TEL AVIV – In testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, a former top State Department official shifted blame for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens (pictured) in Benghazi from the Obama administration on to Stevens himself and the ambassador’s security team.
The final report of the House Republicans Select Committee on Benghazi, released on Tuesday and reviewed in full by Breitbart Jerusalem, further documents that the State Department was in touch with Stevens about how to publicly respond to violent attacks on Western diplomatic outposts in Benghazi.
The committee found the State Department’s public relations requests “noteworthy” because “Stevens’ expertise was being sought on the messaging of violence in Libya as opposed to his expertise being sought on how best to protect against that violence.”
The placement of blame for Stevens’ death was made in testimony by Charlene Lamb, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and International Programs. Lamb was one of four State Department officials disciplined in response to the attacks for her alleged role in denying security requests to the U.S. Benghazi mission. She was placed on administrative leave but was subsequently reinstated to a State Department job by John Kerry.
The final Benghazi report reveals that Lamb told the Committee:
The RSO [Regional Security Officer] and the Ambassador are ultimately responsible for security at post. It is very unfortunate and sad at this point that Ambassador Stevens was a victim, but that is where ultimate responsibility lies. And it’s up to headquarters to provide resources when post asks for them, and it’s also up to Washington to make sure that we don’t have, you know, waste, fraud, and abuse of our resources, because we’re covering the entire world as well. So it’s you know, when you say who should be accountable, accountable for what?
The Committee also addressed the State Department’s lack of adequate response to a series of attacks on Western outposts in Benghazi prior to the September 11, 2012 attacks, including a June 6, 2012 IED attack against the U.S. Special Mission itself. In that attack, the U.S. facility was targeted by an IED that damaged the exterior wall of the compound.
One month earlier, the International Committee of the Red Cross building in Benghazi was attacked by an RPG. June 2012 saw a second attack on the Red Cross, as well as an attack on the UK ambassador’s convoy in Benghazi and the detonation of two hand grenades that targeted marked UK vehicles outside a hotel in the city.
“No additional resources were provided by Washington D.C. to fortify the compound after the first two attacks,” relates the committee’s final report. “No additional personnel were sent to secure the facility despite repeated requests of the security experts on the ground.”
The committee found the only official State inquiry regarding these attacks was a query to Stevens on how to publicly respond to the spiraling violence.
Relates the report:
In fact, the only inquiry from senior State Department officials about the trending violence against westerners was from Victoria Nuland, State Department Spokesperson, asking Stevens how to publicly message the incidents.
I know you have your hands full but we’d like your advice about our public messaging on the spate of violence in Libya over the past ten days. Should we now move to something a bit sharper than calling on all sides to work it out? What cd/wd we say about whether the incidents are linked, why they are going after NGO and Western targets now, impact on electoral environment etc….
The committee found this exchange noteworthy. “Stevens’ expertise was being sought on the messaging of violence in Libya as opposed to his expertise being sought on how best to protect against that violence.”
Added the final report:
Moreover, while the Secretary and others were quick to praise Stevens and his dedication to Libya, they were also quick to note “[h]e [Stevens] definitely understood the risks. Yes.”
Saying Stevens “understood” the risks without also acknowledging he repeatedly tried to guard against and defend against those risks is unfortunate. Yes, it is clear Stevens knew the risks associated with his service in Libya from the moment he landed in Benghazi in 2011 on a chartered Greek boat until his final phone call to Gregory Hicks saying “we’re under attack.” Washington D.C. dismissed Stevens’ multiple requests for additional security personnel, while also asking for help in messaging the very violence he was seeking security from.
With additional research by Joshua Klein.