WASHINGTON – Three State Department officials resigned under pressure Wednesday, less than a day after a damning report blamed management failures for a lack of security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, where militants killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Sept. 11.
The resignations came as lawmakers expressed anger and frustration over the findings of an independent review panel, and the State Department struggled to find a balance between protecting its diplomats while allowing them to do their jobs connecting with people in high-risk posts.
Obama administration officials said those who had stepped down were Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security; Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security; and Raymond Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
The department declined to comment on the resignation of the officials whose decisions had been criticized in the unclassified version of the Accountability Review Board’s report that was released late Tuesday.
The board’s co-chairman, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, said the board had not determined that any officials had engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities.
But Mullen, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, added, We did conclude that certain State Department bureau level senior officials demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability in the case.
Co-chairman Thomas Pickering, a retired ambassador, said the security precautions were grossly inadequate and the contingent was overwhelmed by the heavily armed militants.
They did the best they possibly could with what they had but what they had wasn’t enough, Pickering said.
Pickering and Mullen spoke after briefing members of Congress in private. Lawmakers from both parties emerged from the sessions with harsh words for the State Department.
My impression is the State Department clearly failed the Boy Scout motto of be prepared, said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.