You can file these developments in the "we sort of already knew this" category, but the additional confirmation is welcome. Remember, the administration-backed probe into the Benghazi massacre led to (since rescinded) sanctions against four mid-level scapegoats -- one of whom clearly deserved some blame -- while letting higher-level officials off the hook. Indeed, the "Accountability" Review Board declined to even interview the Secretary of State. Yet the White House insisted that its report was comprehensive and closed the door on the matter. In advance of Thursday's fresh round of hearings, these details indict ARB's process and conclusions, as well as State's response:
The State Department’s investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was not independent and failed to hold senior State Department officials accountable for the failures that led to the death of four Americans, according to a new investigative report compiled by the House Oversight Committee. The Administrative Review Board, chosen by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unfairly placed the blame for the terrorist attack on four mid-level officials while ignoring the role of very senior officials in Clinton’s State Department for decisions about security in Benghazi, according to the new report led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Also, the structure of the ARB and the culture in Clinton’s State Department raised questions about the independence and integrity of the review, according to Issa’s committee.
The Oversight Committee report includes specific names:
Although former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, the head of the ARB, said that responsibility should be placed at the assistant secretary level, top officials including Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Beth Jones were never disciplined. The new report by Issa’s committee questions why Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy, who admitted to having a role in overseeing the decision to reject requests for more security in Benghazi before the attack, was never blamed or disciplined by the ARB. Moreover, Kennedy played a key role in selecting the members of the ARB and the staff that helped the ARB do its works, Issa’s report revealed. Several officials told Issa’s committee that Kennedy was deeply involved in security decisions and would have been directly involved in the decision not to approve requests for more security in Benghazi before the attacks. “The ultimate decision maker is Under Secretary Kennedy,” testified Eric Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security, who was punished by the ARB...The report also questions Clinton’s personal awareness and role in the mistakes that contributed to the attacks.
Beth Jones is the woman who turned her wrath against whistleblower Gregory Hicks after he began questioning the administration's counter-factual Benghazi talking points. As for Clinton, we know that Amb. Chris Stevens was operating out of the egregiously under-protected diplomatic mission in Benghazi at her behest, and that her signature appeared on the memo that ordered security reductions -- despite pleas for beefed up measures. Her defenders say that the Secretary of State signs off on countless items every day, so she wasn't responsible for the decision. Clinton was personally informed by Hicks that the Benghazi massacre was a coordinated terrorist attack within hours of the raid beginning. Democrat Elijah Cummings has predictably blasted the new report as "partisan," and is defending the ARB. Thursday's proceedings will therefore follow a familiar pattern: Republicans will ask challenging questions of the ARB leadership, while (almost every) Democrat plays defense on behalf of the White House by impugning Issa. Will committee Democrats manage to behave themselves while frustrated and grieving family members of Benghazi victims testify? Meanwhile, despite the administration's "never forget" posturing, actions speak louder than (year-old) words. This is just sad:
Staffers at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. held their own private ceremony Wednesday to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya after finding out the agency would not be organizing a formal, official memorial service...A State Department staffer who worked with Stevens in Libya and asked not to be named told TPM there were about 20 to 25 staffers at the memorial. The informal gathering was put together after staffers inquired and learned the department would not be holding an official event to mark the anniversary. The event was held in the lobby of State Department headquarters at a memorial plaque bearing the names of Stevens, Smith, and other foreign service officers who have lost their lives while on duty. “It was very meaningful — we hugged, told stories, laughed, cried. Someone put flowers by the wall, we stood awkwardly, then we went back to work,” the staffer said of the event...the staffer said the group that held the memorial was never given an explanation for why there was not a larger memorial event at headquarters in Washington.