September 16, 2013

Congressional Report: Clinton Benghazi Review Failed To Hold Senior Officials Accountable

Josh Rogin at The Daily Beast reports that the House Oversight Committee is questioning the much-touted Accountability Review Board (ARB) that Secretary of State Clinton convened to investigate the security failures by her Department leading to the fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi. According to a new report, set to be released today, the ARB refused to hold more senior State Department officials accountable, was rushed with the Department’s public relations in mind, and was riddled with conflicts of interest as senior State Department officials had long-standing personal ties to officials conducting the investigation.

With an investigation that appeared to be designed to protect the Secretary and her top aides, it’s no wonder State Department staffers were forced to mark the anniversary of this tragedy on their own, without an official ceremony.

The Administrative Review Board, chosen by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unfairly placed the blame for the terrorist attack on four mid-level officials while ignoring the role of very senior officials in Clinton’s State Department for decisions about security in Benghazi, according to the new report led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). … 

The new report by Issa’s committee questions why Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy, who admitted to having a role in overseeing the decision to reject requests for more security in Benghazi before the attack, was never blamed or disciplined by the ARB. Moreover, Kennedy played a key role in selecting the members of the ARB and the staff that helped the ARB do its works, Issa’s report revealed. 


 

Several officials told Issa’s committee that Kennedy was deeply involved in security decisions and would have been directly involved in the decision not to approve requests for more security in Benghazi before the attacks. 

“The ultimate decision maker is Under Secretary Kennedy,” testified Eric Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security, who was punished by the ARB.

“The way the Under Secretary for Management runs things, there is no decision that DS makes that doesn’t have his input and his imprimatur, his approval,” Maxwell testified. “There is no decision that DS doesn’t make that doesn’t have his disapproval.” 

The report also questions Clinton’s personal awareness and role in the mistakes that contributed to the attacks.

“Did Secretary Clinton have views on the need to extend the Benghazi mission, both in the fall of 2011 and summer of 2012? Was she consulted on these questions and what, if any, influence did her opinion have on the Department’s decisions?” the report asks. 

Issa’s investigation also found that the ARB was rushed in its investigation, completing its work in only 10 weeks, undermining claims by Clinton and President Obama that the ARB conducted a full and complete investigation into the attacks. Also, the committee identified several conflicts of interest between the ARB and the people they were investigating. Jones admitted to the committee that she had close personal and professional relationships with both Pickering and the executive director of the ARB staff Uzra Zeya. Pickering also knew Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Liz Dibble, who had a role in Benghazi security decisions but was not punished after the ARB report. Dibble was subsequently named Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in London.

 

Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, testified to Issa’s committee that top people in Clinton’s State Department, including Kennedy, were allowed to escape any accountability for the failures that preceded the Benghazi attack. The ARB interviewed Kennedy, but not Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, or Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides.