[House Hearing, 112 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
BENGHAZI ATTACK, PART II: THE REPORT OF THE ACCOUNTABILITY REVIEW BOARD
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS
DECEMBER 20, 2012
Serial No. 112-193
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
DAN BURTON, Indiana GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York
ELTON GALLEGLY, California ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DANA ROHRABACHER, California Samoa
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois BRAD SHERMAN, California
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
RON PAUL, Texas RUSS CARNAHAN, Missouri
MIKE PENCE, Indiana ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
CONNIE MACK, Florida THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
JEFF FORTENBERRY, Nebraska BEN CHANDLER, Kentucky
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
TED POE, Texas ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, Pennsylvania
GUS M. BILIRAKIS, Florida CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY, Connecticut
JEAN SCHMIDT, Ohio FREDERICA WILSON, Florida
BILL JOHNSON, Ohio KAREN BASS, California
DAVID RIVERA, Florida WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
MIKE KELLY, Pennsylvania DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
TIM GRIFFIN, Arkansas
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina
ANN MARIE BUERKLE, New York
RENEE ELLMERS, North Carolina
ROBERT TURNER, New York
Yleem D.S. Poblete, Staff Director
Richard J. Kessler, Democratic Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
The Honorable William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department
of State....................................................... 6
The Honorable Thomas R. Nides, Deputy Secretary for Management
and Resources, U.S. Department of State........................ 11
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
The Honorable William J. Burns: Prepared statement............... 8
The Honorable Thomas R. Nides: Prepared statement................ 13
Hearing notice................................................... 62
Hearing minutes.................................................. 63
The Honorable Howard L. Berman, a Representative in Congress from
the State of California:
Letter from Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton dated December 18,
Congressional Research Service report dated October 17, 2012... 73
BENGHAZI ATTACK, PART II: THE REPORT OF THE ACCOUNTABILITY REVIEW BOARD
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2012
House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 1:02 p.m., in
room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Ileana Ros-
Lehtinen (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. The committee will come to order.
After recognizing myself and the ranking member, Mr. Berman,
for 7 minutes each for our opening statements, we will then
hear from our witnesses, Deputy Secretary Williams Burns and
Deputy Secretary Tom Nides, no strangers to our committee. And
so that we can allow members to question our witnesses directly
as soon as possible, we will forego additional opening
statements, and instead I will recognize each member for 6
minutes following the presentation by our witnesses.
Secretary Clinton was originally scheduled to be here
today, but we have had to reschedule her appearance due to the
unfortunate injury from which we all wish her a speedy and
healthy recovery. She has confirmed once again that she has
every intention of testifying before our committee by mid-
January, as soon as she gets the go-ahead from her doctors, so
we will welcome the Secretary to our committee in mid-January.
Before I begin my opening statement, I would like to raise
the case of U.S. Citizen Jon Hammar, a proud marine who served
in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who is unjustly incarcerated in
Mexico. I'm giving you gentlemen a bipartisan letter addressed
to Secretary Clinton, signed by close to 70 of my House
colleagues, asking for the administration's immediate
intervention with Mexican authorities to secure Jon Hammar's
release, as well as a letter from Jon's parents, who are
constituents of my district. I thank you gentlemen. If you
could make sure that the Secretary gets it.
I will begin my opening statement.
When Secretary Clinton transmitted the report of the ARB,
the Accountability Review Board, to our committee, she noted in
her accompanying letter that all of us have a responsibility to
provide the men and women who serve this country with the best
possible security and support. Most of all she says, ``It is my
responsibility as Secretary of State.''
Tragically the Department did not meet its responsibility
to our personnel in Libya. The lethal attack on our diplomatic
mission in Benghazi was not the result of a protest against an
obscure video as was initially claimed. Instead, and as the
evidence makes clear, the attack was coordinated and carried
out by terrorists targeting U.S. personnel.
After the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens, Sean
Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the Secretary of State
convened an ARB, which is required by statute due to the
fatalities at the post. The ARB states that the attacks on our
U.S. Nation in Benghazi on September 11th of this year were,
and I quote, ``terrorist attacks.'' Contrary to initial
assertions by the Obama administration, the ARB states that the
attacks were security related and did not involve a protest
prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scope
Dispatches from the command center of the State
Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security on the day of the
attack clearly reported it as a terrorist event, yet officials
in Washington refused to recognize and label the attack both
during and after September 11th for what it was.
The ARB finds that the failures in leadership and
management reached senior levels and resulted in a security
posture at the diplomatic compound that was inadequate for
Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that
took place. This was not the result of insufficient
information, nor lack of warning. As the ARB clearly states,
the responsible officials at the State Department overlooked
mounting evidence that the security situation in Benghazi was
deteriorating. They ignored the series of attacks against
Western interests in the months and weeks leading up to 9/11,
and failed to respond to the urgent requests and pressing needs
of those on the ground.
Given the extensive series of emergency action committee
reports and diplomatic security spot reports that indicated
that the security situation in eastern Libya was going from bad
to worse, why was the State Department unprepared for an
assault there, especially on the anniversary of the worst
terrorist attack in United States' history?
The report provides the beginning of an answer when it
states there was a pervasive realization among personnel who
served in Benghazi that the special mission was not a high
priority when it came to security-related requests. If security
was not a priority, just what was the priority of the State
Department in Libya and in Benghazi in particular?
But we should be careful not to focus our attention
entirely on the tragic failure in Benghazi and regard it as an
isolated incident. One cannot look at the evidence and conclude
anything other than it was a systemic failure with far broader
and more worrisome implications. We cannot expect the same
bureaucracy at State, whose management failures are now
manifest, to objectively review the Department's organization,
procedure, and performance. Nor can we have any confidence in
their assessment of what went wrong and what actions are needed
to prevent a repeat.
Unfortunately the closer one looks, the more troubling the
situation is, and the resignation yesterday of Eric Boswell,
Charlene Lamb, and Raymond Maxwell should not shift our
attention from the broader systemic failures at the State
Department bureaucracy in Washington that this report has
clearly revealed. Why, for example, has State ignored the long-
standing recommendation of the Government Accountability Office
that the Department perform a strategic review that will enable
it to adequately plan and carry out the necessary security
mission for our diplomats abroad?
