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Although our Hillary was unable to testify today due to illness and injury, her deputies did, both at SFR and HFA.  Because they did so in her place and at her request, I am posting the transcripts of both sets of testimonies for the record.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Benghazi: The Attack and the Lessons Learned

Testimony

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Thomas Nides
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources
Opening Remarks Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC
December 20, 2012

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity. Secretary Clinton asked me to express how much she regrets not being able to be here today. And I’d like to join you, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Secretary and the men and women of the Department of State in expressing our deep respect and admiration for the many years of service of Senator Lugar to our nation.

Since the terrorist attacks on our compounds in Benghazi, State Department officials and senior members from other agencies have testified in four congressional hearings, provided more than 20 briefings for members and staff, and submitted thousands of pages of documents, including the now-full-classified report of the Accountability Review Board. Secretary Clinton has also sent a letter covering a wide range of issues for the record. So today I would like to highlight just a few key points.

The attacks in Benghazi took the lives of four courageous Americans. Ambassador Stevens was a friend and a beloved member of the State Department community for 20 years. He was a diplomat’s diplomat, and he embodied the very best of America. Even as we grieved for our fallen friends and colleagues, we took action on three fronts.

First, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We stayed in constant contact with embassies and consulates around the world facing large protests, dispatched emergency security teams, received reporting from the intelligence community, and took additional precautions where needed. You will hear more about all this from my partner, Tom Nides.

Second, we intensified a diplomatic campaign aimed at combating the threat of terrorism across North Africa. We continue to work to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi, and we are working with our partners to close safe havens, cut off terrorist finances, counter extremist ideology, and slow the flow of new recruits.

And third, Secretary Clinton ordered an investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi. I want to convey our appreciation to the Accountability Review Board’s chairman and vice chairman, Ambassador Tom Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and also Hugh Turner, Richard Shinnick, and Catherine Bertini. 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.

Before Tom walks you through what we are doing to implement fully all of the board’s recommendations, I would like to add a few words based on my own experiences as a career diplomat in the field. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service for more than 30 years, and I have 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. As Secretary Clinton has said, our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. When America is absent, there are consequences: Our interests suffer and our security at home is threatened. Chris Stevens understood that as well as anyone. Chris also knew that every chief of mission has the responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our people.

As senior officials here in Washington, we share that profound responsibility. We have to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have all the resources they need. That includes the men and women at the State Department’s Diplomatic Security service. I have been deeply honored to serve with many of these brave men and women. They are professionals and patriots who serve in many places where there are no Marines on post and little or no U.S. military presence in country. Like Secretary Clinton, I trust them with my life.

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 learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better.

We owe it 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 try 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. We will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security, but we will never stop working to get better and safer. As Secretary Clinton has said, the United States will keep leading and keep engaging around the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.

Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN KERRY: Secretary Nides.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, members of the committee, I also want to thank you for this opportunity. I want to reiterate what Bill has said. All of us have a responsibility to provide the men and women who serve this country with the best possible security and support. From senior Department leadership setting the priorities, the supervisors evaluating security needs, to the Congress appropriating sufficient funds, we all share this responsibility. Secretary Clinton has said that, as Secretary of State, this is her greatest responsibility and her highest priority.

Today I will focus on the steps we have been taking at Secretary Clinton’s direction, and that we will continue to take. As Bill said, the board reports takes a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic problems for which we take responsibility and that we have already begun to fix. We are grateful for the recommendations from Ambassador Pickering and his team. We accept every one of them – all 29 recommendations. Secretary Clinton has charged my office with leading a task force that will ensure that all 29 are implemented quickly and completely, and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report.

The Under Secretary of Political Affairs, the Under Secretary for Management, the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Deputy Legal Advisor will work with me to drive this forward. The task force has already met to translate the recommendation into actual 60 specific action items. We’ve assigned every single one to the responsible bureau for immediate implementation, and several will be completed by the end of this calendar year. Implementation of each and every recommendation will be underway by the time the next Secretary of State takes office. There will be no higher priority for the Department in the coming weeks and months. And should we require more resources to execute these recommendations, we’ll work closely with the Congress to ensure that they are met.

