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Three Top US State Department Officials Resign Over Benghazi Report
20/12/2012 12:27:00
Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya who was among the four Americans slain in the Benghazi attack

Three top State Department officials have resigned in the wake of the report that slammed "systemic failures" and "management deficiencies" in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi on September 11, which resulted in the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Three of those who resigned were the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Eric Boswell; the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, Charlene Lamb; and an official who was at first unidentified but later named as Raymond Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary of state overseeing the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. A fourth person expected to resign has not yet been identified.

Lamb, who was Boswell’s deputy in charge of international programmes, denied requests from the US Embassy in Tripoli for an extension of temporary security forces that were withdrawn in the months before the Benghazi attack.

The resignations came just hours after an independent panel issued the results of an inquiry into the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi that has been blamed on Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists.

The independent review board - chaired by a former US ambassador, Thomas Pickering, with Admiral Michael Mullen, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, as his deputy - strongly condemned the handling of security by Lamb and Boswell, and their lack of co-operation.

The report said that, “Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”

The report did not find reason for disciplinary action against any officials but singled out the bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near Eastern Affairs for criticism, saying its leaders demonstrated a “lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns.”

According to a memo released prior to the hearing, Lamb wanted to keep the US security presence “artificially low” . She had testified that the consulate had enough security resources given what officials detected as known threats to the US facility.

Darrell Issa, a Republican and House Oversight Committee Chairman said that Lamb’s comment “somehow doesn't seem to ring true to the American people,” because there had already been an attack on the consulate earlier this year and US’s radar should have been on high-alert given that it was the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was unable to testify due to dehydration caused by a severe stomach virus.

She has said she would implement all of the report's recommendations for improving the protection of US missions, some of which were classified. That includes asking Congress to permit a shift in spending to ramp up diplomatic security.

According to the timeline in the report, the attack began at about 9.40pm with "dozens of individuals, many armed" entering the consulate compound through the main gate. A US guard hit the alarm. He told the inquiry that there had been no warning from the militia assigned to defend the consulate or the unarmed security guards, and that some of them swiftly fled.

The intruders grabbed cans of fuel used for the generator to set fire to one of the buildings in the compound and to burn cars. They then broke into a building which also housed the "safe area" where Stevens was being protected by US security officials.

“Men armed with AK rifles started to destroy the living room contents and then approached the safe area gate and started banging on it,” the report said.

Then the attackers left, perhaps driven away by the smoke from the fire which engulfed the safe area and "made breathing difficult and reduced visibility to zero". Stevens and the two security men with him tried to escape the "thick, black smoke".

The ambassador became separated. He was later found by Libyans who broke into the consulate and taken to hospital, but he was already dead from smoke inhalation. Another American official also died from the smoke.

The US embassy in Tripoli scrambled to react, chartering a plane to carry seven security personnel to Benghazi. The US Africa Command also sent a surveillance drone over Benghazi.

The report said that shortly after the security team from Tripoli arrived at the annex it came "under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds".

Two security personnel died in the fighting at the annex.

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