Using the ARB as a guide, our priority must be to uncover
the root causes of this tragedy and ensure that all necessary
actions are taken to prevent a recurrence. I know that there
will be an attempt to shift the responsibility for this tragedy
to a shortage of resources. Requests for more money are a
familiar refrain in previous State Department ARB reports. But
budgetary constraints were not a factor in the Department's
failure to recognize the threats and adequately respond to the
situation in Benghazi. The problem was and is about misplaced
If the State Department intends to blame its long string of
failures on inadequate funding, then perhaps it should take a
closer look at the money that is being lavished on global
climate change, culinary diplomacy programs and other favored
projects. This money could have been used for providing
diplomatic security, including hiring additional personnel and
providing them with adequate equipment and training.
This report and this hearing are just the beginning of our
efforts to provide the American people with answers as to why
this tragedy occurred and how to protect our diplomats and
other personnel serving overseas from unnecessary risks in the
future, for in their devotion to duty, these brave men and
women are putting their lives on the line for us, and we on
this committee and in this Congress have no less a duty to
I yield back the balance of my time, and I'm pleased to
yield to my good friend, the ranking member, Mr. Berman of
Mr. Berman. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman, for
convening this hearing to continue our examination of how we
should give our Government officials serving around the world
the necessary protection to carry out their jobs.
First I would like to wish Secretary Clinton, as you have,
a speedy recovery, and hope she gets some well-deserved rest.
As she nears the ends of her service as Secretary of State, I
think it is an appropriate time to recognize the strong and
steadfast leadership she has demonstrated over the past 4
Among her many achievements, she has put the problems of
women and girls in the forefront and helped make their voices
heard around the world. The Secretary has brought needed
attention to the dangers of repressive governments, including
through her important emphasis on Internet freedom. She
initiated the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review to
improve the work of our international affairs agencies, and she
has been a leading advocate for the use of smart power, which
advances the role of diplomacy, international alliances,
multilateral institutions, public-private partnerships and
foreign assistance in protecting our national security.
We're fortunate today to have two people who have worked
closely with her to make all these accomplishments possible:
Deputy Secretaries Bill Burns and Thomas Nides. I thank you
both for your service and appreciate your willingness to be
As we examined in last month's hearing, the tragic events
in Benghazi painfully demonstrate the ongoing threats faced by
our diplomats and development workers serving abroad. We must
do our best to minimize the risks faced by these brave public
servants and provide adequate funding to do so, but we must
also recognize that such risks can never be completely
Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues understood the
hazards of their jobs and appreciated that in order to advance
America's interests and effect positive change in the world, we
can't isolate ourselves behind Embassy walls or limit the
deployment of our diplomats to low-risk environments. It's
important that we meet with the Afghan village elder, work with
the Yemenese schoolteacher, assist the female activists in
South Sudan. One of the reasons Ambassador Stevens traveled to
Benghazi was to open an American Corner, a place where average
Libyans could go to learn more about the United States and
At last month's hearing on Benghazi, Ambassador Ronald
Neumann framed the issue well: How much risk are we willing to
take to accomplish a particular mission, and how important is
that mission to our national purpose? In high-risk environments
our policymakers must ask and answer these difficult, but
necessary questions. In some cases the benefits will outweigh
the danger; in other cases they may not.
The Accountability Review Board, chaired by Ambassador
Thomas Pickering, just submitted its report this week. I would
like to thank Ambassador Pickering, Admiral Mullen and the
other members of the Board for agreeing to take on this solemn
The report reaches a number of troubling conclusions.
Perhaps the most serious is that years of congressional paring
away of the President's diplomatic security funding requests
have not only seriously diminished the resources available for
security at our posts, but it has also created a culture at the
State Department that is more preoccupied with saving money
than with achieving its security goals. The repeated rejection
of requests for security upgrades at the mission in Benghazi
is, some would argue, a manifestation of this culture.
The report also notes that a failure of leadership in the
Bureaus of Near Eastern Affairs and Diplomatic Security
significantly contributed to inadequate security at the
Benghazi mission. This bureaucratic breakdown included a lack
of shared responsibility, resulting in stovepiped decisions on
policy and security rather than a holistic approach.
I'm pleased that Secretary Clinton has announced the State
Department is already beginning to implement all of the ARB's
recommendations and take additional steps to address security
concerns. For example, she recently named the first-ever Deputy
Assistant Secretary for High Threat Posts in the Diplomatic
Security Bureau. That will ensure that missions located in
high-risk areas like Libya and Yemen get the bureaucratic
attention they deserve.
The Department has also submitted the Increased Security
Proposal, which would boost the number of diplomatic security
personnel and give them greater capabilities. It would also
provide enhanced security at older facilities, while
accelerating construction at posts in high-threat areas. In
addition, it would call for an increase in the number of Marine
Security Guard detachments, which, among other things, are
responsible for protecting classified information.
In reviewing this and other proposals, we must carefully
consider how best to mitigate the risks faced by the brave men
and women who serve the United States around the world, while
at the same time preserving their ability to do their jobs in a
way that promotes America's national interests.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Berman, for your
I now would like to introduce our witnesses. William J.
Burns holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, Career
Ambassador, and became Deputy Secretary of State in July 2011.
He is only the second serving career diplomat in history to
become Deputy Secretary.
Ambassador Burns served from 2008 until 2011 as Under
Secretary for Political Affairs. He was Ambassador to Russia
from 2005 to 2008, Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern Affairs from 2001 to 2005, and Ambassador to Jordan
from 1998 to 2001.
Ambassador Burns has also served in a number of other posts
since entering Foreign Service in '82, including Executive
Secretary of the State Department and special assistant to the
Secretaries Christopher and Albright, and Acting Director and
Principal Deputy Director of the State Department's Policy
Ambassador Burns is the recipient of two Presidential
Distinguished Service Awards and a number of Department of
State awards, and all well earned.
Thank you, Bill.
