Benghazi Review Board: Law Prevents State Dept from Holding Top Officials Accountable

Benghazi Review Board: Law Prevents State Dept from Holding Top Officials Accountable

Admiral Mike Mullen and Retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering gave a short briefing today over the unclassified report from Secretary Clinton’s Accountability Review Board. The report released through the State Department dealt with the security failures that led to the devastating consequences of the attack on the US Special Mission in Benghazi. 

The Board members said that although they found significant evidence that top State Department officials had “performance inadequacies” in their duties, by law they cannot recommend disciplinary action because they could not provably find someone being “willfully” negligent or derelict in their duty.

The board members acknowledged that there was a “large gap” between “willful misconduct” and a mistake in management, and they are recommending that gap be “filled.” The members went on to say they found that some State Department officials were “close to” a willful breach of duty, but the “performance inadequacies” were more important. 

They also would not accept the premise that the State Department officials showed “rank incompetence,” even though their report suggests otherwise.

Video is below with transcript: 

Matt Lee, AP: The report, to a layman, seems to indicate either rank incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Benghazi. My question is why is such performance like that from senior leaders in these two bureauros you mentioned, why is it not breach or dereliction of duty? Why is it not grounds for disciplinary action? […]

Retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering: Without accepting your characterization of the problem, it is very clear that under the law and in connection with the State Department regulatory practice, one has to find willful misconduct or similar kinds of action in order to find breach of duty. And indeed, one of our recommendations is – there is such a large gap between willful misconduct, which leads, obviously, to conclusions about discipline, letters of reprimand, separation, the removal of an individual temporarily from duty, that we believe that gap ought to be filled. But we found, perhaps, close to – as we say in the report – breach, but there were performance inadequacies. And those are the ones that we believe ought to be taken up, and we made recommendations to the Secretary in that regard

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