Political Musings June 5, 2014: Obama hits new approval ratings poll lows on foreign policy, economy, Benghazi

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 gives President Barack Obama the lowest marks of presidency on foreign policy and the handling of the Benghazi Affair. The presidency also keeps getting low approval ratings…Continue

Political Musings February 3, 2014: Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The 10-minute pre-Super Bowl interview between FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama on Sunday evening, Feb. 2, 2014 during a special edition of The O’Reilly Factor was even more bruising than…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner: Scandals Reveal Obama Administration’s ‘Arrogance of Power’

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Boehner: Scandals Reveal Obama Administration’s ‘Arrogance of Power’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

With a three-headed monster of controversy and scandal chasing the president this week — Benghazi, the IRS, The Justice Department’s monitoring AP —  House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that an “arrogance of power” within the Obama administration threatens to unravel the American people’s dithering confidence in government.

“Nothing dissolves the bonds between the people and their government like the arrogance of power here in Washington, and that’s what the American people are seeing today from the Obama administration — remarkable arrogance,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Scandals at Rose Garden Press Conference

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Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Controversies

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Playing offense, President Obama on Thursday vowed to take action in response to the three controversies plaguing his administration, calling on Congress to provide additional resources to protect U.S. embassies abroad, vowing to hold accountable those who committed “outrageous actions” at the IRS, and pledging to strike a “balance” between protecting national security interests and the freedom of the press.

“My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government, that we fix it,” the president said in a rainy joint Rose Garden news conference with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, as his administration seeks to take charge in the wake of the scandals. “That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 15, 2013: Full Text of Benghazi Emails Released by the White House

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White House Releases Benghazi Emails

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-15-13

READ full text of the Benghazi emails, document HERE

After months of demands from Republicans in Congress, the White House has released emails related to statements by the administration in the days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

The emails confirm that the so-called “talking points” written by the CIA on the attack underwent extensive revisions — 12 versions — and that substantial changes were made after the State Department expressed concerns….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 5, 2013: President Barack Obama Shares Data on Drones & Libya as John Brennan Senate Vote Nears

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Obama Shares Data on Drones and Libya as Brennan Vote Nears

Source: NYT, 3-5-13

The White House’s decision to provide more information on targeted killings and the attack in Benghazi was expected to ease the confirmation of John O. Brennan as the new director of the C.I.A….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 14, 2013: White House Releases More Information on Benghazi Attack

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White House Releases More Information on Benghazi Attack

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-14-13

In a bid to clear the way for a vote on Chuck Hagel’s delayed nomination to be Defense Secretary, the White House has turned over more information on the president’s activities during the 24 hours after the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi….READ MORE

Here is a key passage from the White House letter:

This intensive response, which was directed by the President, included 13 meetings of interagency Principals and Deputies within a week of the attack and involved continuous outreach by senior administration officials to the Government of Libya, including by the President and members of his Cabinet. As to the specific question in your February 12 letter, Secretary Clinton called Libyan President Magariaf on behalf of the President on the evening of the September 11, 2012 to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya and access to the Libyan territory. At that time, President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation. The President spoke to President Magariaf on the evening of September 12th.

Full Text Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta’s Testimony & Statement on the Attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee

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Statement on the Attacks on the US Facilities in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Source: DOD, 2-7-13

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Washington, D.C., Thursday, February 07, 2013

Chairman Levin, Senator Inhofe, members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012.

Before I go into my testimony, let me just state my deepest thanks to all of you for the support and friendship that I’ve had with all of you on both sides of the aisle.  I’ve had the honor to live the American Dream as the son of Italian immigrants in the various capacities that I’ve had to serve this country.  The greatest privilege I think I’ve had is to serve as an elected member in the House and had the opportunity to work with many of you in that capacity, and then as member of the executive branch had the opportunity to work with you, as well.  I thank you for your dedication to the country, and I thank you for your willingness to serve the United States.

On that tragic day, as always, the Department of Defense was prepared for a wide range of contingencies.  I remind you that the NCTC in the six months prior to that attack identified some 281 threats to U.S. diplomats, diplomatic facilities, embassies, ambassadors and consulates worldwide — and obviously Benghazi was one of those almost 300 areas of concern.

But, unfortunately, there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack on that — U.S. facilities in Benghazi.  And frankly without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond.  That’s not just my view or General Dempsey’s view.  It was the view of the Accountability Review Board that studied what happened on that day.

In the months since the tragedy at the temporary mission facility in the nearby Annex in Benghazi, we’ve learned that there were actually two short duration attacks that occurred some six hours apart.  And again, there was no specific intelligence that indicated that a second attack would occur at the Annex which was located some two miles away.

The bottom line is this, that we were not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault, which could have been brought to an end by a U.S. military response, very simply, although we had forces deployed to the region.  Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response.  Despite the uncertainty at the time, the Department of Defense and the rest of the United States government spared no effort to do everything we could to try to save American lives.  Before, during and after the attack, every request the Department of Defense received we did, we accomplished.  But, again, four Americans’ lives were lost, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that, that does not happen again.

The four Americans who perished in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith and the security personnel, all were heroes, and all were patriots.  I had the opportunity to join the president, Secretary Clinton and other officials at Andrews Air Force Base for the dignified transfer ceremony when those bodies of those heroes were returned home, and I had the opportunity to meet with their families.  I believe we all have a solemn responsibility for the families and to the personnel who put themselves at risk to find out exactly what happened, to bring those involved to justice and to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to prevent it from happening again and to ensure the safety of our personnel and facilities worldwide.

To that end, the Department of Defense has fully supported efforts by the Congress and the State Department to review the events and decisions surrounding the attacks in Benghazi.  We have made every effort to respond promptly to numerous requests for additional information, to provide briefings, to provide testimony to members and committees in the Congress.  In fact, General Dempsey and I were among the very first U.S. government senior officials to brief Congress on this tragedy.

We appeared before this committee on September 14th, 2012, three days after the attack, and provided the best information we had at that point as to what had taken place.  Additionally, the Defense Department participated in classified briefings and answered questions from the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security Oversight Committees, even when we were not called to testify.  We’ve also provided all requested support to the Accountability Review Board that was co-chaired by Ambassador Pickering and by Admiral Mullen.

Based on the information we compiled and the reviews that we conducted, let me describe for you DOD’s response to the events on September 11th, some of the lessons that we’ve learned and the adjustments we are making to our global force posture given continuing unrest throughout North Africa and the Middle East.  In fact, in many places, if we get the heads up that we need, the changes we made have already resulted in early decisions to deploy additional security or withdraw diplomatic staff in the advance of a crisis, from Central America to Khartoum, from Tunisia to Yemen, from Egypt to Mali and others.

