- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Key Republican lawmakers on Wednesday embraced the findings of the State Department’s internal inquiry into the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, even though its long-awaited report stopped short of probing questions of an Obama administration cover-up in the attack’s aftermath.

The report by the Accountability Review Board noted that senior State Department officials ignored intelligence and security warnings that might have prevented the fatal onslaught on the diplomatic mission and prompted the removal of four department officials Wednesday.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the findings make “clear what we already knew” about security failure, adding that he is “not satisfied” with the administration’s “near total lack of progress” in bringing to justice the terrorists who killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

His critique was echoed by other Republicans who had read or been briefed on the report, which was highly critical of the State Department’s diplomatic security and Near Eastern affairs bureaus for having left the Benghazi post with security that was “grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”

Four State Department officials resigned from their posts Wednesday, and the names of three were widely reported: Eric Boswell, assistant secretary for diplomatic security; Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary in charge of security at U.S. embassies around the globe; and Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who had responsibility for the North Africa region.

“The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. “The secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as assistant secretary for diplomatic security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

The State Department did not publicly identity anyone besides Mr. Boswell.

The Accountability Review Board was headed by retired Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and included retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The pair provided a briefing on the report Wednesday to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where Democrats were quick to praise the board’s work and compliment Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for issuing a letter to congressional committees this week saying she had accepted “every one” of the board’s 29 recommendations, several of which remain classified.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the board had conducted a “thorough, unflinching review of the situation in Benghazi, Libya, before and during the terrorist attacks.”

“I concur with the Review Board’s conclusions that security at Benghazi was inadequate and that pleas from State Department personnel for added security before the attacks went unheeded,” said Mrs. Feinstein, California Democrat. “Secretary of State Clinton has done the right thing by accepting and implementing the board’s recommendations.”

More questions ahead

Several Republicans generally agreed.

“Our investigation into the terrorist attack in Benghazi isn’t about finger-pointing. This is about figuring out what went wrong so we can prevent future attacks,” said Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, Florida Republican and a member of the House intelligence and armed services committees. “We need stronger leadership at the State Department, we need the administration to heed warnings from the intelligence community, and we need significantly better security at our diplomatic posts around the world.”

Others took a harder posture toward the Obama administration and Mrs. Clinton, who had been scheduled to testify before Congress this week on the board’s findings, but canceled her appearance because of health problems.

“I appreciate the Accountability Review Board’s work reviewing the facts,” said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, adding that the board’s stark account of the situation on the ground in Libya before the attack raises new questions.

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