subject of Benghazi, the events surrounding this attack, and State Department responses to it, you will find valuable points therein.  The letter and reports were addressed and delivered to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

P 19 ¶ 1  “All of us—from senior Department leadership setting strategic priorities to supervisors evaluating the needs of individual posts to congressional committees appropriating funds and providing oversight—have a responsibility to provide the men and women who serve this country with the best possible security and support. Most of all, it is my responsibility as Secretary of State.” – Secretary Hillary Clinton

One wonders how many times Hillary Clinton needs, orally and in writing, to take responsibility for Benghazi for the Tea Party to stop accusing her of dodging that responsibility.  Breaking news the night before a presidential debate,  on October 17, 2012 was that while traveling in Peru Hillary had stated in an interview that the responsibility was hers.  Her signature is, in perpetuity,  on that letter where she assumed responsibility.    Must she wander the streets with a bell like a town crier declaring, “The buck stops with me?”

P 25 ¶ 1 Regional Bureau Shared Responsibility
ARB Recommendation 3: “As the President’s personal representative, the Chief of Mission bears ‘direct and full responsibility for the security of [his or her] mission and all the personnel for whom [he or she is] responsible,’ and thus for risk management in the country to which he or she is accredited. In Washington, each regional Assistant Secretary has a corresponding responsibility to support the Chief of Mission in executing this duty. Regional bureaus should have augmented support within the bureau on security matters, to include a senior DS officer to
report to the regional Assistant Secretary.”

Not to blame the victim,  but security at Tripoli and Benghazi was a shared responsibility and some of that responsibility fell on Ambassador Stevens.  Of all the players in this tragedy, he, from all indications, was most familiar with the culture of the country and the population in Benghazi in particular.   In his absence, Gregory Hicks shared that responsibility at Embassy Tripoli of which he had been left in charge.

Fortunately, Embassy Tripoli was not subject to an attack, however, the reckless irresponsibility of Hicks’s decision to send the remaining two security officers from Tripoli to Benghazi is undeniable.

By Jeremy Herb 07/31/13 12:59 PM ET

Col. George Bristol, who commanded an Africa-based task force at the time of the terrorist attack, told the House Armed Services Committee that he gave Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, who led the site security team in Tripoli, initial freedom of action to respond to the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi.

Bristol corroborated testimony Gibson provided the committee last month that no “stand down” order was given — contradicting accusations made by critics of the Obama administration’s response to the attack — according to a description of Wednesday’s classified, members-only briefing of the Armed Services Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

Gibson had testified last month that he was told not to send his team to Benghazi because they needed to remain in Tripoli to defend the U.S. Embassy there in case of additional attacks.

Among the Benghazi recommendations is this one regarding funding.

P ¶ 5 29 Funding
ARB Recommendation 10: “Recalling the recommendations of the Nairobi/Dar es Salaam Accountability Review Boards, the State Department must work with Congress to restore the Capital Security Cost Sharing Program at its full capacity as originally envisioned, adjusted for inflation, of approximately $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2015, including an up to 10-year program addressing that need, prioritized for construction of new facilities in high-risk and high-threat areas. It should also work with Congress to expand utilization of Overseas Contingency Operations funding to respond to emerging security threats and vulnerabilities and operational requirements in high-risk and high-threat posts like Benghazi and Tripoli.”

We do well to remember who stripped the DS funds two years in a row.  There is plenty of responsibility to go around including upon those who clog Hillary Clinton’s Twitterfeed with cries of “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!”  ignoring the role played by tight-fisted Tea Party House members who swear they will recall Hillary Clinton.    If they do, we are certain that she will cooperate and be, as always, eminently well-prepared.

P 31 ¶ 2  Personnel Recommendations
No ARB has ever found “reasonable cause to believe” that a Federal employee or contractor has “breached a duty of that individual” as defined by the Act.

We have yet to hear any mea culpas emanating from Capitol Hill.

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Following the attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, convened, as required by law, an Accountability Review Board (ARB).   It was the 12th ARB to have been convened since the law was established.   The ARB submitted their report to her, and on December 18, 2013,  Hillary Clinton submitted the board’s classified and unclassified reports along with a cover letter to Congress while recovering from serious health issues at home.