While DOD does not have the primary responsibility for the security of U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world, we do work closely with the State Department and support them as requested.  In the months prior to the Benghazi attack, as I’ve said, we had received from the intelligence community almost 300 reports on possible threats to American facilities around the world.  Over the course of the day on September 11th, General Dempsey and I received a number of reports of possible threats to U.S. facilities, including those in Cairo, Egypt.  But there were no reports of imminent threats to U.S. personnel or facilities in Benghazi.

By our best estimate, the incident at the temporary mission facility in Benghazi began at about 3:42 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 11th.  The Embassy in Tripoli was notified of the attacks almost immediately, and within 17 minutes of the initial reports, about 3:59 p.m., AFRICOM directed an unarmed and unmanned surveillance aircraft that was nearby to reposition overhead the Benghazi facility.  My understanding is that that UAV arrived about an hour and 11 minutes after the attack had begun and was focused on the primary facility there to try to determine what was taking place.

Soon after the initial reports about the attack in Benghazi were received, General Dempsey and I met with President Obama and he ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region.  It’s important to remember that in addition to responding to the situation in Benghazi, we were also concerned about potential threats to U.S. personnel in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Sana’a, and elsewhere that could potentially require a military response.

In consultation with General Dempsey and AFRICOM Commander General Ham, I directed several specific actions.  First, we ordered a Marine Fleet Anti-terrorism Secure Team, a FAST team, stationed in Spain to prepare to deploy to Benghazi.  A second FAST platoon was ordered to prepare to deploy to the embassy in Tripoli.  A special operations force, which was training in central Europe, was ordered to prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe, Sigonella.  And a special operations force based in the United States was ordered to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe as well at Sigonella.

Some have asked why other types of armed aircraft were not dispatched to Benghazi.  The reason simply is because armed UAVs, AC- 130 gunships or fixed-wing fighters, with the associated tanking, you’ve got to provide air refueling abilities;  you’ve got to arm all the weapons before you put them on the planes; targeting and support facilities, were not in the vicinity of Libya.  And because of the distance, it would have taken at least nine to 12 hours, if not more, to deploy these forces to Benghazi.  This was, pure and simple, in the absence, as I said of any kind of advance warning, a problem of distance and time.

Frankly, even if we were able to get the F-16s or the AC-130s over the target in time, the mission still depends on accurate information about what targets they’re supposed to hit.  And we had no forward air controllers there.  We had no direct no communications with U.S. personnel on the ground.  And as a matter of fact, we had no idea where the Ambassador was at that point to be able to conduct any kind of attacks on the ground.

The quickest response option available was a Tripoli-based security team that was located at the embassy in Tripoli.  And to their credit, within hours, this six-man team, including two U.S. military personnel, chartered a private airplane deployed to Benghazi.  Within 15 minutes of arriving at the Annex facility, they came under attack by mortar and rocket-propelled grenades.  Members of this team, along with others at the Annex facility, provided emergency medical assistance and supported the evacuation of all personnel.  Only twelve hours after the attacks had begun, all remaining U.S. government personnel had been safely evacuated from Benghazi.

Looking back, our actions in the immediate aftermath of these attacks have been subject obviously to intense scrutiny and review.  But let me share with you the conclusion of the Accountability Review Board, which I believe accurately assessed the situation.  And I quote:

“The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.  Senior-level interagency discussions were underway soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks, and continued throughout the night.  The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision- making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.  Quite the contrary:  the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack, and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base, was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response, and helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans.”

Still, after all of that, it is clear that there are lessons to be learned here and steps that must be taken to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to protect our personnel and our facilities abroad.  So, in concert with the State Department and the intelligence community, we are in the process of developing enhanced security for U.S. personnel and facilities in the wake of Benghazi.  There will always be a tension between mission effectiveness for personnel — the ability to get out and do what they’re supposed to do in these countries — and their physical security.

We’re committed to steps that avoid a bunker mentality, and yet we still must afford greater protection from armed attack.  We’re taking steps along three tracks.  First, host nation capacity.  We have been able to better assess and build up the capabilities of host governments to provide security for U.S. personnel and facilities.  The fact it, as you all know, that our embassies and consulates depend on host country personnel to provide the first line of security.  And this episode raises concerns about the ability of some newly established or fragile governments to properly secure U.S. diplomatic facilities.

To address these concerns, we are working with the State Department in considering how DOD can better help host nations enhance the security provided to our diplomatic facilities.  Where permissible and appropriate, and in collaboration with the Secretary of State and the U.S. Chief of Mission in the affected country, we believe that the Defense Department can assist in their development using a range of security assistance authorities to train and equip those forces in the host country, and we are doing exactly that.

Secondly, we have to enhance diplomatic security.  We’ve got to harden these facilities and we, again, are working with the State Department to try to reassess diplomatic security overall.  To determine what changes may be required, we assisted the State Department in the deployment of an interagency security assessment team to evaluate the security level at 19 vulnerable diplomatic facilities, including our embassy in Libya.  And we’re in the process of developing recommendations on potential security increases as required.

As part of this review, we have also considered how the role, mission and resourcing of the Marine security guards could be adapted to respond to this new threat environment.  In the near term, we’ve agreed with the Department of State to add 35 new Marine Security Guard detachments — that’s almost 1,000 Marines — over the next two and three years, in addition to the 152 detachments that are in place today.  We’re working with State to identify those specific locations for the new detachments, and we will identify any necessary resource and force structure adjustments in order to support this initiative.

Although there was not a Marine Security Guard detachment posted to the Benghazi Temporary Mission Facility, based on our review of all Embassy security incidents that occurred in September of 2012.  In Tunis, in Cairo, in Khartoum and in Sana’a, we have initiated coordination with the Department of State to expand the Marines’ role beyond their primary mission of protecting classified information.

As some of you know, their primary mission is not providing outside security.  Their primary mission is to protect classified information.  But we believe that we can try to augment their role into terms of providing greater security protection as well.  This could include the expanded use of non-lethal weapons, additional training and equipment to support the Embassy Regional Security Officer’s response options when host nation’s security force capabilities are at risk of being overwhelmed.

The third area is enhanced intelligence and military response capacity.  We are focused on enhancing intelligence collection and ensuring that our forces throughout the region are prepared to respond to crisis if necessary.

The United States military, as I’ve said, is not and, frankly, should not be a 9-1-1 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world.  The U.S. military has neither the resources nor the responsibility to have a fire house next to every U.S. facility in the world.

We have some key bases, particularly in this region.  We have some key platforms from which we can deploy.  And we have forces on alert, and we’re prepared to move.  But our ability to identify threats, to adjust posture, to prevent plots, and respond to attacks to our personnel at home and overseas depends on actionable intelligence — and it always will.

Therefore, we’re working with the State Department and the intelligence community to ensure that our collection and analysis is linked with military posture and planning.  We’re working to enhance our intelligence collection to improve the responsiveness of contingency assets and to adjust the location of in-extremis reaction forces.  At the same time, we’re working closely with State to ensure they have our best estimate of response times for each at-risk diplomatic facility so that they can make the best informed decisions about adjustments to their staff presence in areas of increased security threat.

