Members of the Senate and House foreign affairs committees grilled Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides in Congressional hearings Thursday morning.
Each lawmaker had their own individual concerns about the State Department’s inadequate security, failure to heed warnings, slow response time, misrepresentations to the public, and all around “grossly inadequate systematic failures” leading up to, and following the events that occurred in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11.
Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio was concerned with one revelation in the State Department’s report in particular and he steered his questions accordingly. He said of the Accountability Review Board’s report:
“It puts a lot of blame on lower level officials, particularly assistant secretary officials. And why I find that quite puzzling is that Benghazi, and Libya in general, is not some remote outpost. It’s not Luxembourg. I mean this is a country we were involved in militarily not so long ago in a high profile intervention.”
Rubio read from the transcript of the report on page 5, “The special mission was not a priority for Washington when it came to security related requests, especially those related to staffing.”
“I want to understand who Washington is,” Rubio said.
He specifically asked about various visits to Libya made by high level officials, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and questioned Burns about any memos or senior level meetings that took place immediately following those visits. Burns at first could not recall specific security matters, but said that the topic came up in general on more than one occasion.
Rubio firmly repeated his line of questioning to reveal that upper level staff and Secretary Clinton were well aware of the dangers in Libya leading up to the attack.
“There were certainly meetings that took place at senior levels with regard to the situation in Libya in general,” admitted Burns.
In an exchange that seemed to be contradictory, Rubio asked, “were any senior officials beyond the assistant secretary level made aware of the repeated requests from the post for extended or additional security – in particular requests made in March and July of 2011?”
“I’m not aware of any specific memo that went beyond the sixth floor,” Burns answered.
“Do you know if anyone beyond the assistant secretary level, going up to the secretary’s level, were they made aware of the more than 200 security incidences that occurred in Benghazi leading up to the attack?”
“There were certainly memos that came up to the seventh floor (senior level) that talked about the deteriorating security situation in Eastern Libya, yes,” said Burns.
According to AP reports on Wednesday, four State Department officials turned in their resignations in connection with the Sept 11 incident.
Obama administration officials said those who resigned were Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security; Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and Raymond Maxwell, deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.