Thomas Nides is the Deputy Secretary of State for
Management and Resources, serving as Chief Operating Officer of
the Department. Prior to joining the administration, Mr. Nides
was the chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley, from 2005 to
2010. Before joining Morgan Stanley, Mr. Nides served as the
worldwide president and chief executive officer of Burson-
Marsteller, and as chief administrative officer of Credit
Suisse First Boston, the investment banking division of Zurich-
based Credit Suisse Group.
Mr. Nides began his career in Capitol Hill as an assistant
to the majority whip of the United States House of
Representatives and executive assistant to the Speaker of the
House. Mr. Nides later served as senior vice president of
Fannie Mae and as chief of staff to the United States Trade
Welcome, gentlemen. And if you would please rise so I could
swear you in. Thank you.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Let the record show that the witnesses
answered in the affirmative.
Thank you, gentlemen, and we will begin with you.
Mr. Berman. Madam Chairman, one housekeeping matter.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Yes, sir, Mr. Berman.
Mr. Berman. I ask unanimous consent that the Secretary
Clinton's letter to you as chairman and me as ranking member be
included in the record of this hearing.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Berman, and I meant
to do that as well, so I'm glad that he is cleaning up after my
sloppy act. Thank you.
Without objection, the Secretary's letter will be included
as part of the record. I apologize for that.
Mr. Burns, Ambassador Burns, we will begin with you, sir.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM J. BURNS, DEPUTY SECRETARY,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. Burns. Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Mr. Berman, members of the committee thank you for this
Secretary Clinton asked me to express how much she regrets
not being able to be here today, and I know she has confirmed
to you, Madam Chair, her willingness to appear before you in
Since the terrorist attacks on our compounds in Benghazi,
State Department officials and senior members from other
agencies have testified in 4 congressional hearings, provided
more than 20 briefings for members and staff, and submitted
thousands of pages of documents, including now the full
classified report of the Accountability Review Board. Secretary
Clinton has also sent a letter covering a wide range of issues
for the record. So today I would like to highlight just a few
The attacks in Benghazi took the lives of four courageous
Americans. Ambassador Stevens was a friend and a beloved member
of the State Department community for 20 years. He was a
diplomat's diplomat, and he embodied the very best of America.
Even as we grieved for our fallen friends and colleagues,
we took action on three fronts. First, we took immediate steps
to further protect our people and our posts. We stayed in
constant contact with Embassies and consulates around the world
facing large protests, dispatched emergency security teams,
received reporting from the intelligence community, and took
additional precautions where needed. You'll hear more about all
of this from partner Tom Nides.
Second, we intensified the diplomatic campaign aimed at
combating the threat of terrorism across North Africa, and
continue to work to bring to justice the terrorists responsible
for the attacks in Benghazi. And we are working with our
partners to close safe havens, cut off terrorist finances,
counter extremist ideology, and slow the flow of new recruits.
And third, Secretary Clinton ordered an investigation to
determine exactly what happened in Benghazi. I want to convey
our appreciation to the Accountability Review Board's chairman
and vice chairman, Ambassador Tom Pickering and former chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and also Hugh
Turner, Richard Shinnick and Catherine Bertini.
The Board's report takes a clear-eyed look at serious,
systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable; problems
for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take
responsibility; and problems which we have already begun to
Before Tom walks you through what we're doing to implement
fully all of the Board's recommendations, I'd like to add a few
words based on my own experiences as a career diplomat in the
field. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service
for more than 30 years, and I've had the honor of serving as a
Chief of Mission overseas.
I know that diplomacy by its very nature must sometimes be
practiced in dangerous places. As Secretary Clinton said, our
diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. When
America is absent, there are consequences, our interests
suffer, and our security at home is threatened.
Chris Stevens understood that as well as anyone. Chris also
knew that every Chief of Mission has the responsibility to
ensure the best possible security and support for our people.
As senior officials here in Washington, we share this profound
responsibility. We have to constantly improve, reduce the risks
our people face, and make sure they have the resources they
That includes the men and women of the State Department's
Diplomatic Security Service. I have been deeply honored to
serve with many of these brave men and women. They are
professionals and patriots, who serve in many places where
there are no marines at post and little or no U.S. military
presence in country. Like Secretary Clinton, I trust them with
It's important to recognize that our colleagues in the
Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across
the Department at home and abroad get it right countless times
a day for years on end in some of the toughest circumstances
imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that. But we learned some
very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already
acting on them. We have to do better. We owe it to our
colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi. We owe it to the
security professionals who acted with such extraordinary
heroism that awful night to try to protect them. And we owe it
to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great
dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world.
We will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve
perfect security, but we will never stop working to get better
and safer. As Secretary Clinton has said, the United States
will keep leading and keep engaging around the world, including
in those hard places where America's interests and values are
Thank you very much.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Burns follows:]
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Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Nides.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE THOMAS R. NIDES, DEPUTY SECRETARY
FOR MANAGEMENT AND RESOURCES, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. Nides. Madam Chairman, Congressman Berman, members of
the committee, I also thank you for this opportunity.
I want to reiterate what Bill has said: All of us who have
had the responsibility to provide the men and the women who
serve this country with the best possible security and support.
From the senior Department leadership setting the priorities to
the supervisors evaluating the security needs, to the Congress
appropriating sufficient funds, we all share this
responsibility. Secretary Clinton has said that as Secretary of
State, this is her greatest responsibility and her highest
Today I will focus on the steps we are taking at Secretary
Clinton's direction and will continue to take.
As Bill said, the Board's report takes a clear-eyed look at
the serious systemic problems for which we take responsibility
and that we have already begun to fix.
We are grateful for the recommendations from Ambassador
Pickering and his team. We accept every one of them, all 29
recommendations. Secretary Clinton has charged my office with
leading the task force that will ensure that the 29 are
implemented as quickly and as completely, and to pursue steps
above and beyond the Board's report. The Under Secretary of
Political Affairs, the Under Secretary for Management, the
Director General of the Foreign Service, and the Deputy Legal
Advisor will work with me to drive this forward.