Both documents were made available here at the time and remain available in the sidebar on the right.  In the wake of their publication, I posted sections of the report in small portions on Facebook.  Several friends thought that was a good way to make the information available.

Apparently in response to demands from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently conducted a review of ARBs and issued that report this week.  Four former secretaries of state, including Hillary Clinton, were interviewed in the process of conducting this review.  As I have been reading through it I have found some items that deserve to be brought to the fore in light of criticisms that have been lodged against Hillary.

Since small portions appear effective, here are a few statements from the  Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process (ISP-I-13-44A) that clarify some issues that some perhaps have not understood.

As for accusations that the ARB was somehow covering information to protect Secretary Clinton.

P 1 ¶ 1 The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended—independently and without bias—to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State’s security programs.

01-23-13-Z-36

Then, of course there is the accusation that Hillary, herself, appointed board.

P 6 ¶ 1 ARB membership consists of five individuals. The Secretary names four members, and the Director of National Intelligence names the remaining member.

01-23-13-Z-10

Darrell Issa and his minions who have railed and roiled since the ARB did not interview Hillary Clinton.  Here is the record.  The emphasis is mine.

P 14 ¶ 6 None of the 12 ARBs interviewed the Secretary to ascertain her/his role in the events leading up to the incident under review. ARB members interviewed by the OIG team stated that after reviewing documentation, they did not find reason to interview the Secretary; rather, the ARBs focused their inquiries at the operational levels of the Department responsible for implementing and overseeing security policies and programs. ARB members were unanimous in saying that they felt empowered to interview anyone, including the Secretary, as the facts or events warranted.

01-23-13-Z-18

Hillary submitted the ARB reports, both classified and unclassified, and made the unclassified report public.   The day she testified before Congress it appeared that there were those (Republicans) in both houses who had not familiarized themselves with the contents of the reports.  This is  especially egregious negligence on their part since she was not required to submit the actual reports but did so nonetheless.  She, in fact,  went above and beyond the call of duty in providing the documents since all she was actually required to do was provide her own report to Congress based on these reports.  Instead, she sent them all of the information gathered by the ARB, something she did not have to do.

P 17  ¶ 1The Secretary has a legislated mandate to submit a report to Congress on each recommendation but is not required to forward to Congress a copy of the ARB report itself. The Department submitted the ARB reports on the Nairobi/Dar es Salaam and the Benghazi attacks to Congress in their entirety. Because the recommendations in these reports were so far-reaching and had such significant resource implications, the Secretary considered it important that the findings be shared with both houses of Congress. In the other 10 ARB investigations reviewed, the secretaries’ reports to Congress provided a summary of the key elements of the ARB report, transmitted the ARB’s recommendations for action, and informed Congress of the Department’s response to those recommendations. The OIG team’s review of the secretaries’ reports to Congress over the last 14 years indicated that they accurately conveyed the key elements of the ARB reports.

01-23-13-Z-01

Should I, as I continue reading the report,  find additional information to shed clear light and offer evidence of Hillary’s transparency on issues at the center of  the Tea Party Benghazi obsession, I will be certain to share them.

The bottom line, of course, is that Hillary followed the letter of the law and went beyond by providing the ARB report in two forms when that was not required.  She is above reproach in this review process while the Tea Party Republicans show no respect for law or order in this case or in their current attempts to bring the country to its knees over a law  (the Affordable Care Act) that, while not perfect, is helpful to many and thus good.   Instead of tweaking the imperfections of the law and improving what we have (their job), they would prefer to drive us to insolvency for purely partisan reasons.

Their war against Hillary and their strategy of pulling the emergency brake on the whole country because of a law they do not like although  the country re-elected the president who signed it are shameful and unconscionable.

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When Hillary Clinton accepted the prestigious American Bar Association Medal last month, she spoke out on the Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act and announced a series of policy speeches the next of which she will deliver in Philadelphia this coming Tuesday upon acceptance of the Liberty Medal from Jeb Bush.

Tea Partiers, of course, are in meltdown mode over the coincidence of this presentation with the upcoming anniversary of the attack on the outpost in Benghazi which, in the interim, has come to be known to have been a CIA operation (thanks to Jason Chaffetz’s public announcement on live TV).