We’ve deployed key response forces abroad.  We have reduced their response time.  But let me again say to you that even those forces that are on a tight alert time of N-plus-two — notice plus two hours — to be able to on a plane.  Once those forces are put on airlift, it still requires many hours in that part of the world to fly distances, long distances in order to be able to respond.

I firmly believe that the Department of Defense and the U.S. Armed Forces did all we could do in the response to the attacks in Benghazi and employed every asset at our disposal that could have been used to help save lives of our American colleagues.  We will support efforts to bring those responsible to justice, and we are working with the task force involved and headed up by the FBI to do just that.

As I said going forward, we intend to adapt to the security environment, to ensure that we’re better positioned and prepared to support the Department of State in securing our facilities around the world.  But in order to be able to effectively protect the American people and our interests abroad at a time of instability, we must have an agile and ready force able to quickly respond.  And above all — and forgive me for being repetitious — we have got to end the cloud of budget uncertainty that hangs over the Department of Defense and the entire U.S. government.

I’ve got to use this opportunity to express, again, my greatest concern as Secretary.  Frankly, one of the most greatest security risks we are now facing as a nation, that this budget uncertainty could prompt the most significant military readiness crisis in more than a decade.

The Department of Defense faces the prospect of sequestration on March 1st.  If Congress fails to act, sequestration is triggered.  And if we also must operate under a year-long continuing resolution, we would be faced with having to take about $46 billion-plus out of the defense budget and we would face a $35 billion shortfall in operating funds alone for our active forces, with only a few months remaining in the fiscal year.

Protecting the warfighters, protecting the critical deployments we have, we’re gonna have to turn to the one area that we have in order to gain the funds necessary, and that’s readiness.  It’s maintenance.  This will badly damage our national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world.

The responsibility of dealing with this crisis obviously rests with the leadership of the nation.  I know the members of this committee share the deep concerns that I’ve raised about sequestration, and, obviously, I urge you to do whatever you can to try to avoid this threat to our national defense.

The State Department and the intelligence community, obviously, also must be provided the resources they need in order to execute the missions that we expect of them — including the enhancements that I’ve described today.

Whatever steps are required to be taken to properly posture U.S. forces for possible emergency response operations, those steps would be seriously impacted by the readiness crisis caused by uncertain resources.

We have a responsibility — and I take that responsibility seriously — to do everything we can to protect our citizens.  That responsibility, however, rests with both the executive branch and the Congress.  If we work together, we can keep our Americans safe.

Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s Testimony at Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Benghazi, Libya Terror Attack

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Panetta: Budget Cuts Threaten Security

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-7-13

State Department photo

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday that the automatic budget cuts prescribed in the sequestration legislation would undermine the Department of Defense’s ability to fulfill its responsibility to protect American citizens.

“This will badly damage our national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world,” Panetta told senators at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

“The responsibility to protect our citizens rests with both the administration and the Congress,” Panetta said….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 23, 2013: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Testimony & Opening Remarks Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the Benghazi Terrorist Attack Hearing — Transcript

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Terrorist Attack in Benghazi: The Secretary of State’s View

Source: State.gov, 1-23-13

Testimony
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Opening Remarks Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Washington, DC
January 23, 2013

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you and the Ranking Member and members of the committee, both of longstanding tenure and brand new members, and I appreciate your patience for me to be able to come to fulfill my commitment to you, actually to the former chairwoman, that I would be here to discuss the attack in Benghazi. I appreciate this opportunity. I will submit my full testimony for the record. I want to make just a few points.

First, the terrorist attacks in Benghazi that claimed the lives of four brave Americans – Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty – are part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and our partners in North Africa. I think it’s important we understand the context for this challenge as we work together to protect our people and honor our fallen colleagues.

Any clear-eyed examination of this matter must begin with this sobering fact: Since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities. Since 1977, 65 American diplomatic personnel have been killed by terrorists. In addition to those who have been killed, we know what happened in Tehran with hostages being taken in 1979, our Embassy and Marine barracks bombed in Beirut in 1983, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in East Africa in 1998, consulate staff murdered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2004, the Khost attack in Afghanistan in 2009, and too many others.

But I also want to stress the list of attacks that were foiled, crises averted, and lives saved is even longer. We should never forget that the security professionals get it right more than 99 percent of the time, against difficult odds, because the terrorists only need to get it right once. That’s why, like all my predecessors, I trust the Diplomatic Security professionals with my life.

Let’s also remember that, as the Chairman and the Ranking Member pointed out, administrations of both parties, in partnership with Congress, have made concerted and good faith efforts to learn from the tragedies that have occurred, to implement recommendations from the Review Boards, to seek the necessary resources to better protect our people in a constantly evolving threat environment.

In fact, Mr. Chairman, of the 19 Accountability Review Boards that have been held since 1988, only two have been made public. I want to stress that because the two that have been made public, coming out of the East Africa Embassy bombings and this one, are attempts, honest attempts by the State Department, by the Secretary – Secretary Albright and myself – to be as transparent and open as possible. We wanted to be sure that whatever these independent, nonpartisan boards found would be made available to the Congress and to the American people, because, as I have said many times since September 11th, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.

Now, taking responsibility meant not only moving quickly in those first uncertain hours and days to respond to the immediate crisis, but also to make sure we were protecting our people and posts in high-threat areas across the region and the world. It also meant launching an independent investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi and to recommend steps for improvement. And it also meant intensifying our efforts to combat terrorism and support emerging democracies in North Africa and beyond. Let me share briefly the lessons we have learned up until now.

First, let’s start on the night of September 11th itself and those difficult early days. I directed our response from the State Department and stayed in close contact with officials from across our government and the Libyan Government. So I did see firsthand what Ambassador Pickering and Chairman Mullen called timely and exceptional coordination – no delays in decision making, no denials of support from Washington or from our military. And I want to echo the Review Board’s praise for the valor and courage of our people on the ground, especially our security professionals in Benghazi and Tripoli. The board said our response saved American lives in real time, and it did.

The very next morning, I told the American people, and I quote, “heavily armed militants assaulted our compound,” and vowed to bring them to justice. And I stood later that day with President Obama as he spoke of an act of terror.

Now you may recall, at this same time period, we were also seeing violent attacks on our embassies in Cairo, Sana’a, Tunis, and Khartoum, as well as large protests outside many other posts, from India to Indonesia, where thousands of our diplomats serve.

So I immediately ordered a review of our security posture around the world, with particular scrutiny for high-threat posts. And I asked the Department of Defense to join Interagency Security Assessment Teams and to dispatch hundreds of additional Marine Security Guards. I named the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts so that missions in dangerous places get the attention they need. And we reached out to Congress to help address physical vulnerabilities, including risks from fire, and to hire additional Diplomatic Security Personnel and Marine Security Guards.

