The Problems & Challenges That Occurred In Benghazi Are Not New And Should Have Been Addressed Prior To The Attack, Ros-Lehtinen Says

Jan 23, 2013 Issues: Foreign Affairs

 

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, now serving as Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “Terrorist Attack in Benghazi: The Secretary of State’s View.”

Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Madame Secretary, thank you for the positive working relationship that we have had during your tenure at the State Department. I request that I get written responses for the questions I am going to ask. First, why were you not interviewed by the Review Board investigators? And how can this Review be considered thorough when the person at the top, the Secretary of State, was not part of the investigation? That’s what was said in our open hearing when it was confirmed that you were never questioned for this report and I think that’s outrageous.

Also, the State Department was clearly allowing the false narrative that Department officials were being held accountable for what went wrong in Benghazi, for ignoring the threat, and it was perceived as fact. Look at these headlines: the New York Times, “4 Are Out at State Dept. After Scathing Report on Benghazi Attack”, not true. “Heads Roll at the State Department,” not true. Yet State did nothing to correct the record.

Here we are 130 days after the terrorist attack, why did you not take steps publically to correct this false narrative, even up to today? Even when your deputies, Burns and Nides, testified before us, they both said that steps were being taken to discipline those State Department officials, when in fact no significant action had or has occurred. There was just a shuffling of the deck chairs. Do you find it acceptable that State officials responsible for this lack of leadership and mismanagement, for ignoring security requests during the Benghazi attack and before, remain employed within the State Department?

Also, the Accountability report cites several systemic failures at the Department that cannot be overlooked or ignored. Given that State was aware of the dangerously declining security situation in Benghazi: the assassination attempt on the British ambassador, other attacks on Western interests. Why did State not immediately revamp our security protocols prior to the September 11th attacks? Did State fail to act preemptively because it ignored the threat, or did it fail to act because it was unable to recognize this growing pattern of violence? Either way State did fail to act.

These failures highlighted by the ARB report serve as a blueprint for terrorists on where our weaknesses lie, where we are vulnerable. So what actions have been taken to ensure that when another embassy, another consulate sounds the alarm on security threats, as it happened in Benghazi, that those requests are not yet again ignored? As we examine the willingness and capacity of host countries in the region, we must condition aid to these high threat posts based on their cooperation with the United States, I hope that we do that.

Further, regarding State’s request for more money, it is worth pointing out some State Department officials have stated that budget constraints are not to blame for the loss of lives in Benghazi. However, the State Department is notorious for wasteful spending and continues to have misplaced funding priorities. Between State, Treasury, and USAID, the fiscal year 2012 request for the Global Climate Change Initiative is over $1.3 billion dollars. What do you think is a higher priority and a better use of taxpayer money: national security or global climate change?

This money could have been used for embassy construction, for hiring more Diplomacy Security agents, and for providing our posts and personnel overseas with adequate equipment and training. There is more that I can’t get to, but certainly I would appreciate your written answers, including the 64 specific action items that you will be taking on the task force recommendation. Also, we look forward to getting a detailed report here in Congress explaining their justification, itemized funding layout, etc. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your time.”

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