The policy speeches Mme. Secretary has announced are to address transparency and national security.  In an op-ed, published in yesterday’s New York Times, Representative Alan Grayson also addressed these issues as they relate to the classified information available to members of Congress regarding the proposed attacks on Syria that President Obama has referred to Congress for approval.

Grayson has some issues with the available data and documentation to back up an attack on Syria that he addresses in this article.  Most interestingly,   he compares that availability with the documents Hillary Clinton’s State Department provided on Benghazi.

Grayson in the NY Times on Syria Intel: “Trust, But Verify”


On Syria, “Trust, but Verify”

This op-ed written by Congressman Alan Grayson appeared in The New York Times today. Read it, share it with your friends and family, and join more than 75,000 others who oppose U.S. military intervention in Syria by signing on at DontAttackSyria.com.

WASHINGTON — THE documentary record regarding an attack on Syria consists of just two papers: a four-page unclassified summary and a 12-page classified summary. The first enumerates only the evidence in favor of an attack. I’m not allowed to tell you what’s in the classified summary, but you can draw your own conclusion.

On Thursday I asked the House Intelligence Committee staff whether there was any other documentation available, classified or unclassified. Their answer was “no.”

The Syria chemical weapons summaries are based on several hundred underlying elements of intelligence information. The unclassified summary cites intercepted telephone calls, “social media” postings and the like, but not one of these is actually quoted or attached — not even clips from YouTube. (As to whether the classified summary is the same, I couldn’t possibly comment, but again, draw your own conclusion.)

SNIP


Compare this lack of transparency with the administration’s treatment of the Benghazi attack. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to her credit, made every single relevant classified e-mail, cable and intelligence report available to every member of Congress. (I know this, because I read them all.) Secretary Clinton had nothing to hide.

Her successor, John Kerry, has said repeatedly that this administration isn’t trying to manipulate the intelligence reports the way that the Bush administration did to rationalize its invasion of Iraq.

But by refusing to disclose the underlying data even to members of Congress, the administration is making it impossible for anyone to judge, independently, whether that statement is correct. Perhaps the edict of an earlier administration applies: “Trust, but verify.”
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Most ironic is the statement of sources of the intel – sources that are being withheld.   Social media is cited.  Last October, in the wake of the Benghazi attack,  there was a great deal of hand-wringing over the issue of some leaked emails that Hillary Clinton addressed directly.

Hillary Clinton, those emails, and the truth

In the dust up around the leaked emails and among the events of her busy day, Hillary Clinton made the following remarks regarding the emails and the attack on the Benghazi consulate in a press availability today.

Now finally, on Benghazi, look, I’ve said it and I’ll say it one more time. No one wants to find out what happened more than I do. We are holding ourselves accountable to the American people, because not only they, but our brave diplomats and development experts serving in dangerous places around the world, deserve no less. The independent Accountability Review Board is already hard at work looking at everything – not cherry-picking one story here or one document there – but looking at everything, which I highly recommend as the appropriate approach to something as complex as an attack like this.

Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence, and I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be. What I keep in mind is that four brave Americans were killed, and we will find out what happened, we will take whatever measures are necessary to fix anything that needs to be fixed, and we will bring those to justice who committed these murders. And I think that that is what we have said, that is what we are doing, and I’m very confident that we will achieve those goals.

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There are two major takeaways here: 1) Attestation from a member of Congress, who is in a position to make the comparison,  that Hillary Clinton provided Congress with every scrap of relevant documentation on Benghazi all of which he read. 2) Hillary Clinton does not consider postings on social media to be evidence – in her own words.

Thank you, Representative Grayson, for defending our girl prior to a week that is guaranteed, on every front, to be hell on wheels, and thank you and our Hillary for your dedicated service.  It is satisfying to know that some members of Congress read everything she sent since, during her testimony in January,  she was obliged regularly to refer some members to the ARB Report that they seemed to have neglected to read.   The unclassified ARB report is available in the sidebar on the right for anyone who would like to see it.