Second, even as I took these steps, I quickly moved to appoint the Accountability Review Board because I wanted them to come forward with their report before I left, because I felt the responsibility and I wanted to be sure that I was putting in motion the response to whatever they found; what was wrong, how do we fix it.

I have accepted every one of their recommendations. Our Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, Deputy Tom Nides, who appeared before this committee last month, is leading a task force to ensure all 29 are implemented quickly and completely, as well as pursuing additional steps above and beyond the board.

I pledged in my letter to you last month that implementation has now begun on all 29 recommendations. We’ve translated them into 64 specific action items. They were all assigned to specific bureaus and offices with clear timelines for completion. Fully 85 percent are on track to be completed by the end of March, with a number completed already. But we are also taking a top-to-bottom look to rethink how we make decisions on where, when and whether our people should operate in high-threat areas, and how we respond.

We are initiating an annual High Threat Post Review chaired for the first time in American history, I suppose, by the Secretary of State, and ongoing reviews by the Deputy Secretaries, to ensure that pivotal questions about security reach the highest level. And we will regularize protocols for sharing information with Congress.

Now, in addition to the immediate action we took and the review board process, we’re moving on a third front: addressing the broader strategic challenge in North Africa and the wider region. Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. Instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we just saw last week in Algeria.

And let me offer our deepest condolences to the families of the Americans and all the people from many nations killed and injured in the Algerian hostage crisis. We remain in close touch with the Government of Algeria, ready to provide assistance if needed, and also seeking to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so we can work together to prevent such terrorist attacks in the future.

Now, concerns about terrorism and instability in North Africa are not new, of course. Indeed, they have been a top priority for this entire national security team. But we need to work together to accelerate a diplomatic campaign to increase pressure on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the other terrorist groups in the region.

I’ve conferred with the President of Libya, the Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers of Tunisia and Morocco. Two weeks later, after the attack, I met with a very large group of regional leaders at the UN and was part of a special meeting focused on Mali and the Sahel. In October, I flew to Algeria to discuss the fight against AQIM. In November, I sent Deputy Secretary Bill Burns on an interagency group to Algiers to continue that conversation. And then in my stead, he co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum that was held in Abu Dhabi and a meeting in Tunis working not only on building new democracies but reforming security services.

These are just a few of the constant diplomatic engagements that we are having focused on targeting al-Qaida’s syndicate of terror – closing safe havens, cutting off finances, countering their extremist ideology, slowing the flow of new recruits. We continue to hunt the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi and are determined to bring them to justice. And we are using our diplomatic and economic tools to support the emerging democracies, including Libya, in order to give them the strength to provide a path away from extremism.

But finally, the United States must continue to lead in the Middle East, in North Africa, and around the globe. We’ve come a long way in the past four years, and we cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root; our interests suffer; and our security at home is threatened.

That’s why Chris Stevens went to Benghazi in the first place. I asked him to go. During the beginning of the revolution against Qadhafi, we needed somebody in Benghazi who could begin to build bridges with the insurgents and to begin to demonstrate that America would stand against Qadhafi. Nobody knew the dangers or the opportunities better than Chris, first during the revolution, then during the transition. A weak Libyan Government, marauding militias, even terrorist groups; a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel. He never wavered. He never asked to come home. He never said, “Let’s shut it down, quit, and go somewhere else.” Because he understood it was critical for America to be represented in that place at that pivotal time.

So Mr. Chairman, we do have to work harder and better to balance the risks and the opportunities. Our men and women who serve overseas understand that we do accept a level of risk to represent and protect the country we love. They represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. They cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. But it is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need to do those jobs and to do everything we can to reduce the risks they face.

For me, this is not just a matter of policy. It’s personal, because I’ve had the great honor to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID, nearly 70,000 serving here in Washington and at more than 275 posts around the world. They get up and go to work every day, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances thousands of miles from home, because they believe the United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the earth has ever known.

And when we suffer tragedies overseas, the number of Americans applying to the Foreign Service actually increases. That tells us everything we need to know about the kind of patriots I’m talking about. They do ask what they can do for their country, and America is stronger for it.

So today, after four years in this job, traveling nearly a million miles and visiting 112 countries, my faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever. Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words “United States of America” touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent the world’s indispensible nation. And I am confident that, with your help, we will continue to keep the United States safe, strong, and exceptional.

And now I would be very happy to answer your questions.

Benghazi: The Attacks and the Lessons Learned

Source: State.gov, 1-23-13

Testimony
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Opening Remarks Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
January 23, 2013

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This video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, members of the committee, both older and new. I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I thank you very much for your patience to give me the chance to come and address these issues with you.

As both the Chairman and the Ranking Member have said, the terrorist attacks in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 that claimed the lives of four brave Americans – Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty – are part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and our partners in North Africa. Today, I want briefly to offer some context for this challenge, share what we’ve learned, how we are protecting our people, and where we can work together to not only honor our fallen colleagues, but continue to champion America’s interests and values.

Any clear-eyed examination of this matter must begin with this sobering fact: Since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities. Benghazi joins a long list of tragedies for our Department, for other agencies, and for America: hostages taken in Tehran in 1979, our Embassy and Marine barracks bombed in Beirut in 1983, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in East Africa in 1998, consulate staff murdered in Jeddah in 2004, the Khost attack in 2009, and too many others. Since 1977, 65 American diplomatic personnel have been killed by terrorists.

Now of course, the list of attacks foiled, crises averted, and lives saved is even longer. We should never forget that our security professionals get it right more than 99 percent of the time, against difficult odds all over the world. That’s why, like my predecessors, I literally trust them with my life.

Let’s also remember that administrations of both parties, in partnership with Congress, have made concerted and good faith efforts to learn from these attacks and deaths to implement recommendations from the review boards, to seek the necessary resources, and to do better in protecting our people from what has become constantly evolving threats. That is the least that the men and women who serve our country deserve. It’s what, again, we are doing now with your help. As Secretary, I have no higher priority and no greater responsibility.

As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.

Now, taking responsibility meant moving quickly in those first uncertain hours and days to respond to the immediate crisis, but also to further protect our people and posts in high-threat areas across the region and the world. It meant launching an independent investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi and to recommend steps for improvement. And it meant intensifying our efforts to combat terrorism and figure out effective ways to support the emerging democracies in North Africa and beyond.

Let me share some of the lessons we’ve learned, the steps we’ve taken, and the work we continue to do.

First, let’s start on the night of September 11th itself and those difficult early days. I directed our response from the State Department, stayed in close contact with officials from across our government and the Libyan Government. So I saw firsthand what Ambassador Pickering and former Chairman Mike Mullen called timely and exceptional coordination; no delays in decision making, no denials of support from Washington or from our military. And I want to echo the Review Board’s praise for the valor and courage of our people on the ground, especially the security professionals in Benghazi and Tripoli. The board said the response saved American lives in real time, and it did.

