Obama Faults U.S. ‘Sloppiness’ in Benghazi Attack
In late December 2012, President Obama, in his most detailed comments on an independent inquiry’s report on the attack against the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, said that the security and management flaws identified were “huge problems” that reflected “sloppiness” in how the State Department safeguards its missions abroad.
Mr. Obama, in an interview on Dec. 30 on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” reaffirmed a decision by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to carry out all 29 of the panel’s recommendations, including dispatching 225 additional Marine guards to embassies and consulates and revamping how threat warnings are used to secure diplomatic posts overseas.
Mr. Obama said one major finding — that the State Department relied too heavily on untested local Libyan militias to safeguard the compound in Benghazi that was attacked — reflected “internal reviews” by the government.
Ten days earlier, at a Senate hearing, the State Department conceded errors in the handling of diplomatic security that led to the deadly attack. The weaknesses were “unacceptable,” Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns told a Senate committee on Dec. 20.
On Dec. 18, one department official resigned and three others were relieved of their duties after a scathing report was released by an inquiry panel led by Thomas R. Pickering, a retired diplomat.
In an opening statement, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the committee’s chairman, said that Congress “also bears some responsibility” to provide adequate financing for diplomatic security. He noted that the board’s report called for spending $2.3 billion a year in the coming decade to protect American embassies and offices abroad.
Mr. Burns and Thomas R. Nides, another deputy secretary of state, told the committee in prepared testimony that the department had “already begun to fix” the “serious, systemic problems” identified in the Pickering report. The two men testified in place of Mrs. Clinton, who is recovering from a concussion.
Mr. Nides said the department accepted “every one” of the report’s 29 specific recommendations. He mentioned, for example, the addition of hundreds of Marines to protect foreign missions. His office is leading an effort to put them into effect “quickly and completely — and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report,” he said.
Dozens of specific actions are already under way, several will be completed within weeks, and all will be in motion “by the time the next secretary of state takes office,” he said.
Mr. Kerry is the leading candidate to replace Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state, after the withdrawal from consideration of Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, after criticisms of statements she made following the attack on the Benghazi outpost.