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This is an example of why I prefer primary sources when I post here about Secretary Clinton.  Senator Corker was on MSNBC this morning and suggested that if Mme. Secretary can testify on Benghazi on January 22, perhaps as early as that afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the direction of the future chair, Robert Menendez (congratulations, Bob),  will confirm current chair, John Kerry as Secretary of State.  Here is how Politico picked it up and reported it.

01-07-12-Y-02a

Hillary Clinton to testify on Benghazi on Jan. 22

By BOBBY CERVANTES | 1/8/13 2:41 PM EST

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will likely testify Jan. 22 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the deadly U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi, the panel’s top Republican said Tuesday.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on MSNBC that he has spoken with Clinton’s chief of staff and said she seems “anxious” to testify on the Hill, following weeks of hospital visits after a concussion.

“I think they feel she’s going to be healthy enough to come in that day,” he said. “If that were to occur, and again this is Sen. [Robert] Menendez’s decision, we could move very quickly, maybe even that afternoon, to Sen. [John] Kerry’s [nomination] hearings.

By this afternoon it was viral that this date was “set.”  Whoa, Nellie!  It was not until after 4:30 this afternoon that that daily press briefing notification went out, but it was another hour or so before the transcript was actually posted.  What Victoria Nuland said is at odds with what Politico reported.

QUESTION: And any updates (inaudible) on the issue about when the Secretary could testify on Benghazi and when the confirmation hearing for Senator Kerry could be held?

MS. NULAND: We’re still working with the Hill on all of those things, but I think we talked in some detail yesterday about the expected timing. They’re not coming back to work – the committees are not – until after the inaugural.

QUESTION: What is the Department’s preferred sequence in those hearings? That the confirmation hearing should precede the Benghazi hearing, or vice versa?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we’re going to negotiate that here with you all. We’re working on it with the Hill to make sure that it’s appropriate for their needs and for ours. But as I said, the goal on our side is that we would have the Secretary able to testify, as she’s promised to do while she’s still sitting Secretary, but also have the confirmation hearing as quickly as appropriate after they come back in.

QUESTION: And just for the record, why is it important to the Secretary that her testimony on this matter should unfold while she is sitting Secretary?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think that’s appropriate. That’s what the Hill seems to want, and that allows her to complete her obligations as Secretary while she’s Secretary. Makes sense.

QUESTION: Then this would have to be done rather quickly. In theory, you wouldn’t want to have a confirmed Secretary, next Secretary waiting around until this happens, right?

MS. NULAND: I think we are hopeful that we can work this all through very smoothly with the committees.

So in fact, as late as this afternoon,  nothing has been set – demonstrating why this blog, when it loses the primary source at the State Department will not be resorting to secondary sources unless confirmation can be made.  It is going to be a hard slog, folks.

I am not saying that the January 22 date will not end up being the date of the testimony.  I am only saying that it is irresponsible reporting to say that date is “set.”

All we really know is that Secretary Clinton has ordered all of the ARB recommendations to be implemented, that she is committed to cooperating with the committees, and that she intends to testify as sitting SOS.

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Briefing on the Accountability Review Board Report

Special Briefing

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Accountability Review Board Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering and Vice Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen
Washington, DC
December 19, 2012

MS. NULAND: Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us. As you know, the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi that the Secretary established has now completed its work, and the classified and unclassified versions have been released to the Hill, and you’ve had a chance to see the unclassified version, as well as the Secretary’s letter to members.

Today, we have invited the Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Ambassador Tom Pickering, and the Vice Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Admiral Mike Mullen, to join us here to address your questions. And introducing them will be Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.

Deputy Secretary.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much, and good afternoon. As all of you know, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen appeared today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi. Deputy Secretary Nides and I will testify tomorrow, so I’ll make just two quick points and then give the floor to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen to discuss the report and take your questions.

First, as Secretary Clinton said in her letter to Congress, we accept each and every one of the board’s recommendations and have already begun to implement them. In accordance with the law, Secretary Clinton ordered this review to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi, because that’s how we can learn and improve. And I want to convey our appreciation to Ambassador Pickering, Admiral Mullen, and their team for doing such a thorough job. The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix.

