December 19, 2012 11:06:34 AM
WASHINGTON -- The leaders of an independent panel that blamed systematic State Department management and leadership failures for gross security lapses in the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya will explain their findings to Congress on Wednesday.
The two most senior members of the Accountability Review Board are set to testify behind closed doors before the House and Senate foreign affairs committees on the classified findings of their harshly critical report.
An unclassified version released late Tuesday said serious bureaucratic mismanagement was responsible for the inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
"Systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," the panel said.
Despite those deficiencies, the board determined that no individual officials ignored or violated their duties and recommended no disciplinary action. But it also said poor performance by senior managers should be grounds for disciplinary recommendations in the future.
Wednesday's classified testimony from the review board -- retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen -- will set the stage for open hearings the next day with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who is in charge of policy, and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who is in charge of management.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was to have appeared at Thursday's hearing but canceled after fainting and sustaining a concussion last week while recovering from a stomach virus that dehydrated her. Clinton is under doctors' orders to rest.
In a letter that accompanied the transmission of the report to Capitol Hill, Clinton thanked the board for its "clear-eyed, serious look at serious systemic challenges" and said she accepted all of its 29 recommendations to improve security at high-threat embassies and consulates.
She said the department had already begun to implement some of the recommendations. They include increasing by several hundred the number of Marine guards stationed at diplomatic missions throughout the world; relying less on local security forces for protection at embassies, consulates and other offices; and increasing hiring and deployment of highly trained Diplomatic Security agents at at-risk posts.