As I said, Secretary Clinton wants us to implement the ARB’s findings and do no more. Let me offer some very clear specifics. For more than 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide security for embassies and consulates. But in today’s evolving threat environment, we have to take a new and harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts. We have to re-examine how we operate in places facing emerging threats, where national security forces are fragmented or may be weak.

So at Secretary Clinton’s direction, we have moved quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security posture, with particular scrutiny on a number of high-threat posts. With the Department of Defense, we’ve deployed five interagency security assessment teams, made up of diplomatic and military security experts, to 19 posts in 13 countries – an unprecedented cooperation between our Departments at a critical time. These teams have provided us a roadmap for addressing emergency – emerging security challenges.

We’re also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35 additional Marine detachments – that’s about 225 Marines – to medium and high-threat posts where they’ll serve visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top of the approximate 150 detachments we have already deployed. We are aligning our resources to our 2013 budget requests to address physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever needed and to reduce risk from fire.

And let me add, we may need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to streamline the usual processes that produce faster results. We’re seeking to hire more than 150 additional Diplomatic Security personnel, an increase of about 5 percent, and to provide them with the equipment and training they need. As the ARB recommended, we will target them squarely at security at our high-threat posts.

I want to second Bill’s praise for these brave security professionals. I have served in this Department for only two years, having come from the private sector. However, I have traveled to places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I have seen firsthand how these dedicated men and women risk their lives every day. We owe them a debt of gratitude as they go to work every day to protect us in more than 270 posts around the world. And as we make these improvements in the field, we’re also making changes here in Washington. We’ve named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for State for High-Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experience and well-trained staff serving in those posts. And we’re working to ensure that the State Department makes decisions about where our people operate in a way that reflects our shared responsibility for security.

Our regional assistant secretaries were directed – directly involved in our interagency security assessment process, and will assume greater accountability for securing our people and our posts. We will provide the Congress with a detailed report on every step we’re taking to improve security and implement the board’s recommendations. We’ll look to you for support and guidance as we do this.

Obviously, part of this is about resources. We must equip our people with what they need to deliver results safely, and will work with you as needs arise. But Congress has a bigger role than that. You have visited our posts. You know our diplomats on the ground and the challenges they face. You know our vital national security interests are at stake, and that we are all in this together. We look forward to working with you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your support and counsel and for this opportunity to discuss these important matters. We’d both be happy to take your questions.

House Foreign Affairs Committee

Benghazi Attack, Part II: The Report of the Accountability Review Board

Testimony

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Thomas Nides
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources
Opening Remarks Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Washington, DC
December 20, 2012

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair, Mr. Berman, members of the committee. Thank you for this opportunity. Secretary Clinton asked me to express how much she regrets not being able to be here today, and I know she has confirmed to you, Madam Chair, her willingness to appear before you in January.Since the terrorist attacks on our compounds in Benghazi, State Department officials and senior members from other agencies have testified in four Congressional hearings, provided more than 20 briefings for members and staff, and submitted thousands of pages of documents, including now the full classified report of the Accountability Review Board. Secretary Clinton has also sent a letter covering a wide range of issues for the record. So today, I’d like to highlight just a few key points.

The attacks in Benghazi took the lives of four courageous Americans. Ambassador Stevens was a friend and a beloved member of the State Department community for 20 years. He was a diplomat’s diplomat, and he embodied the very best of America.

Even as we grieved for our fallen friends and colleagues, we took action on three fronts.

First, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We stayed in constant contact with embassies and consulates around the world facing large protests, dispatched emergency security teams, received reporting from the intelligence community, and took additional precautions where needed. You’ll hear more about all this from my partner Tom Nides.

Second, we intensified the diplomatic campaign aimed at combating the threat of terrorism across North Africa. We continue to work to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi. And we are working with our partners to close safe havens, cut off terrorist finances, counter extremist ideology, and slow the flow of new recruits.

And third, Secretary Clinton ordered an investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi. I want to convey our appreciation to the Accountability Review Board’s Chairman and Vice Chairman, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and also Hugh Turner, Richard Shinnick, and Catherine Bertini.

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.

Before Tom walks you through what we’re doing to implement fully all of the board’s recommendations, I’d like to add a few words based on my own experiences as a career diplomat in the field. 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. As Secretary Clinton has said, our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. When America is absent, there are consequences. Our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened.