The very next morning, I told the American people that heavily armed militants assaulted our compound, and I vowed to bring them to justice. And I stood with President Obama in the Rose Garden as he spoke of an act of terror.

It’s also important to recall that in that same period, we were seeing violent attacks on our embassies in Cairo, Sana’a, Tunis, Khartoum, as well as large protests outside many other posts where thousands of our diplomats serve. So I immediately ordered a review of our security posture around the world, with particular scrutiny for high-threat posts. I asked the Department of Defense to join Interagency Security Assessment Teams and to dispatch hundreds of additional Marine Security Guards. I named the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts so missions in dangerous places get the attention they need. And we reached out to Congress to help address physical vulnerabilities, including risk from fire, and to hire additional Diplomatic Security personnel.

Second, even as we took these steps, I hurried to appoint the Accountability Review Board led by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen so we could more fully understand from objective, independent examination what went wrong and how to fix it.

I have accepted every one of their recommendations. I asked the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources to lead a task force to ensure that all 29 of them are implemented quickly and completely, as well as pursuing additional steps above and beyond the recommendations.

I also pledged in my letter to you last month that implementation would begin, and it has. Our task force started by translating the recommendations into 64 specific action items. They were assigned to bureaus and offices with clear timelines for completion. Eighty-five percent are now on track to be completed by the end of March; a number are already completed. And we will use this opportunity to take a top-to-bottom look and rethink how we make decisions on where, when and whether people operate in high-threat areas, and then how we respond to threats and crises.

We are initiating an annual High Threat Post Review chaired by the Secretary of State, and ongoing reviews by the Deputy Secretaries, to ensure that pivotal questions about security do reach the highest levels. We will regularize protocols for sharing information with Congress. These are designed to increase the safety of our diplomats and development experts and reduce the chances of another Benghazi happening again.

We’ve also been moving forward on a third front: addressing the broader strategic challenge in North Africa and the wider region, because, after all, Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. Instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we saw just last week in Algeria.

And let me offer our deepest condolences to the families of the Americans and all the people from many nations who were killed and injured in that recent hostage crisis. We are in close touch with the Government of Algeria. We stand ready to provide assistance. We are seeking to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so we can work together with Algerians and others to prevent such terrorist attacks in the future.

Concerns about terrorism and instability in North Africa are of course not new. They have been a top priority for the entire Administration’s national security team. But we have been facing a rapidly changing threat environment, and we have had to keep working at ways to increase pressure on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the other terrorist groups in the region.

In the first hours and days, I conferred with leaders – the President of Libya, Foreign Ministers of Tunisia and Morocco – and then I had a series of meetings at the United Nations General Assembly where there was a special meeting focused on Mali and the Sahel. In October, I flew to Algeria to discuss the fight against AQIM. In November, I sent Deputy Secretary Bill Burns to follow up in Algiers. And then in December, in my stead, he co-chaired an organization we started to respond to some of these threats: the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which was meeting in Abu Dhabi, as well as a meeting in Tunis of leaders working to build new democracies and reform security services.

We have focused on targeting al-Qaida’s syndicate of terror – closing safe havens, cutting off finances, countering extremist ideology, slowing the flow of new recruits. And we continue to hunt the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi and are determined to bring them to justice. We are using our diplomatic and economic tools to support these emerging democracies and to strengthen security forces and help provide a path away from extremism.

But let me underscore the importance of the United States continuing to lead in the Middle East, in North Africa, and around the world. We’ve come a long way in the past four years, and we cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root; our interests suffer; our security at home is threatened.

That’s why I sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi in the first place. Nobody knew the dangers better than Chris, first during the revolution, then during the transition. A weak Libyan Government, marauding militias, terrorist groups; a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel, but he did not waver. Because he understood it was critical for America to be represented there at that time.

Our men and women who serve overseas understand that we accept a level of risk to protect the country we love. And they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. They cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. So it is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need, and to do everything we can to reduce the risks.

For me, this is not just a matter of policy. It’s personal. I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children.

It has been one of the great honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID. Nearly 70,000 serving here in Washington; more than 270 posts around the world. They get up and go to work every day, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances, because they believe, as we believe, the United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known.

And when we suffer tragedies overseas, as we have, the number of Americans applying to the Foreign Service actually increases. That tells us everything we need to know about what kind of patriots I’m talking about. They do ask what they can do for their country, and America is stronger for it.

So today, after four years in this job, traveling nearly a million miles, visiting 112 countries, my faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever. Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words “United States of America” touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent the world’s indispensible nation. And I am confident that, with your help, we will keep the United States safe, strong, and exceptional.

So I want to thank this committee for your partnership and your support of diplomats and development experts. You know the importance of the work they do day in and day out. You know that America’s values and vital national security interests are at stake. And I appreciate what Ranking Member Corker just said: It is absolutely critical that this committee and the State Department, with your new Secretary and former Chairman, work together to really understand and address the resources, support, and changes that are needed to face what are increasingly complex threats.

I know you share my sense of responsibility and urgency, and while we all may not agree on everything, let’s stay focused on what really matters: protecting our people and the country we love. And thank you for the support you personally have given to me over the last four years.

I now would be happy to answer your questions.

Political Headlines January 23, 2013: Hillary Clinton Defends State Department, Staff at Benghazi Congressional Committee Hearings

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Hillary Clinton Defends Department, Staff at Benghazi Hearings

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-23-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

House Republicans slammed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for her lack of awareness of State Department cables warning of security threats in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans, including Amb. Chris Stevens.

In the second congressional hearing of the day reviewing a report on the State Department’s security failures, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, asked Clinton Wednesday afternoon why her office had not responded to a notification from Stevens about potential dangers in Libya.

“Congressman, that cable did not come to my attention,” Clinton calmly told the House Foreign Affairs Committee hours after her Senate testimony Wednesday morning. “I’m not aware of anyone within my office, within the secretary’s office having seen that cable.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 31, 2012: Sens. Joe Lieberman & Susan Collins: Senate Report on Benghazi Libya Attack Faults State Department

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Senate Report on Benghazi Attack Faults State Department

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-31-12
STR/AFP/GettyImages

Click here to read the full report.

The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Monday repeated calls for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify in front of Congress on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and called for additional accountability from the State Department.

Monday morning the committee released a new report from a congressional probe which concludes that the system was “flashing red” in Benghazi, amid a “rising crescendo of evidence” from the U.S. intelligence community that Benghazi had become “dangerous and unstable, and that a significant attack against American personnel there was becoming more and more likely.”….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines December 31, 2012: Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi — Senators Lieberman, Collins Release Report on Benghazi Security Considerations

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi

Senators Lieberman, Collins Release Report on Benghazi Security Considerations

Source: Collins.Senate.gov, 12-31-12

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, today released their final, bipartisan work product together, a report on the security deficiencies at the temporary U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the terrorist attack in which four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.