In the hours and days after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, at the Secretary’s direction, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We launched a worldwide review of the Department’s overall security posture. Interagency teams of diplomatic and military security experts gave particular scrutiny to high-threat posts. The Pentagon agreed to dispatch hundreds of additional Marines to posts around the world. We asked Congress for funds to hire new diplomatic security personnel and reinforce vulnerable facilities. We also named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and we’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experienced and well-trained staff serving at those posts.

Tom and I will be discussing all of this work and more with Congress tomorrow, so for now, let me just make one other point. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service for more than 30 years, and I’ve had the honor of serving as a chief of mission overseas. I know that diplomacy, by its very nature, must sometimes be practiced in dangerous places. 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. It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day for years on end in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.

But we have learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better. We have to do more to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need. We owe that to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi. We owe it to the security professionals who acted with such extraordinary heroism that awful night to protect them. And we owe it to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world.

And so with that, let me turn to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Good afternoon, all of you. Thank you very much, Bill, for those wise and cogent words, which I believe very much reflect the spirit in which we worked and, indeed, the focus on which we put our efforts.

I would also like to thank Secretary Clinton for her steadfast support for our efforts and her ambitious approach to implementing our recommendations. And of course, we wish her speedy recovery.

In late September, Secretary Clinton asked me to serve as Chairman of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi and asked Admiral Mullen to be the Vice Chairman. And let me say what a pleasure it was to work with Admiral Mullen and, indeed, all the other members of the board. But he in particular brought a special perspective, wisdom, and good sense to a very difficult and trying process.

There are three other members of the board who are not with us today but without whom this report would not have been possible: Catherine Bertini, a Professor of Public Administration at Syracuse University, and former Chief Executive of the United Nations World Food Program, and Under Secretary General for Management of the United Nations; Richard Shinnick, an experienced retired senior Foreign Service Officer who served most recently as Interim Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations; and Hugh Turner, an experienced and retired senior intelligence officer who spent 22 years in the business and served last as Associate Deputy Director for Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency; and to an excellent State Department staff led by FSO Uzra Zeya, who made a major contribution to our work and without whom we wouldn’t be here with you today.

Secretary Clinton convened the Accountability Review Board, or ARB, to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. As you all know, these attacks resulted in the tragic deaths of four brave Americans: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods.

Against the backdrop of so many unanswered questions about what happened at Benghazi, I want first to make clear our board’s specific mandate. We were not asked to conduct an investigation into the attacks to find out who the perpetrators were or their motives. That is the statutory role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community. We enjoyed excellent cooperation with both of them throughout the report.

Under relevant statute, Secretary Clinton asked us to examine whether the attacks were security related and whether security systems and procedures were adequate and implemented properly, the impact of the availability of information and intelligence, and whether anything else about the attacks might be relevant to appropriate security management of U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. We were also asked to look at whether any U.S. Government employee or contractor breached his or her duty. Basically, we wanted to find the lessons to be learned, better to protect Americans from future attacks.

To do all that, we interviewed more than a hundred people, reviewed thousands of documents, and watched hours of video. We spoke with people who were on the scene in Benghazi that night, who were in Tripoli, who were in Washington. We talked to military and intelligence officials, including to many State Department personnel, and to experts who do not work for the United States Government. Throughout this process, we enjoyed superb cooperation from the Department of State and its interagency partners, and the decision to brief you on the report’s findings reflects a commitment to transparency at the Department’s highest levels.

Let me just give you a very brief introduction to events that night and then ask Admiral Mullen if he will share with you the findings of the report, and then I will return briefly to talk about some of the overarching recommendations.

What happened on September 11th and 12th in Benghazi was a series of attacks in multiple locations by unknown assailants that ebbed and flowed over a period of almost eight hours. The U.S. security personnel in Benghazi were heroic in their efforts to protect their colleagues, including Ambassador Stevens. They did their best that they possibly could with what they had, but what they had was not enough, either for the general threat environment in Benghazi and most certainly against the overwhelming numbers of attackers and the weapons which they faced. Frankly, the State Department had not given Benghazi the security, both physical and personnel resources, it needed. And on that note, let me ask Ambassador – let me ask Admiral Mullen if he will please relay to you our specific findings. I keep promoting him to ambassador, and I apologize.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thanks, Mr. Ambassador. I appreciate that. (Laughter.) And I do appreciate your leadership throughout this process as well.