The task force has already met to translate the
recommendations into about 60 specific action items. We've
assigned every single one to a responsible bureau for immediate
implementation, and several of them will be completed by the
end of the calendar year. Implementation of each recommendation
will be under way by the time the next Secretary of State takes
office. There will be no higher priority for the Department in
the coming weeks and months. And should we require more
resources to execute these recommendations, we will work
closely with the Congress to ensure that these needs are met.
As I said, Secretary Clinton wants to implement the ARB
findings and to do more. So let me offer some very clear
For more than 200 years, the United States, like every
other country around the world, has relied on host nations to
provide the security for our Embassies and consulates. But in
today's evolving threat environment, we have to take a new,
harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our
hosts. We have to reexamine how we operate in places facing
emerging threats, where national security forces are fragmented
or may be weak. So, at Secretary Clinton's direction, we moved
quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security
posture, with particular scrutiny on a number of high-threat
With the Department of Defense, we deployed five
interagency security assessment teams, made up of diplomatic
and military security experts, to 19 posts and to 13 countries,
an unprecedented cooperation between the Departments at a very
critical time. These teams have provided a roadmap for
addressing emerging security challenges.
We're also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35
additional detachments of Marine security guards--that's about
225 Marines--to medium- and high-threat posts, where they will
serve as a visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top
of the approximately 150 detachments we already deployed. We're
realigning resources in our 2013 budget request to address
physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever
needed to reduce the risk from fire. And let me add, we may
need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to
streamline the usual processes to produce faster results.
We're seeking to hire more than 150 additional diplomatic
security personnel, an increase of 5 percent, and to provide
them with the equipment and training that they need. As the ARB
recommended, we will target them squarely at securing our high-
I want to second Bill's praise for these brave security
professionals. I have severed in this Department for only 2
years, having come from the private sector; however, as I've
traveled to places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, I've
seen firsthand how these dedicated men and women risk their
lives. We all owe them a debt of gratitude as they go to work
every day to protect more than 275 posts around the world.
As we make these improvements in the field, we are also
making changes here in Washington. We named the first-ever
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High-Threat Posts
within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We're updating our
diplomatic procedures to increase the number of experienced and
well-trained staff serving in those posts.
We are working to ensure that the State Department makes
decisions about where our people operate in the ways that
reflect our shared responsibility for our security. Our
regional assistant secretaries were directly involved in our
interagency security assessment process, and they will assume
greater accountability for securing their people and posts.
We'll provide this committee with detailed reports on every
step we're taking to improve our security and implement the
Board's recommendations. We look to you for the support and
guidance as we do this.
Obviously, part of this is about resources. We must equip
our people with what they need to deliver results and safety,
and will work with you as the needs arise. But Congress has a
bigger role than just that. You have visited our posts; you
know our diplomats on the ground and the challenges that they
face. You know our vital national security interests are at
stake, and that we're all in this together.
We look forward to working with you. Thank you, Madam
Chair, for your support and counsel and for this opportunity to
discuss these important matters. We'll both be happy to answer
[The prepared statement of Mr. Nides follows:]
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Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, gentlemen, to
you both. And I would suggest that at the very least the
President appoint an inspector general from outside the State
bureaucracy to ensure that the recommendations are adequately
I will ask one question on the State's misplaced
allocations and one on the bogus protest over video narrative.
The ARB notes that there was a view that main State did not
consider Benghazi a priority. If we look at September 10, 2012,
just the day before the most recent 9/11 terrorist attack
against the U.S. and our people, we see that Secretary Clinton
was engaged in launching a new program called the Diplomatic
Culinary Partnership, where American chefs travel the world to
engage in culinary diplomacy.
Certainly this is an example of misplaced priorities. As
such, what assurances can you provide to Congress that the
State Department's budget request will prioritize U.S. national
security and the security of our diplomatic personnel,
especially at high-risk posts, over such programs like the
Diplomatic Culinary Partnership or over the close to the $1
billion that is allocated for global climate change programs?
And secondly, who specifically changed Susan Rice's public
talking points by eliminating references to al-Qaeda and why?
If there was a national security concern, what was it? When did
the inaccurate spontaneous protest narrative originate--where
did it originate? And why was that story deemed more fit for
publication than the accurate terrorism evidence? And if
Ambassador Rice had little direct knowledge of the facts on the
ground in Benghazi, why was she selected by the administration
to be the spokesperson on this subject?
Mr. Burns. Well, Madam Chair, on your second question--and
I'll turn to Tom on the first with regard to the budget--what
happened in Benghazi on September 11th was clearly a terrorist
attack. Secretary Clinton addressed that directly the following
morning in her first public statement when she talked about an
assault by heavily armed militants on our compound. Later that
same day President Obama talked of an act of terror.
What was not clear that day was who exactly was involved,
which terrorists were responsible, what their motives were, how
exactly this terrorist attack came about, whether it was
planned well in advance or more a target of opportunity.
I am confident that the senior administration officials who
spoke to this issue and the intelligence community experts on
whom they relied acted in good faith throughout this period.
Their focus was on trying to be as factual as possible. Their
focus was on actions, because, Madam Chair, as you know, there
were a number of other concerns in this period. Over that
period of days, we had mobs coming over the walls of our
Embassies in Cairo, in Tunis and in Sana'a. That was a very
heavy focus for Secretary Clinton and for people across the
We were able to clear up the inaccuracies in the original
assessments, because, as the ARB points out, there was no
protest or demonstration before the attack took place, but it
did take the intelligence community some days to determine that
that was inaccurate as they debriefed the survivors of the
attack on Benghazi. I'm sure our colleagues in the intelligence
community wish that they could have cleared up those
inaccuracies sooner, and they did it as quickly as they could
and then were in direct touch with the Congress and briefed you
Mr. Nides. Madam Chair, as you are well aware, not only
have I spent the last 2 years up here daily making sure that we
have the resources for the men and women who support the State
Department. There is no one that cares more about this maybe
than I did than Secretary Clinton, who has spent tireless hours
making sure that every dollar--and I mean every dollar--that we
use of taxpayers' money is used effectively. As you are well
aware the budget of the State Department, everything we do,
including all of the assistance we give, including aid to
Israel, all the assistance we do for everything around the
world, to the programs at PEPFAR, to supporting the 275 posts
around the world for all of our staff, for everything we do, is
less than 1 percent of the Federal budget.