The report, Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi, determined there was a high risk of a “significant” terrorist attack on U.S. employees and facilities in Benghazi in the months before the September 11, 2012 assault on the Mission, and the State Department failed to take adequate steps to reduce the Mission’s vulnerability.

The report found that, while there was an absence of specific intelligence about an imminent attack, this “should not have prevented the Department of State from taking more effective steps to protect its personnel and facilities in Benghazi.”

The report also found that, “prior to the terrorist attacks in Libya on September 11, 2012, it was widely understood that the Libyan government was incapable of performing its duty to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel, as required by longstanding international agreements, but the Department of State failed to take adequate steps to fill the resulting security gap, or to invest in upgrading the Libyan security forces.”

“U.S. and Western diplomats, and other personnel operating in the Middle East and other countries where these terrorists use violence to further their religious extremist agenda and thwart democratic reforms are increasingly at risk,” the report concludes. “We hope this report will help contribute to the ongoing discussion that our nation must have about how best to protect the brave men and women who serve our country abroad and how to win this war that will continue for years to come.”

Read the full report here.

Political Headlines December 26, 2012: Marco Rubio Calls for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Testify on Benghazi, Libya Attacks

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Marco Rubio Calls for Sec. Clinton to Testify on Benghazi

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-26-12

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in an op-ed on Fox News’ website Wednesday, calls for outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify about security failures in Benghazi, Libya, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in both open and classified hearings.

A report on the terrorist attack that the Accountability Review Board released last week told Americans “much that we already knew,” Rubio wrote.

“The State Department’s naïve reliance on local militias of questionable capacity and uncertain loyalty was, in retrospect, a grave mistake,” he said….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines December 19, 2012: Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns: Briefing on the Benghazi Attacks Accountability Review Board Report

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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Briefing on the Accountability Review Board Report

Source: State.gov, 12-19-12
Special Briefing

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Accountability Review Board Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering and Vice Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen
Washington, DC
December 19, 2012

MS. NULAND: Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us. As you know, the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi that the Secretary established has now completed its work, and the classified and unclassified versions have been released to the Hill, and you’ve had a chance to see the unclassified version, as well as the Secretary’s letter to members.

Today, we have invited the Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Ambassador Tom Pickering, and the Vice Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Admiral Mike Mullen, to join us here to address your questions. And introducing them will be Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.

Deputy Secretary.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much, and good afternoon. As all of you know, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen appeared today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi. Deputy Secretary Nides and I will testify tomorrow, so I’ll make just two quick points and then give the floor to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen to discuss the report and take your questions.

First, as Secretary Clinton said in her letter to Congress, we accept each and every one of the board’s recommendations and have already begun to implement them. In accordance with the law, Secretary Clinton ordered this review to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi, because that’s how we can learn and improve. And I want to convey our appreciation to Ambassador Pickering, Admiral Mullen, and their team for doing such a thorough job. The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix.

In the hours and days after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, at the Secretary’s direction, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We launched a worldwide review of the Department’s overall security posture. Interagency teams of diplomatic and military security experts gave particular scrutiny to high-threat posts. The Pentagon agreed to dispatch hundreds of additional Marines to posts around the world. We asked Congress for funds to hire new diplomatic security personnel and reinforce vulnerable facilities. We also named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and we’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experienced and well-trained staff serving at those posts.

Tom and I will be discussing all of this work and more with Congress tomorrow, so for now, let me just make one other point. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service for more than 30 years, and I’ve had the honor of serving as a chief of mission overseas. I know that diplomacy, by its very nature, must sometimes be practiced in dangerous places. Chris Stevens, my friend and colleague, understood that our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs.

And we have a profound responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our diplomats and development experts in the field. It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day for years on end in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.

But we have learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better. We have to do more to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need. We owe that to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi. We owe it to the security professionals who acted with such extraordinary heroism that awful night to protect them. And we owe it to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world.

And so with that, let me turn to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Good afternoon, all of you. Thank you very much, Bill, for those wise and cogent words, which I believe very much reflect the spirit in which we worked and, indeed, the focus on which we put our efforts.

I would also like to thank Secretary Clinton for her steadfast support for our efforts and her ambitious approach to implementing our recommendations. And of course, we wish her speedy recovery.

In late September, Secretary Clinton asked me to serve as Chairman of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi and asked Admiral Mullen to be the Vice Chairman. And let me say what a pleasure it was to work with Admiral Mullen and, indeed, all the other members of the board. But he in particular brought a special perspective, wisdom, and good sense to a very difficult and trying process.

There are three other members of the board who are not with us today but without whom this report would not have been possible: Catherine Bertini, a Professor of Public Administration at Syracuse University, and former Chief Executive of the United Nations World Food Program, and Under Secretary General for Management of the United Nations; Richard Shinnick, an experienced retired senior Foreign Service Officer who served most recently as Interim Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations; and Hugh Turner, an experienced and retired senior intelligence officer who spent 22 years in the business and served last as Associate Deputy Director for Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency; and to an excellent State Department staff led by FSO Uzra Zeya, who made a major contribution to our work and without whom we wouldn’t be here with you today.

Secretary Clinton convened the Accountability Review Board, or ARB, to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. As you all know, these attacks resulted in the tragic deaths of four brave Americans: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods.

Against the backdrop of so many unanswered questions about what happened at Benghazi, I want first to make clear our board’s specific mandate. We were not asked to conduct an investigation into the attacks to find out who the perpetrators were or their motives. That is the statutory role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community. We enjoyed excellent cooperation with both of them throughout the report.

Under relevant statute, Secretary Clinton asked us to examine whether the attacks were security related and whether security systems and procedures were adequate and implemented properly, the impact of the availability of information and intelligence, and whether anything else about the attacks might be relevant to appropriate security management of U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. We were also asked to look at whether any U.S. Government employee or contractor breached his or her duty. Basically, we wanted to find the lessons to be learned, better to protect Americans from future attacks.

To do all that, we interviewed more than a hundred people, reviewed thousands of documents, and watched hours of video. We spoke with people who were on the scene in Benghazi that night, who were in Tripoli, who were in Washington. We talked to military and intelligence officials, including to many State Department personnel, and to experts who do not work for the United States Government. Throughout this process, we enjoyed superb cooperation from the Department of State and its interagency partners, and the decision to brief you on the report’s findings reflects a commitment to transparency at the Department’s highest levels.

Let me just give you a very brief introduction to events that night and then ask Admiral Mullen if he will share with you the findings of the report, and then I will return briefly to talk about some of the overarching recommendations.

What happened on September 11th and 12th in Benghazi was a series of attacks in multiple locations by unknown assailants that ebbed and flowed over a period of almost eight hours. The U.S. security personnel in Benghazi were heroic in their efforts to protect their colleagues, including Ambassador Stevens. They did their best that they possibly could with what they had, but what they had was not enough, either for the general threat environment in Benghazi and most certainly against the overwhelming numbers of attackers and the weapons which they faced. Frankly, the State Department had not given Benghazi the security, both physical and personnel resources, it needed. And on that note, let me ask Ambassador – let me ask Admiral Mullen if he will please relay to you our specific findings. I keep promoting him to ambassador, and I apologize.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thanks, Mr. Ambassador. I appreciate that. (Laughter.) And I do appreciate your leadership throughout this process as well.