Chris Stevens understood that as well as anyone. Chris also knew that every chief of mission has the responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our people. As senior officials here in Washington, we share that profound responsibility. We have to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need.

That includes the men and women of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. I have been deeply honored to serve with many of these brave men and women. They are professionals and patriots who serve in many places where there are no Marines at post and little or no U.S. military presence in country. Like Secretary Clinton, I trust them with my life.

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 learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better. We owe it 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 try 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.

We will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security, but we will never stop working to get better and safer. As Secretary Clinton has said, the United States will keep leading and keep engaging around the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.

Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you, sir. Mr. Nides.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Madam Chairman, Congressman Berman, members of the committee, I also thank you for this opportunity.

I want to reiterate what Bill has said. All of us who have had the responsibility to provide the men and the women who serve this country with the best possible security and support – from the senior Department leadership setting the priorities to the supervisors evaluating the security needs to the Congress appropriating sufficient funds, we all share this responsibility. Secretary Clinton has said that, as Secretary of State, this is her greatest responsibility and her highest priority.

Today I will focus on the steps we are taking at Secretary Clinton’s direction and will continue to take. As Bill has said, the board report takes a clear-eyed look at the serious, systemic problems for which we take responsibility and that we have already begun to fix.

We are grateful for the recommendations from Ambassador Pickering and his team. We accept every one of them, all 29 recommendations. Secretary Clinton has charged my office with leading the task force that will ensure that the 29 are implemented as quickly and as completely – and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report. The Under Secretary of Political Affairs, the Under Secretary for Management, the Director General of the Foreign Service, and the Deputy Legal Advisor will work with me to drive this forward.

The task force has already met to translate the recommendations into about 60 specific action items. We’ve assigned every single one to a responsible bureau for immediate implementation, and several of them will be completed by the end of the calendar year.

Implementation of each and every recommendation will be underway by the time the next Secretary of State takes office. There will be no higher priority for the Department in the coming weeks and months. And should we require more resources to execute these recommendations, we will work closely with the Congress to ensure that these needs are met.

And as I said, Secretary Clinton wants us to implement the ARB findings and to do more. So let me offer some very clear specifics.

For more than 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide the security for our embassies and consulates. But in today’s evolving threat environment, we have to take a new, harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts. We have to re-examine how we operate in places facing emerging threats, where national security forces are fragmented or may be weak.

So, at Secretary Clinton’s direction, we moved quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security posture, with particular scrutiny of a number of high-threat posts. With the Department of Defense, we deployed five interagency security assessment teams, made up of diplomat and military security experts, to 19 posts and into 13 countries, an unprecedented cooperation between the Departments at a very critical time. These teams have provided a roadmap for addressing emerging security challenges.

We’re also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35 additional detachments of Marine security guards – that’s about 225 Marines – to medium and high-threat posts, where they will serve as visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top of the approximately 150 detachments we already deployed.

We’re aligning resources in our 2013 budget request to address physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever needed to reduce the risk from fire. And let me add we may need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to streamline the usual processes that produce faster results.

We’re seeking to hire more than 150 additional Diplomatic Security personnel, an increase of 5 percent, and to provide them with the equipment and training that they need. And as the ARB recommended, we will target them squarely at securing our high-threat posts.

I want to second Bill’s praise for these brave security professionals. I have served in this Department for only two years, having come from the private sector. However, as I’ve traveled to places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, I’ve seen firsthand how these dedicated men and women risk their lives. We all owe them a debt of gratitude as they go to work every day to protect more than 275 posts around the world.

As we make these improvements in the field, we’re also making changes here in Washington.

We’ve named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High-Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We’re updating our diplomatic procedures to increase the number of experienced and well-trained staff serving in those posts.

And we are working to ensure that the State Department makes decisions about where our people operate in the ways that reflects our shared responsibility for our security. Our regional assistant secretaries were directly involved in our interagency security assessment process and they will assume greater accountability for securing their people and posts. We will provide this committee with detailed reports every step we’re taking to improve our security and implement the board’s recommendation.

We look to you for the support and guidance as we do this. Obviously, part of this is about resources. We must equip our people with what they need to deliver results and safety, and we’ll work with you as needs arise. But Congress has a bigger role than just that. You have visited our posts, you know our diplomats on the ground and the challenges that they face. You know our vital national securities are at stake and that we’re all in this together. We look forward to working with you.