Good afternoon. The board found that the attacks in Benghazi were security related, and responsibility for the loss of life, the injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities rests completely and solely with the terrorists who conducted the attacks. That does not mean there are not lessons to be learned. The board found that the security posture at the Special Mission compound was inadequate for the threat environment in Benghazi, and in fact, grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place that night.

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. The buildings at Special Mission Benghazi did not meet Department standards for office buildings in high-threat areas, and in a sense, fell through the cracks bureaucratically by being categorized as temporary residential facilities. While a number of physical security upgrades were done in 2012, at the time of the attacks the compound did not have all the security features and equipment it needed.

The board also found that the rotational staffing system and the inadequacy of the Diplomatic Security staffing numbers in Benghazi to be a major factor behind the weakness of the security platform. The continual rotation of DS agents inhibited the development of institutional and on-the-ground knowledge, and continuity and security decisions and implementation.

The question is not simply whether an additional number of agents would have made a difference on the night of September 11th, which is very difficult to answer, but whether a sustained and stronger staffing platform in Benghazi over the course of 2012 could have established some deterrence by giving it the continuity and experience on the ground to make it a harder target for terrorists.

Another deficit in the Benghazi security platform was the inherent weakness of the Libyan support element. Absence of a strong central government presence in Benghazi meant the Special Mission had to rely on a militia with uncertain reliability, an unarmed local contract guard force with skill deficits, to secure the compound. Neither Libyan group performed well on the night of the attacks.

Overall, the board found that security systems and procedures were implemented properly by American personnel, but those systems themselves and the Libyan response fell short on the night of the attacks. Personnel performed to the best of their ability and made every effort to protect, rescue, and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. Their decision to depart the Special Mission without Ambassador Stevens came after repeated efforts of many U.S. security agents to find him and Sean Smith in a smoke-filled building still on fire and was precipitated by a second armed attack on the compound from the south.

On the night of the attacks, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Washington communicated and coordinated effectively with each other. They looped in the military right away, and the interagency response was timely and appropriate. But there simply was not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference. Having said that, it is not reasonable, nor feasible, to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world.

We found that there was no immediate tactical warning of the September 11th attacks, but there was a knowledge gap in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known. In this context, increased violence and targeting of foreign diplomats and international organizations in Benghazi failed to come into clear relief against a backdrop of ineffective local governance, widespread political violence, and inter-militia fighting, as well as the growth of extremist camps and militias in eastern Libya.

While we did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities, 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 appropriate for senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by the Special Mission.

Now I’ll ask Ambassador Pickering to conclude by giving an overview of some of the board’s more overarching recommendations.

AMBASADOR PICKERING: Thank you, Admiral Mullen. With the lessons of the past and the challenges of the future in mind, we put forth recommendations in several key areas. We are recommending that the State Department undertake an urgent review to determine the proper balance between acceptable risk and mission tasks and needs in high-risk and in high-threat areas. The answer can’t be not to go into dangerous places, but there must be: one, a clear mission; two, a clear understanding of the risks; three, a commitment of enough resources to mitigate those risks; and four, an explicit acceptance of whatever costs and risks cannot be mitigated. This balance needs to be reviewed regularly and continuously because situations change.

Next, we recommend the Department develop a minimum security standard for the occupation of temporary facilities in high-risk, high-threat environments, and that posts receive the equipment and the supplies they need to counter various types of threats. We also believe the State Department must work with the Congress to expand funding to respond to emerging security threats and vulnerabilities and operational requirements in high-risk, high-threat posts. We found that a number of recommendations from past ARBs had not been implemented fully, and they relate very much to some of the recommendations we will be making or we have made to the Secretary that the Congress will have to play its role in fulfilling.

Because Benghazi did not fit the mold of the usual diplomatic post as a result of its temporary status, this meant it was unable to get some of the security upgrades and some of the security oversight which it needed. We recommended various improvements in how temporary and high-risk, high-threat posts are managed and backstopped both on the ground and from Washington so that they have the support they need. There should be changes in the way the State Department staffs posts like Benghazi to provide more continuity and stability, and so that posts have sufficient DS agents, Diplomatic Security agents, with other security personnel as needed.