Good afternoon. The board found that the attacks in Benghazi were security related, and responsibility for the loss of life, the injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities rests completely and solely with the terrorists who conducted the attacks. That does not mean there are not lessons to be learned. The board found that the security posture at the Special Mission compound was inadequate for the threat environment in Benghazi, and in fact, grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place that night.

State Department bureaus that were supporting Benghazi had not taken on security as a shared responsibility, so the support the post needed was often lacking and left to the working level to resolve. The buildings at Special Mission Benghazi did not meet Department standards for office buildings in high-threat areas, and in a sense, fell through the cracks bureaucratically by being categorized as temporary residential facilities. While a number of physical security upgrades were done in 2012, at the time of the attacks the compound did not have all the security features and equipment it needed.

The board also found that the rotational staffing system and the inadequacy of the Diplomatic Security staffing numbers in Benghazi to be a major factor behind the weakness of the security platform. The continual rotation of DS agents inhibited the development of institutional and on-the-ground knowledge, and continuity and security decisions and implementation.

The question is not simply whether an additional number of agents would have made a difference on the night of September 11th, which is very difficult to answer, but whether a sustained and stronger staffing platform in Benghazi over the course of 2012 could have established some deterrence by giving it the continuity and experience on the ground to make it a harder target for terrorists.

Another deficit in the Benghazi security platform was the inherent weakness of the Libyan support element. Absence of a strong central government presence in Benghazi meant the Special Mission had to rely on a militia with uncertain reliability, an unarmed local contract guard force with skill deficits, to secure the compound. Neither Libyan group performed well on the night of the attacks.

Overall, the board found that security systems and procedures were implemented properly by American personnel, but those systems themselves and the Libyan response fell short on the night of the attacks. Personnel performed to the best of their ability and made every effort to protect, rescue, and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. Their decision to depart the Special Mission without Ambassador Stevens came after repeated efforts of many U.S. security agents to find him and Sean Smith in a smoke-filled building still on fire and was precipitated by a second armed attack on the compound from the south.

On the night of the attacks, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Washington communicated and coordinated effectively with each other. They looped in the military right away, and the interagency response was timely and appropriate. But there simply was not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference. Having said that, it is not reasonable, nor feasible, to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world.

We found that there was no immediate tactical warning of the September 11th attacks, but there was a knowledge gap in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known. In this context, increased violence and targeting of foreign diplomats and international organizations in Benghazi failed to come into clear relief against a backdrop of ineffective local governance, widespread political violence, and inter-militia fighting, as well as the growth of extremist camps and militias in eastern Libya.

While we did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities, we did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by the Special Mission.

Now I’ll ask Ambassador Pickering to conclude by giving an overview of some of the board’s more overarching recommendations.

AMBASADOR PICKERING: Thank you, Admiral Mullen. With the lessons of the past and the challenges of the future in mind, we put forth recommendations in several key areas. We are recommending that the State Department undertake an urgent review to determine the proper balance between acceptable risk and mission tasks and needs in high-risk and in high-threat areas. The answer can’t be not to go into dangerous places, but there must be: one, a clear mission; two, a clear understanding of the risks; three, a commitment of enough resources to mitigate those risks; and four, an explicit acceptance of whatever costs and risks cannot be mitigated. This balance needs to be reviewed regularly and continuously because situations change.

Next, we recommend the Department develop a minimum security standard for the occupation of temporary facilities in high-risk, high-threat environments, and that posts receive the equipment and the supplies they need to counter various types of threats. We also believe the State Department must work with the Congress to expand funding to respond to emerging security threats and vulnerabilities and operational requirements in high-risk, high-threat posts. We found that a number of recommendations from past ARBs had not been implemented fully, and they relate very much to some of the recommendations we will be making or we have made to the Secretary that the Congress will have to play its role in fulfilling.

Because Benghazi did not fit the mold of the usual diplomatic post as a result of its temporary status, this meant it was unable to get some of the security upgrades and some of the security oversight which it needed. We recommended various improvements in how temporary and high-risk, high-threat posts are managed and backstopped both on the ground and from Washington so that they have the support they need. There should be changes in the way the State Department staffs posts like Benghazi to provide more continuity and stability, and so that posts have sufficient DS agents, Diplomatic Security agents, with other security personnel as needed.

We also are recommending the Department re-examine the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s organization and management to ensure that all posts get the attention they need from upper management. A special review should urgently look at the use of fire as a weapon and how to counter it. The State Department should establish an outside panel of experts with experience in high-risk, high-threat areas, a kind of red team, to watch changing events and make recommendations to the Department’s security officials.

We are delighted to see that the Secretary is committed to the expeditious and, indeed, urgent implementation of all of our recommendations. And now we would be happy to take your questions and appreciate your giving us this opportunity to brief you on our report.

MS. NULAND: (Inaudible) wait for me to call the questions. (Inaudible.) Let’s start with Matt Lee from AP, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this briefing. The report, to a layman, seems to indicate either rank incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Benghazi. And my question is: Why is such poor performance like that from senior leaders in these two bureaus that you mention, why is not a breach of or a dereliction of duty? Why is it not grounds for disciplinary action?

And then secondly, after the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the ARB report – the ARB that was formed then came out with a series of recommendations, and many of your recommendations today, the broader ones, are very similar. Those bombings in East Africa were supposed to have been a never-again moment. What happened between then and now that this could possibly have happened?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Without accepting your characterization of the problem, it is very clear that under the law and in connection with the State Department regulatory practice, one has to find willful misconduct or similar kinds of action in order to find breach of duty. And indeed, one of our recommendations is – there is such a large gap between willful misconduct, which leads, obviously, to conclusions about discipline, letters of reprimand, separation, the removal of an individual temporarily from duty, that we believe that gap ought to be filled. But we found, perhaps, close to – as we say in the report – breach, but there were performance inadequacies. And those are the ones that we believe ought to be taken up, and we made recommendations to the Secretary in that regard.

MS. NULAND: Michael Gordon – I’m sorry –

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just the second one – what happened between – how did the lessons of Kenya and Tanzania get forgotten?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Well, I think that – let me just mention that, and then Admiral Mullen may have some things to say. We, of course, have made a recommendation that the unimplemented or only partially implemented recommendations of all previous boards be reviewed rapidly by the State Department Inspector General with the idea in mind of assuring that they are carried out. And if you will read our report, you will see in part recollections from the past leading each chapter, as well as a citation to the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam recommendations that need to be carried out. So we very much agree with the impetus of your question.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: I think it begs the question of why did that happen. I mean, obviously, a lot of time. That’s always a factor. Clearly, no specific follow-up over time. One of the major recommendations was the building plan, which fell off from 10 buildings – 10 new embassies a year to three, tied to budget constraints, et cetera. So I think it was a combination of factors, and while 1999 is certainly close to this decade, I mean, the world has changed dramatically in this decade, and the risks that are associated with that world are – I think we are in a much more difficult and challenging position with respect to meeting the needs to be out there and engage, and doing so in a way that our people are very specifically secure.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Just picking up on that, there’s a specific recommendation for a 10 year program at a very significant level of funding specifically to meet the point that Admiral Mullen made that our building program has fallen off from 10 to three, and it needs to go back to that original target.

