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Republican Senators Criticize Benghazi Embassy Security

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks with reporters after a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington December 17, 2012.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks with reporters after a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington December 17, 2012.
— Opposition lawmakers are criticizing the Obama administration for sending diplomats to the Libyan city of Benghazi without enough security.  It follows an independent report into the September attack on the U.S. mission there that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. 

Republican Senator Bob Corker says State Department officials knew Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team were going to Benghazi at a time of growing instability and problems with local militia who had been providing security.

"You were aware of the security risk there.  We have read the cables.  You were fully aware.  And either you send people there with security or you do not send them there," Corker said.

An independent report into the violence found "a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the special mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security."

Corker says State Department officials are stuck in the past at a time of changing threats. "What I saw in the report is a department that has sclerosis, that does not think outside of the box, that is not using the resources that it has in any sort of creative ways, is not prioritizing," he said.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides says there is an ongoing worldwide review of overall security, especially where national forces are fragmented or may be weak.

"For more than 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide security for embassies and consulates," Nides stated.  "But in today's evolving threat environment, we have to take a new and harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts."

Nides says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepts all of the report's  recommendations and is working to ensure they are acted on quickly. "We have got to learn from this," he said. "We have got to hold people accountable, which we are doing.  And we have to change processes to make sure we are getting it right."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Secretary Clinton has accepted the resignation of Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell.  Three other officials have been "relieved of their current duties."  Nuland did not name the other individuals.  All four had been on administrative leave.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio asked why more senior officials were not aware of security lapses in Benghazi, saying he is puzzled about the report placing a lot of blame on lower-level assistant secretaries.

"And why I find that quite puzzling is that because Benghazi, and Libya in general, is not some remote outpost.  It is not Luxembourg.  I mean this is a country that we were involved in militarily not so long ago in a high-profile intervention," Rubio stated.

Rubio says he is looking forward to Secretary Clinton answering questions about Benghazi.  She was scheduled to appear before the committee Thursday, but State Department officials say she has been ill for nearly two weeks.  Corker says Clinton's testimony must be heard.

"I think it is imperative that she come before this committee, and I think it would be really a shame to turn the page on this and go to a new regime without her being here," Corker.  So I do look forward to that happening whenever her health permits."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry says Clinton will appear in January.  She may have stepped down as secretary of state by then.  Kerry is the leading candidate to replace her.

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