We also are recommending the Department re-examine the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s organization and management to ensure that all posts get the attention they need from upper management. A special review should urgently look at the use of fire as a weapon and how to counter it. The State Department should establish an outside panel of experts with experience in high-risk, high-threat areas, a kind of red team, to watch changing events and make recommendations to the Department’s security officials.

We are delighted to see that the Secretary is committed to the expeditious and, indeed, urgent implementation of all of our recommendations. And now we would be happy to take your questions and appreciate your giving us this opportunity to brief you on our report.

MS. NULAND: (Inaudible) wait for me to call the questions. (Inaudible.) Let’s start with Matt Lee from AP, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this briefing. The report, to a layman, seems to indicate either rank incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Benghazi. And my question is: Why is such poor performance like that from senior leaders in these two bureaus that you mention, why is not a breach of or a dereliction of duty? Why is it not grounds for disciplinary action?

And then secondly, after the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the ARB report – the ARB that was formed then came out with a series of recommendations, and many of your recommendations today, the broader ones, are very similar. Those bombings in East Africa were supposed to have been a never-again moment. What happened between then and now that this could possibly have happened?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Without accepting your characterization of the problem, it is very clear that under the law and in connection with the State Department regulatory practice, one has to find willful misconduct or similar kinds of action in order to find breach of duty. And indeed, one of our recommendations is – there is such a large gap between willful misconduct, which leads, obviously, to conclusions about discipline, letters of reprimand, separation, the removal of an individual temporarily from duty, that we believe that gap ought to be filled. But we found, perhaps, close to – as we say in the report – breach, but there were performance inadequacies. And those are the ones that we believe ought to be taken up, and we made recommendations to the Secretary in that regard.

MS. NULAND: Michael Gordon – I’m sorry –

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just the second one – what happened between – how did the lessons of Kenya and Tanzania get forgotten?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Well, I think that – let me just mention that, and then Admiral Mullen may have some things to say. We, of course, have made a recommendation that the unimplemented or only partially implemented recommendations of all previous boards be reviewed rapidly by the State Department Inspector General with the idea in mind of assuring that they are carried out. And if you will read our report, you will see in part recollections from the past leading each chapter, as well as a citation to the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam recommendations that need to be carried out. So we very much agree with the impetus of your question.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: I think it begs the question of why did that happen. I mean, obviously, a lot of time. That’s always a factor. Clearly, no specific follow-up over time. One of the major recommendations was the building plan, which fell off from 10 buildings – 10 new embassies a year to three, tied to budget constraints, et cetera. So I think it was a combination of factors, and while 1999 is certainly close to this decade, I mean, the world has changed dramatically in this decade, and the risks that are associated with that world are – I think we are in a much more difficult and challenging position with respect to meeting the needs to be out there and engage, and doing so in a way that our people are very specifically secure.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Just picking up on that, there’s a specific recommendation for a 10 year program at a very significant level of funding specifically to meet the point that Admiral Mullen made that our building program has fallen off from 10 to three, and it needs to go back to that original target.

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.

MS. NULAND: CNN, Elise Labott, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. I was going to ask about these personnel issues, but a couple of others. You offer – the Secretary said in her letter that there were 29 recommendations. And in the unclassified, there were only 24. I’m wondering, without getting into any classified material, if you could at least characterize what these recommendations – do they have to do with intelligence matters that you can’t discuss or at least the area of those recommendations.

And then also you said that there was – in the report that there was no protest, that there was no mob. How did you come to that conclusion?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Two very brief answers. Your suspicion the missing recommendations involved classification is correct. It would not be untoward to assume that some of those involve intelligence. We arrived in October 4th, 2012 for our first meeting. At that point, we found the intelligence community had clearly concluded and provided us that conclusion, that there was no protest.

QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up on the intelligence? Will you be doing – because it’s – this is – you’re reporting to the Secretary, and you said that perhaps she’s involved intelligence, will you also be reaching out to members of the intelligence community and briefing them and helping them implement some recommendations?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: This report is now the Secretary’s. I think, without stretching a point, we of course remain at the Secretary’s disposal for whatever use she would like to make of us.