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to New York Times. Michael Gordon, please.

QUESTION: Ambassador Pickering, your report was extremely critical of the performance of some individuals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the NEA, the Middle East Bureau. And – but these bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of an hierarchical organization known as the Department of State, and each has a chain of command. The NEA reports up the policy chain, and Diplomatic Security, I presume, reports up the management chain, their Under Secretaries, and indeed deputy secretaries, and the Secretary herself, who oversees these bureaus. What is the highest level at the Department of State where you fix responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road. And one of the interesting things about the statutory basis for the Review Board was that it clearly was biased against the idea that one could automatically hold, as one often does, the leader of a particular department or agency responsible without pinpointing the place where the failures took place and where the lessons that we derived from that ought to be important to fixing the problem. And so fixing the problem and finding the locus of the difficulties was the major task we had to undertake.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And I would add to that, Michael, that, I mean, certainly that was a concern that we had as we initiated the review and we just found. And as someone who’s run large organizations, and the Secretary of State has been very clear about taking responsibility here, it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff, and over time, certainly didn’t bring that to her attention.

MS. NULAND: CNN, Elise Labott, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. I was going to ask about these personnel issues, but a couple of others. You offer – the Secretary said in her letter that there were 29 recommendations. And in the unclassified, there were only 24. I’m wondering, without getting into any classified material, if you could at least characterize what these recommendations – do they have to do with intelligence matters that you can’t discuss or at least the area of those recommendations.

And then also you said that there was – in the report that there was no protest, that there was no mob. How did you come to that conclusion?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Two very brief answers. Your suspicion the missing recommendations involved classification is correct. It would not be untoward to assume that some of those involve intelligence. We arrived in October 4th, 2012 for our first meeting. At that point, we found the intelligence community had clearly concluded and provided us that conclusion, that there was no protest.

QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up on the intelligence? Will you be doing – because it’s – this is – you’re reporting to the Secretary, and you said that perhaps she’s involved intelligence, will you also be reaching out to members of the intelligence community and briefing them and helping them implement some recommendations?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: This report is now the Secretary’s. I think, without stretching a point, we of course remain at the Secretary’s disposal for whatever use she would like to make of us.

MS. NULAND: And she has made it available to all pertinent agencies.

Let’s go to Washington Post, Anne Gearan, please.

QUESTION: Two things: Can you confirm the resignations of Department personnel today in association with this report and give us any detail on that? And secondly, Admiral Mullen, you talked about poorly understood – understanding of – or poor understanding, rather, of the nature of the militia threat. Whose responsibility should that have been to have a better matrix for that?

And if that information had been provided as it should have been provided, do you think it would have been still advisable for Ambassador Stevens to make that trip?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: On the first question, that’s obviously a Department issue and you should address that to the Department of State.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Secondly, the – I mean, it was very clear this is a country in transition. And one of the umbrella organizations that come out with respect to lack of support that night for a security response, which was the expected response, was Feb. 17. But as we dig into – or dug into Feb. 17, it is a very loose group of local militias that float in and out of that umbrella over time. And I think that’s representative of the gaps – the intelligence gaps that existed at that time in eastern Libya broadly – not just for us but for many countries that were out there.

So I think you have to take that into consideration in terms of understanding the environment in terms of what was out there and what the potential was.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: I think you should also take into account the fact that the Libyan Government was almost absent from the scene, in terms of its responsibilities under the Geneva or Vienna Convention, to provide support. And that in many ways, February 17th, as difficult as it was, while it had responded positively to less threatening questions in the past, was the best that anybody could find.

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to CBS, Margaret Brennan, please.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this briefing. In the report, you specifically refer to the idea that the Ambassador did not keep Washington fully informed about his movements. Why is that relevant here? I mean, what role did the Ambassador have being a lead person in Libya in terms of determining security? It’s my understanding that ambassadors don’t normally notify each and every movement. Why was that specifically referred to?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Because, in fact, it is a question that occurred to many people that we felt we should answer it, but particularly because the Ambassador is the person who has the responsibility for security at his post.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And does not have the requirement and normally does not notify anybody outside the country of his or her movements.

QUESTION: So when you were talking about the understanding of the militias, February 17th, et cetera, is it correct to understand that Ambassador Stevens had a role in deciding their security position?

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Sure. As the chief of mission, he certainly had a responsibility in that regard, and actually he was very security conscious and increasingly concerned about security. But part of his responsibility is certainly to make that case back here, and he had not gotten to that point where you would – you might get to a point where you would be considering it’s so dangerous, we might close the mission – I’m sorry, the compound, or something like that.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: And as you know, on the anniversary day, 9/11, he, on the advice of his security officials, spent his entire day inside the mission with appointments coming to him.

MS. NULAND: Our two principals are little bit time-constrained today, so we’ll just take one more from Fox News, Justin Fishel.

QUESTION: Thanks, Toria. Thank you both for doing this. Just a follow-up on that last question: Would you say then that Ambassador Stevens does share some of the blame here for the lack of security? Is that what you’re saying here?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We very clearly in the report, if you read it, made our indications open and transparent about where we felt the problems were in terms of decision-making. Ambassador Stevens on several occasions was supportive of additional security in addition to watching it very carefully and to knowing what was going on. Ambassador Stevens had perhaps the best knowledge of Benghazi of any American official. And that was taken in Washington, certainly, as a very serious set of conclusions on his part about going.

QUESTION: Okay. And just two follow-ups for Admiral Mullen: Why such a passing reference to military involvement? Can you explain why they couldn’t have done more? And also –

ADMIRAL MULLEN: We looked at the force posture very specifically, and while we had a lot of forces in Europe both at sea and on land, it was not – it is not reasonable that they could have responded; they were – in any kind of timely way. This was over in a matter of about 20 or 30 minutes with respect to the Special Mission specifically. And we had no forces ready or tethered, if you will, focused on that mission so that they could respond, nor would I expect we would have.

QUESTION: And I noticed also that there was no mention of the CIA in the report despite the fact that their post was attacked and they had more personnel there than there were diplomats. Did they share some blame for the lack of security here?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We don’t discuss intelligence questions, unfortunately, in this briefing.

QUESTION: It’s not a classified organization.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much and thank you to our two, Chairman and Vice Chairman. I’ll see them out.

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