We fight every single day to make sure we have the right
resources, but, as importantly, we make sure that there is a
dime that is not wasted. We understand the importance of the
budgetary constraint that this committee and this Congress is
going through, and I assure you--and I assure you--that we are
thinking every day how we can make sure that every dollar is
used wisely to protect our people and to provide the assistance
around the world to people who deserve it. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
On the specific questions regarding Susan Rice, do you have
anything further to add about the talking points and the
references? Because in emails, as the attacks were under way,
the diplomatic security operations command center was calling
it a terrorist attack as it was under way. So it's not like the
picture was clearer several days later; while the attack was
taking place, in emails.
Mr. Burns. Madam Chair, as I said, both the Secretary and
the President on September 12th, I think, addressed in very
clear terms what happened and what the nature of the attack
Second, the talking points that you referred to were
produced by the CIA. I think the CIA has briefed a number of
people on the Hill about the process that they went through,
and I'm sure they would be glad to come up and answer it in
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
And in my last 5 seconds, just to reiterate, we're glad
that the Secretary is going to implement every recommendation,
but we hope that there's an inspector general, because without
that, we have seen that the recommendations from previous ARBs
have not been heeded.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Berman is recognized.
Mr. Berman. Madam Chairman, I'm going to pass my
opportunity to question now and hold it until the end, if I
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Ackerman. Thank you, Madam Chairman, very much.
Thank you, Mr. Berman. Thank you for your extraordinary
service. You certainly are going to be one that's going to be
missed around these meeting rooms.
This might be my final six moments to speak in my 30-year
career here. I want to first start by apologizing to the Deputy
Secretaries because you have been brought here as a ruse. You
are being used as foils to the conflicting intentions of some
people on our committee and others in Washington for partisan
political purposes and are not here really to explain how we
can work together more cooperatively as Americans to make
But my great fear as I leave here is that we've become a
partisan, bickering bunch of grousing old people trying to
exploit whatever we can to our own political advantage. We've
become a group of small people with press secretaries. We've
become people who want to exploit any kind of national calamity
to our political advantage of our party. And the public is sick
and tired of it, as they should be.
We need two viable political parties in this country to
make our democracy work. We need two at least distinct parties
explaining their viewpoints and their values and their road to
our collective success, and put choices before the American
And to my friends on the other side, I would like to
suggest that you reexamine your approach, because I thought, in
my personal individual opinion, that the voters didn't reject
your policies, they rejected your attitude. We should be
working together and not at cross purposes. We should respect
everybody in our Government for the good efforts that they put
forth, including especially the President of the United States,
and not refer to him in such vile terms, trying to take down
and disqualify an administration as being illegitimate, trying
to quibble around here on this particular issue of the
narrative rather than how we work together to make things
better, to quibble over somebody said a particular word or
didn't use the right word rather than figure out how to avoid
the mistakes that might have been made to not lose American
lives on into the future. That's what we should be doing
together as Americans. Anything less is demeaning to the
process and to ourselves as good, decent human beings. We have
much more to offer than that.
And I would suggest that derogatorily looking at the
Secretary of State, who has worked herself to the bone to the
point of dehydration and exhaustion, of traversing the globe
teaching cooks classes or some nonsense rather than doing
things that are serious does a disservice to the job that she
has done in the name of all of us. Certainly she's a qualified
individual who can both cook and talk policy at the same time
and try to bring the peoples of the world together with a
respect for the United States and what we really stand for and
what our values really are.
Sorry if I'm interrupting anybody over there.
More has been done in the few short weeks in this
administration to try to look into what went wrong than in the
previous dozen years. This administration has given a serious
look at what has gone on here and has made recommendations that
they are looking to implement with our input as quickly as
possible instead of our quibbling over nonsense. Instead we
talk about whether or not it was motivated by a video or it
wasn't motivated by a video. These are complicated situations
and we have to approach them seriously.
More has been done on this particular issue in which four
wonderful lives were lost than in all the time of the previous
war, the longest war in the history of the country. Not 4, not
40, not 400, but 4,000 lives were lost, and how many heads
rolled? How seriously did we look into it?
Listen, I disagreed with Presidents of the United States,
but I disagreed as a matter of policy. But once that was our
policy, he was still our President, and I still wanted him to
succeed, because the failure of a President is the failure of
the Nation. Disagree with the policy, but once it is the
policy, try to make it work, try to make it better, rather than
to try to bring down an administration and to quibble and
We've taken the train off the tracks. I would be very
pleasantly surprised if one of our colleagues, even one of our
colleagues, had on his or her agenda today to talk about any 1
of the 29 points and recommendations that were made and say, is
this particular one good or bad, or can we strengthen it, or
should it be in there? Because we've not really, I apologize
again, come to do that. We've come here to either play defense
or offense and defend our point of view rather than do what's
right in the name of our country.
It's really been an honor and a pleasure to serve with all
of you, and we do have different opinions.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. The gentleman's time is
Mr. Ackerman. And I will be one of those private citizens
on the other side of the television holding you accountable.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Ackerman, we all aspire to your
purity, but, you know, the flesh is weak.
Mr. Ackerman. I thank you----
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Smith is recognized for his 6
minutes. He is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa,
Global Health, and Human Rights.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair, on March 12, 1999, I chaired a hearing, the
fourth in a series, that focused on the findings of the two
Accountability Review Boards that had been established to probe
the August 7, 1998, bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Admiral William Crowe, chair of those two Boards, told my
subcommittee that the car bombs killed more than 220 people,
including 12 U.S. Embassy employees and family members and 32
Kenyan national employees of the United States Government, and
injured more than 4,000 Americans, Kenyans, and Tanzanians. He
said the ARBs were ``most disturbed by two intertwined issues:
First, the inadequacy of resources to provide security against
terrorist attacks, and, second, the relatively low priority
accorded security concerns throughout the U.S. Government by
the U.S. Department of State.''
