The head of State Department diplomatic security resigned Wednesday, in the wake of an investigation by a panel looking into the September 11, 2012 killing of four US diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, Libya.
The State Department said Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell has resigned, and three other officials have been relieved of their current duties. “All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
Veteran US diplomat Thomas Pickering, who chaired the independent Accountability Review Board (.pdf), said Wednesday that State Department security personnel were “heroic” in their actions after the US compound in Benghazi came under attack, but that security preparations at the facility were “grossly inadequate.”
“They did their best that they possibly could with what they had, but what they had was not enough,” Pickering told journalists at a briefing at the State Department Wednesday.
“Security posture at the Special Mission compound was inadequate for the threat environment in Benghazi, and in fact, grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place that night,” retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who served as vice chair of the ARB review, told journalists.
A somber Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the transfer of remains ceremony for four US diplomatic personnel killed in Libya Friday, called on the people and leaders of the Middle East to reject mob violence.
“The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob,” Clinton said at the solemn ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland Friday, flanked by President Obama.
“Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts,” she continued.
Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns accompanied the remains of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and US diplomatic security officers Tyrone “Rone” Woods and Glen Doherty on the flight from the region to Andrews Air Force Base.
“We will bring to justice those who took them from us,” President Obama vowed at the ceremony.
Clinton, clearly grieving, recounted the great affection and genuine respect she, State Department colleagues and the Libyan people had for Stevens. “People loved to work with Chris, and as he rose through the ranks they loved to work for Chris,” Clinton said. “He was known not only for his courage but for his smile.”
She cited as but one example of the affection with which Stevens was held by Libyans the hand-written sign carried by one veiled woman in Benghazi: “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi nor Islam.”
“We will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines, and move forward undaunted,” Clinton vowed.
Protests, sometimes violent, against American and Western targets spread to several countries Friday, including Tunisia, the West Bank, Sinai and Sudan. This Google map captures the extent of the protests. The demonstrations have been spurred in part by anger over a crude anti-Islamic video trailer posted to YouTube by an Egyptian American convicted felon, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
A cameraman for Al-Monitor filming a mob of thousands protesting at the US Embassy in Tunisia Friday was surrounded and assaulted by a group of bearded Salafi men.
Black smoke rose from the US Embassy north of the capital Tunis after an explosion. The angry mob also pillaged the American school next door, he recounted in a dispatch.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed heartbreak and outrage over the killing of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other US diplomatic personnel in a mob attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya Tuesday.
Stevens was the first US ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.
The violent protests in Benghazi and Cairo were reportedly spurred by the 15-minute trailer of an anti-Islam film posted to YouTube that was produced by someone claiming to be an Israeli real estate developer based in California, who called Islam “a cancer.” But it’s not clear the filmmaker is who he says.
“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens,” President Obama said in a statement early Wednesday.
“Make no mistake: Justice will be done,” Obama said at a Rose Garden ceremony flanked by Clinton Wednesday.
After the ceremony, Obama was to join Clinton for a closed-press visit to the State Department to console State Department colleagues of those killed. In addition to Stevens, they included Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, a husband and father of two who had previously served in Iraq, South Africa, Canada and the Hague.
Stevens was a deeply admired US diplomat who had spearheaded US efforts to support Libya’s democratic transition after the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, the Arabic-speaking Stevens, a native of California, had worked as a trade lawyer before joining the Foreign Service in 1991. Among his foreign service postings were Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Iran desk, before he was confirmed as US ambassador to post-Gadhafi Libya earlier this year. (See the welcome video Stevens made to introduce himself to Libyans).
“Like Chris, Sean was one of our best,” Clinton said in a statement.
Two other US personnel killed in Libya were not yet being identified publicly pending notification of their next of kin, Clinton said.
Stevens died of smoke inhalation from a fire set by RPG attacks on the consulate. He had gone to Benghazi to assist the evacuation of US consular staff under attack, reports said.
Meantime, the man who claimed to have written, produced and directed the $5 million film that reportedly sparked the protests said he blamed lax security at the US government facilities and the protesters for the deaths of the US diplomats.
“I feel the security system (at the embassies) is no good,” the man who identified himself as “Sam Bacile” told the Associated Press in an interview from an undisclosed location Wednesday. “America should do something to change it.”
“Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world,” the AP report said.
But it’s not clear that Bacile is who he claims. Israeli officials said they would not confirm or deny that he is an Israeli citizen, under that or other names.
And there were some hints that Bacile may be a pseudonym, possibly for someone affiliated with the Egyptian Coptic diaspora. Continue reading →