MS. NULAND: And she has made it available to all pertinent agencies.

Let’s go to Washington Post, Anne Gearan, please.

QUESTION: Two things: Can you confirm the resignations of Department personnel today in association with this report and give us any detail on that? And secondly, Admiral Mullen, you talked about poorly understood – understanding of – or poor understanding, rather, of the nature of the militia threat. Whose responsibility should that have been to have a better matrix for that?

And if that information had been provided as it should have been provided, do you think it would have been still advisable for Ambassador Stevens to make that trip?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: On the first question, that’s obviously a Department issue and you should address that to the Department of State.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Secondly, the – I mean, it was very clear this is a country in transition. And one of the umbrella organizations that come out with respect to lack of support that night for a security response, which was the expected response, was Feb. 17. But as we dig into – or dug into Feb. 17, it is a very loose group of local militias that float in and out of that umbrella over time. And I think that’s representative of the gaps – the intelligence gaps that existed at that time in eastern Libya broadly – not just for us but for many countries that were out there.

So I think you have to take that into consideration in terms of understanding the environment in terms of what was out there and what the potential was.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: I think you should also take into account the fact that the Libyan Government was almost absent from the scene, in terms of its responsibilities under the Geneva or Vienna Convention, to provide support. And that in many ways, February 17th, as difficult as it was, while it had responded positively to less threatening questions in the past, was the best that anybody could find.

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to CBS, Margaret Brennan, please.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this briefing. In the report, you specifically refer to the idea that the Ambassador did not keep Washington fully informed about his movements. Why is that relevant here? I mean, what role did the Ambassador have being a lead person in Libya in terms of determining security? It’s my understanding that ambassadors don’t normally notify each and every movement. Why was that specifically referred to?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Because, in fact, it is a question that occurred to many people that we felt we should answer it, but particularly because the Ambassador is the person who has the responsibility for security at his post.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And does not have the requirement and normally does not notify anybody outside the country of his or her movements.

QUESTION: So when you were talking about the understanding of the militias, February 17th, et cetera, is it correct to understand that Ambassador Stevens had a role in deciding their security position?

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Sure. As the chief of mission, he certainly had a responsibility in that regard, and actually he was very security conscious and increasingly concerned about security. But part of his responsibility is certainly to make that case back here, and he had not gotten to that point where you would – you might get to a point where you would be considering it’s so dangerous, we might close the mission – I’m sorry, the compound, or something like that.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: And as you know, on the anniversary day, 9/11, he, on the advice of his security officials, spent his entire day inside the mission with appointments coming to him.

MS. NULAND: Our two principals are little bit time-constrained today, so we’ll just take one more from Fox News, Justin Fishel.

QUESTION: Thanks, Toria. Thank you both for doing this. Just a follow-up on that last question: Would you say then that Ambassador Stevens does share some of the blame here for the lack of security? Is that what you’re saying here?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We very clearly in the report, if you read it, made our indications open and transparent about where we felt the problems were in terms of decision-making. Ambassador Stevens on several occasions was supportive of additional security in addition to watching it very carefully and to knowing what was going on. Ambassador Stevens had perhaps the best knowledge of Benghazi of any American official. And that was taken in Washington, certainly, as a very serious set of conclusions on his part about going.

QUESTION: Okay. And just two follow-ups for Admiral Mullen: Why such a passing reference to military involvement? Can you explain why they couldn’t have done more? And also —

ADMIRAL MULLEN: We looked at the force posture very specifically, and while we had a lot of forces in Europe both at sea and on land, it was not – it is not reasonable that they could have responded; they were – in any kind of timely way. This was over in a matter of about 20 or 30 minutes with respect to the Special Mission specifically. And we had no forces ready or tethered, if you will, focused on that mission so that they could respond, nor would I expect we would have.

QUESTION: And I noticed also that there was no mention of the CIA in the report despite the fact that their post was attacked and they had more personnel there than there were diplomats. Did they share some blame for the lack of security here?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We don’t discuss intelligence questions, unfortunately, in this briefing.

QUESTION: It’s not a classified organization.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much and thank you to our two, Chairman and Vice Chairman. I’ll see them out.

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