Admiral Crowe sat, in 1999, right where Secretaries Burns
and Nides sit, and said, ``In our investigations of the
bombings, the Boards were shocked how similar the lessons were
to those drawn by the Bobby Inman Commission some 14 years
ago.'' Of course, that was in 1985.
In direct response to Admiral Crowe's recommendations, I
sponsored a bipartisan law, the Secure Embassy Construction and
Counterterrorism Act of the 1999, that authorized $4.5 billion
over 5 years for the acquisition of the U.S. diplomatic
facilities, and residence and other structures located in close
proximity of such facilities, and to provide major security
enhancements to U.S. diplomatic facilities. That law beefed up
security requirements for U.S. diplomatic facilities, including
threat assessments; emergency action plans; security
environment threat lists; site selections; perimeter distance,
the setbacks; crisis management training; diplomatic security
training; rapid-response procedures; storage of emergency
equipment; and increased antiterrorism training in Africa. I
read the new ARB report, and it almost says the exact same
Bipartisan appropriations bills since 1999 have funded the
Department of State's Bureau of Overseas Building Operations
which has completed 95, at least 95, new diplomatic facilities
and has an additional 40 projects in design or construction. So
much has been done. Obviously we can always do better.
I would note parenthetically that there are now at least
3,114 diplomatic security personnel; in 1998, there were less
than a 1,000 security specialists. That's a threefold increase,
and that is significant. We need more perhaps, but that is
So when it comes to resources--and, of course, as I said,
we can always do a better job--authorities and funds have been
increased to systematically boost worldwide U.S. Embassy
security over the past dozen years.
Of particular concern is the fact that the Benghazi ARB,
chaired by Ambassador Pickering, seems to make nearly identical
points using language that--and I read them side by side again
last night--that are almost verbatim to the Boards that were
chaired by Admiral Crowe. The Pickering ARB cites systemic
failures in leadership and management deficiencies at senior
levels within two bureaus of the State Department. Admiral
Crowe's ARB said, and I quote, ``The Boards found that
intelligence provided no immediate tactical warning of the
August 7th attack.'' Ambassador Pickering's ARB said, ``The
Board found that intelligence provided no immediate specific
tactical warning of the September 11th attacks.''
I would point out to my colleagues that, according to the
New York Times, and this is a quote, ``In the spring of 1998,
Prudence Bushnell, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, sent an
emotional letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
begging for the Secretary's personal help.'' The January 9,
1999, Times article said that Ms. Bushnell, a career diplomat,
had been fighting for months for a more secure Embassy in the
face of mounting terrorist threats. Secretary Albright, the New
York Times reports, took no action. And 3 months later on
August 7th, the American Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were
simultaneously bombed by car bombs.
The Pickering Benghazi ARB found that the number of Bureau
of Diplomatic Security staff in Benghazi on the day of the
attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it was
inadequate despite repeated requests from Special Mission
Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing. The
Pickering report says that there was a pervasive realization
among personnel who served in Benghazi that it was not a high
So my questions, three of them: In the lead-up to the
attacks, were President Obama, Vice President Biden or
Secretary Clinton aware of the repeated requests for upgrades?
Secondly, why weren't President Obama, and Vice President
Biden and Secretary Clinton interviewed by the Pickering ARB?
How can one examine all the circumstances without interviewing
the very top leadership?
And finally, in 1999, Admiral Crowe released a list of over
100 individuals interviewed. Has the Benghazi ARB list of
interviewees been made public?
Mr. Burns. I would be glad to start, Mr. Smith, and then
On your first two questions, to the best of my knowledge,
the specific security requests that were made, as you
mentioned, from Benghazi as well as from Embassy Tripoli did
not get as far as Secretary Clinton. You'd have to direct the
other question to the White House, but with regard to Secretary
Clinton, I believe that's accurate to say.
I'm sorry, your second question?
Mr. Smith. My other question is who was interviewed by ARB?
Mr. Burns. I don't believe there was an interview of
Secretary Clinton by the ARB, but, again, you'd have to address
that to Ambassador Pickering as well.
And then on the third question.
Mr. Nides. I think on the list of--I believe the ARB did,
in fact, interview 100 individuals in this ARB as well. And I'm
not certain it's in the ARB the names of the people who were
interviewed, but--I think it may be, but I don't know if it is
in a classified or unclassified version of the ARB.
I would like to also point out, Congressman, which you made
a very good point about the ARB in 1998 after the Kenyan
bombings. One of the recommendations was, which you pointed
out, which was to begin funding the construction of consulates
and Embassies at a pace of about 10 a year. That was a decision
of the bipartisan Board. They allocated at the time in 1999
about $1.5 billion, which would pay for in 1998 dollars about
10 a year. Unfortunately that has now dropped to $700 million.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Nides. We're only doing now two Embassies a year.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Mr. Smith, and thank you to the witnesses.
Mr. Sherman, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on
Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, is recognized.
Mr. Sherman. I want to identify myself with the comments of
the ranking member, particularly his recognition of Secretary
Clinton's service to our country over the last 4 years. I want
to identify myself with the comments of the gentleman from New
York, particularly his call for us to rise above partisanship.
We are now focused on diplomatic security. We've lost 11
diplomats in the 10 years before Benghazi, and our focus on
diplomatic security was modest. But now it becomes the
preoccupation of this committee and a preoccupation of foreign
policy, those concerned with foreign policy nationwide.
Why now? Well, partly because this time we lost an
Ambassador and a great man. But mostly it's because now
Benghazi is not just a loss of diplomats, we've lost 11 before,
but because now there's partisan advantage to be sought by one
side or the other.
This incident in Benghazi was important, but is it really
more important than the North Korean nuclear program? Is it
really more important than many of the other subjects that have
not been the subject of so many hearings of this committee?
We've now decided to focus on diplomatic security in part
because we can blame one party or the other. We can blame the
State Department for not allocating its resources to diplomatic
security, or blame the Republican Congress for not
We should do more for diplomatic security, the State
Department should follow its own procedures, and we haven't
done so. But we'd like to believe in a world that is subject
somehow to our control that if we just do the right thing,
everything will turn out right. This is not the case, we are
not that powerful, and the world is not made up that way. The
fact is that bad things are going to happen to good people even
if we are prudent and careful. And ultimately the security of
our diplomatic personnel depends not on our own actions, but on
the host country.
