President Obama visited the State Department to share some holiday cheer and thank the diplomatic corps for their service to the country Wednesday night — the same day four State Department officials resigned their posts in the wake of a critical report over the diplomatic agency’s handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
An independent panel concluded that the State Department showed “a lack of proactive leadership and management ability” preceding the assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Despite the awkward timing of his visit, Mr. Obama made no mention of the Benghazi report and instead praised outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling her “tireless and extraordinary.”
“We can’t wait to have her back,” he added.
The annual holiday reception at the State Department, he told the group of international diplomats, is a “chance for me to express my appreciation for the cooperation and partnership between our countries.”
Then, turning somber, he spent the remainder of his remarks thanking different countries for reaching out in support of the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“We’re still grieving and reeling from the unspeakable violence that took place at Newtown,” he said, thanking those present for the expressions of sympathy their leaders and people all over the world have shown, including makeshift memorials at U.S. embassies and consulates and one with 26 crosses on a beach in Brazil.
The leaders of the panel that reviewed the Benghazi assault, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have laid the responsibility for the lack of security at the consulate and the attack at the assistant secretary level.
Mr. Mullen specifically said it is “not reasonable” to conclude that Mrs. Clinton had “a specific level of knowledge” about security failures leading up to the storming of the compound.
Mrs. Clinton was set to testify Thursday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee but has since said she is unable to be there because of the concussion. Deputy Secretaries William J. Burns and Thomas R. Nides will be there to face the inevitable grilling.
In letters submitted along with the panel’s report on Dec. 18, Mrs. Clinton said she took responsibility for the safety of every diplomatic employee at the State Department, but she did not assign blame for Benghazi to herself or anyone else.
The State Department accepted the resignations of four individuals Wednesday with three of their names 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.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Join the Communities and submit your column in response to one written, or on something totally new and unique. We want to hear from you
Entering the world of first time parents, there are lots of secrets unveiled.
Take a look at our pet friendly reviews and travel tips or find the best vacation deals and activities compiled by the The Washington Times Communities experts.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall