State officials cleared in Benghazi security gaps

WASHINGTON — Four State Department officials have been cleared of security failures that led to an attack last year on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, authorities said Tuesday.

State spokeswoman Marie Harf said the officials, who held senior positions at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, will be reassigned to new jobs.

She said an internal State review concluded “there was no breach of duty” by any of the four, who have been on paid administrative leave for months.

The Benghazi attack has been under intense scrutiny by some House Republicans who have suggested the Obama administration is trying to cover up the circumstances and aftermath on the outpost that left Stevens and three other Americans dead.

A State Department report in December described a security vacuum in Libya after rebel forces toppled the decades-long regime of strongman Moammar Gadhafi. It singled out the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs for lacking cooperation and being confused over protection at the diplomatic post in Benghazi.

Among the four officials are 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 oversaw the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Tuesday’s announcement drew a sharp rebuke from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who has been leading a congressional probe of the government’s response to the attack.

“Instead of accountability, the State Department offered a charade that included false reports of firings and resignations and now ends in a game of musical chairs where no one misses a single day on the State Department payroll,” Issa, R-Calif., said in a statement.

He called the government’s response to the attacks “more of a public relations strategy than a measured response to a failure in leadership.”

Issa has repeatedly questioned the State Department review’s findings in December, which he says were developed in secret and appear to have failed to include interviews with witnesses.

He said he will expand his investigation to include the department’s decision to not discipline the four officials.

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