Ambassador Burns, just for illustration here, even if we
had twice the size of the diplomatic security detail, can you
be certain that our Ambassador would have survived?
Mr. Burns. I'd just make two comments, Mr. Sherman. First,
the security of our diplomats overseas has been a preoccupation
of the Department of State throughout the 30 years I've served
in the Foreign Service, and it is a priority. We clearly fell
down on the job with regard to Benghazi, but we need to
reenergize our efforts and be relentless in implementing the
recommendations that are made in this Accountability Review
Mr. Sherman. Ambassador, if you could just comment on the
question. If we had doubled the security effort there----
Mr. Burns. The Accountability Review Board addressed the
issue. It talked about two areas of inadequacy. One of them was
staffing, and in the Accountability Review Board report they
indicate that it is not certain additional--that one or two
additional diplomatic security agents would have made a
difference in the outcome.
Mr. Sherman. I want to get into some other issues.
Obviously, the real responsibility for this heinous crime is on
the perpetrators, but a big chunk of the responsibility is on
the Libyan Government, a government that never purged itself of
its Jihadist elements; a government that viewed Ghadafi as the
enemy, but doesn't necessarily view the Libyan Islamic Fighting
Group as enemy. It doesn't wage war against Ansar al Sharia.
This is the government upon whom our diplomats' lives are
We have a tendency in this country to view everything as
good guy and bad guy, so since Ghadafi was the bad guy--in his
last few years perhaps not as bad since the State Department--
we blocked it here--wanted to provide U.S. taxpayer money to
charities controlled by Ghadafi's children. He had gotten a
little better so--but we want to cast things as good guy, bad
guy. So since Ghadafi was a bad guy, we want to view the Libyan
Government as entirely the good guys. The fact is this is a
government that is a coalition that includes, or at least
countenances, some of the most evil Jihadist elements
Ambassador Burns, did the Libyan Government allow us, our
security detail traveling from Tripoli to Benghazi, to take
weapons with them, or did they have to rely on the limited
weapons that were available to them in Benghazi?
Mr. Burns. Mr. Sherman, this is on the night of September
Mr. Sherman. This is when the Ambassador flew from Tripoli
Mr. Burns. I don't know the answer to that question. I can
get it for you.
Mr. Sherman. Please do get that, because this is a
government that--has the Libyan Government restricted the
number of security personnel that we can have on--at our
Mr. Burns. I don't know if there are any particular
restrictions, and in the Accountability Review Board report,
the areas of inadequacy that are identified don't have to do
with Libyan Government restrictions, they have to do with
judgments that weren't made about increasing the number of
Mr. Sherman. Okay. I'll ask you to simply answer for the
record, but I believe that the Libyan Government has not
granted us the right to use our Air Force over their airspace
to defend our diplomats in the future. Most governments
wouldn't, but here's a government that can't control its own
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Mr. Sherman. As a final comment I'll point out that the
rebels in Syria include some excellent human beings and also
include some elements that are just as bad as those who
attacked us in Benghazi, and we should be careful that just
because Assad's a bad guy, that doesn't mean all of his enemies
I yield back.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Sherman.
Mr. Rohrabacher, who is the chairman of the Subcommittee on
Oversight and Investigations, is recognized.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much.
We have several areas that just need to be clarified here,
and I would just like to say that when you seek clarification,
and accountability, and perhaps correction of policy that led
to a bad result, to automatically claim that people who are
engaged in that are involved with partisan politics is not--is
itself a partisan attack. So let's just get to some of these
We've been talking about why this happened, and there has
been talk about budgets. And I want to identify myself with the
remarks of our chairman, who said, yes, there are lots of
things in the budget that can be reprioritized. And I'm waiting
for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to address the
chairman's suggestion: If we're spending $1 billion on global
warming in this budget, wouldn't it be more better--wouldn't it
be better for all of us and more faithful to those people
serving us to allocate those funds for security if we think
there is a security problem, rather than for global warming,
which is not necessarily the purview of the State Department?
But in terms of--and we have to remember that Secretary
Lamb, Assistant Secretary Lamb, stated, and emphatically,
because it was my question, and I wanted to get a specific
answer, were budget considerations any part of your decision as
to what level of security they should have at the Benghazi
consulate, and her answer was an emphatic no, no.
So there must be policies then that we need to look at to
see, if this didn't result from budget considerations, why did
we end up having it? It was obviously a bad call on her part.
And just let me say, she has given this country, I think, 20
years of decent, good service, and I am not about to sling mud
at her. She maybe made a bad call. She has made 20 years of
good calls. We are discussing some of those decisions today.
And, Ambassador Burns, you have suggested that even adding a
few extra than what she suggested was necessary probably would
not have deterred this terrorist attack.
So in leading up to it, we have got those questions. But
then, as the terrorist attack was happening and immediately
thereafter, I am sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but your statement that
the President and Secretary Clinton made clear that it was a
terrorist attack right afterwards is not true, it is not
accurate. I mean, the President and high-level officials of
this administration immediately after the attack and for days
afterwards, an overwhelming part of their discussion of the
issue dealt with movie rage about these Muslims being upset
about portraying Muhammad in a bad way in some movie on
YouTube, a huge amount of their time, and almost nothing was
said by them, except enough so that you could quote it now,
about terrorism and how the deaths there were carried out by
professional and very well organized and trained terrorists.
Now, about afterwards and how we are going to come to grips
with this. It was a terrorist thing, that is acknowledged now.
Are we tracking down, as the Secretary of State pledged, are we
tracking down these terrorists, finding out who they are, is
that happening now?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir, it is. We are absolutely committed to
using every resource of the U.S. Government.
Mr. Rohrabacher. And what groups have we found were guilty
Mr. Burns. Well, sir, the FBI is leading the investigation,
and I am sure in a different setting they can brief you on
where things stand. All I can tell you is that the State
Department is supporting very actively what the FBI is trying
to do. I was in Libya in September after the Benghazi attack to
push the Libyan leadership to cooperate in the investigation.
