Defense & National Security

Senators blame Congress, not Clinton, during Benghazi hearing

Senators blame Congress, not Clinton, during Benghazi hearing

An early morning hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with two deputy Secretaries of State emphasized the need for material resources to boost security and downplayed errors made by high-ranking officials in the State Department in the course of the Benghazi attacks in September.

Sen. John Kerry appeared to be trying on the role of Secretary of State in advance of his rumored nomination when he discussed the need to contribute more funds to U.S. foreign relations efforts.

“We need to make certain we are not penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to funding America’s vital interests overseas,” he said.

As Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides testified about the results of the Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi released yesterday, they too focused on resourcing rather than any decisions that were made in the heat of the attacks.

Nides said a new position, deputy assistant secretary of state for high-risk posts, had been created in the wake of the tragedy, and state officials were partnering with the Pentagon to send roughly 225 additional Marine Security Guards to posts around the world identified as medium- or high-threat.

In addition, Nides and Burns said implementation of the 29 similar action points outlined in the report would be underway before the incoming Secretary of State took office.

But while Democrats on the committee seemed by and large prepared to move forward without further questioning the actions of officials in senior positions at the State Department, some Republicans voiced their objections.

“You all had 18 (accountability review boards) in the past and you never fully implemented one of them,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

“I understand about this process, I’m just saying that the culture within the State Department is one that needs to be transformed.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he was puzzled by the blame the report placed on lower-level State Department officials without questioning the very top leadership, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Benghazi and Libya in general is not some remote outpost. (The report) talks about, it was not a priority for Washington,” Rubio said. “…I want to understand who Washington is.”

Following the release of the report, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell and Deputy Assistant Secretary Responsible for Embassy Security Charlene Lamb resigned, as well as Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Others have been disciplined, State Department officials said.

But Clinton should not be eyed for blame, the report authors said, because of her lack of intimate knowledge of the specifics surrounding the Benghazi consulate situation.

Kerry did confirm that Clinton, who reportedly suffered a concussion earlier this month that precluded her from testifying today, will appear before the committee in January. Nides and Burns will also testify later today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Benghazi report.

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