Thank you, Madam Chair, for your support and counsel and for this opportunity to discuss these important matters. And we’d both be happy to answer your questions.

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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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Deputy Secretary William Burns was in Tripoli today to participate in a memorial service for our fallen heroes.  Here are his words

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Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Fallen Americans

Remarks

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Tripoli, Libya
September 20, 2012

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS:Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, distinguished guests: We gather with heavy hearts today to remember four remarkable men – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty – who gave their lives serving their country and trying to build a better future for the people of Libya.Last Friday, I accompanied my fallen colleagues on the long, sad plane flight home, where their families and friends, joined by President Obama and Secretary Clinton, gathered to honor their sacrifice – the ultimate sacrifice. I am proud and grateful to be able to join all of you this evening, here in Libya, to mourn their passing.

This is a hard moment, for all of us. It is a moment of shared loss. And it is a moment of shared hope, and shared responsibility.

We have lost four wonderful colleagues. We have lost a brilliant ambassador, full of courage and skill and passionate determination to help Libyans, to help all of you, realize the promise of your revolution, to make a reality of a free Libya, of “Libya al-Hurra.” I last saw Chris Stevens during a visit to Libya in July, just after the elections. His sense of commitment and possibility was contagious, drawing him to Libyans from all walks of life, from senior officials to students to street vendors. He was a very fine diplomat, and an extraordinary human being. He really was America at its best.

This is truly a shared loss. I can see that sense of loss on the faces of all those gathered here this evening . . . the loss of a tireless friend and advocate, a man who dreamed your dreams and wanted deeply to help you achieve the dignity you deserve, after so many decades of tyranny. I could see that sense of loss, as well as a profound sense of honor and decency, in the bravery of the Libyans who risked their lives to try to fight off attackers and rescue Chris . . . in the grief-stricken faces of the doctors and nurses who did all they could to try to save his life . . . in the outpouring of condolences and support from your leaders . . . in the simple, heartfelt, hand-printed signs of ordinary Libyan citizens, urging the world to understand that the extremists who did this do not speak for them and do not speak for Libya.

Tonight it’s difficult to see beyond that sense of loss. But the truth is that what Chris Stevens embodied most of all was a sense of shared hope. He was an optimist, about Libya and about the potential for friendship between Libyans and Americans. He saw the promise of a free Libya, of a better future for Libyans and their children and their children’s children.

Chris saw the promise of a free Libya even in the hardest days of the revolution in Benghazi, when so many others couldn’t see it, when so many others began to waver, when so many others began to doubt. Chris never wavered. He believed in Libya. He believed in all of you. He believed in what you could build, in what you could overcome, in what you could become as a nation.

Neither Chris Stevens nor our three other fallen colleagues were naïve. They were not blind in their optimism. They knew the troubles Libyans faced, and the risks they had to endure. Chris understood better than most that it was only through a shared sense of responsibility that those hopes could be realized. If Chris were here this evening, I know he would be the first to say that – for all the pride and jubilation of the revolution, for all the pain we feel tonight – it is the days ahead which matter most.

Chris would be the first to remind us that dignity, respect, hope, and freedom are powerful words and noble aspirations – but translating them into reality takes hard work and great sacrifice. That is the responsibility before all Libyans, and before all of us in America and around the world who remain committed to supporting you in this crucial effort. There are formidable tasks ahead: to build democratic institutions to safeguard human rights for every Libyan; to build security institutions to protect your own citizens and the diplomats who serve here; to build an economy which realizes the full potential of all Libyans.

None of this will be easy. It will take time. There will be more difficult moments along the way. But you have already achieved so much, and so much more is possible. Libyans will have to continue to make hard choices, to live up to your responsibilities, and to ensure that violent extremists don’t hijack the promise of your revolution.

Chris Stevens would have had no doubts about your ability to do that. He would not have wavered. And he would have drawn strength from your resolve, which is so evident this evening.

Chris would not have let the profound sense of loss we feel tonight obscure the hopes we share, or the responsibilities we must accept. The best way to honor his memory, and the memory of Sean and Tyrone and Glen, and the memory of all the Libyans who have sacrificed so much for the revolution, is to renew our shared determination to build a free Libya, “Libya al-Hurra.” We owe them – we owe ourselves – no less.

Thank you.

 

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