Ambassador Larry Pope, our Charge on the ground in Tripoli,
pushes every day.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Well, let me ask a question on this.
Mr. Burns. I was in Tunisia also, Congressman Rohrabacher.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Okay. Well, it is very easy to go up and
ask a government, say, can you cooperate with us? Oh, of course
we are going to cooperate. Let me ask about our own
investigation. The night of the attack--obviously our people
weren't the only ones killed and wounded--did our intelligence
investigators or intelligence operatives in that area manage to
go to the local hospitals and to question those people who were
coming to the hospitals with bullet wounds that night?
Mr. Burns. I don't know that they were able to that night,
sir. Their preoccupation was trying to deal with----
Mr. Rohrabacher. Well, what about the next day?
Mr. Burns. Well, sir, as you know, by the next morning the
American personnel in Benghazi had been evacuated to Tripoli.
Mr. Rohrabacher. And all of our intelligence operatives
were gone and didn't? You know, I will just have to tell you, I
have been reading some of the classified information and I will
just tell you that I do not believe that what we did was
adequate, and what we are doing now is not adequate to tie this
down to specific terrorist organizations. And we should be
holding those people accountable and tracking them down and
seeking justice for those people who we have lost. And with
that said, I do not believe that holding this administration
accountable for its mistakes and trying to find ways of
correcting bad policy is in any way a partisan attack.
Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Engel, the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
ranking member, is recognized.
Mr. Engel. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. And let me first,
before I make my remarks, I would just like to comment on two
of my mentors and friends who will not be coming back the new
Congress. And I want to start with Mr. Berman, since I will be
taking over his duties as ranking member of this committee
starting with the new Congress.
I want to say, Mr. Berman, Howard, that we are going to
miss you. And your steady hand at the helm is something that we
have all been aware of and we have all appreciated through the
years. Your common sense on the issues, your hard work, and
your collegiality is something that we will miss, and want to
just express my very best wishes to you. I hope I can do as
good a job as you have done, and I look forward to being in
touch with you.
And, Mr. Ackerman, my New York buddy, we have known each
other for a long, long time, and we served in Albany in the
State legislature together. I think your remarks before were
right on the money and we will miss your intellect, your wit,
your hard work. It has been a pleasure being part of the New
York delegation with you, and I know that we will continue to
be in touch, certainly in New York for sure.
Let me say, first of all, welcome, Ambassador Burns. You
have a long and distinguished record at the State Department.
We appreciate the work that you have done.
And, Mr. Nides, I have known you for a number of years,
since I have been in Congress, in a number of different
responsibilities. You keep getting promoted so you must be
doing something right as well. But we appreciate the work that
both of you are doing. I know it gets a little nasty here
sometimes, but I think some of my colleagues don't really mean
to be mean; they just get very emotional. We do appreciate your
Let me say this. You know, one of the reasons why I love
this committee is because I believe that foreign policy needs
to be bipartisan. When I have taken CODELs around the globe,
and I have led many of them when I was chairman of the Western
Hemisphere Subcommittee, I found that the differences between
Democrats and Republicans were very, very small when it comes
to international events and things that happened. I have never
had any restrictions on anyone in my CODEL for speaking to
foreign leaders, heads of state, and never have been
embarrassed, because we all understand that we are Americans
and we have a common bond. And that is one of the reasons why I
always enjoy this committee.
But it really pains me when I see some trying to make
partisan hay on what happened in Benghazi. I think Mr. Romney
did it shamefully during the campaign. And I think that in
times of crisis we need to pull together as Americans. Our
Ambassador was killed and three other patriots were killed. I
don't think either side should try to use it for partisan
political purposes. I think this kind of ``gotcha politics,''
the American people are really turned off by.
And I want to say, I said this before in this committee,
that Barack Obama was no more responsible for what happened in
Benghazi than George W. Bush was for 9/11 or Ronald Reagan was
when more than 200 Marines were murdered in Beirut. It doesn't
happen on anybody's watch. Terrible things happen, and we need
to try to fix them. And I look at this report, the
Accountability Review Board, as something that makes an attempt
to do that. I don't care if the administration officials called
it terrorism or didn't call it terrorism. I have seen things
where President Obama used the word terrorism the day after it
But that is not important. What is important is that there
should be no more Benghazis. That is why we are having this
hearing and that is why we have the plan; 29 points, and
Secretary Clinton has accepted them all, and good for her. She
has, of course, appointed a new person--Mr. Nides, I know that
is you--who is really going to look at this. And I am very,
very happy that you are going to lead this task force.
But, you know, Congress has its obligations too, and we
have to put our money where our mouth is. If we are going to
want to make sure that our diplomats are secure, then we have
to pony up the money. You know, it is very easy, and you hear
rumblings in the Congress about cutting back and cutting back
and ``Let's cut foreign aid,'' and ``Let's cut foreign
security,'' and ``Let's cut diplomatic security''; it is very
easy to say that. You know, ``We have pressing problems here,
who cares about what happens overseas?'' I have heard people
say that as well. Well, that shouldn't be. We need to care and
that is what we are doing.
So let me say this. According to the CRS, Congress has
underfunded State Department diplomatic security by $600
million under the request for the last 3 years. The House
funding level was closer to $0.75 billion below that. The ARB
observed that funding restrictions have led State to be a
resource-constrained rather than a mission-driven organization.
The report continues, this report, the ARB, that the solution
requires a more serious, and I am quoting, ``and sustained
commitment from Congress to support State Department needs.''
So let me ask you this: How would the $1.4 billion
requested in the increased security proposal address the ARB's
concerns? Will the additional resources fill staffing shortages
due to demands in the frontline states? And how will the
proposal be sustained after Fiscal Year 2013?
Mr. Nides. Thank you, Congressman. We made four decisions
quickly. One was that we were going to ask for some additional
money in 2013 through our budget request, which we did, which
includes the $1.3 billion. That includes the additional Marines
that we have asked for, more money for security, for diplomatic
security, and for help with building construction. So we did
that out of the 2013. We also did the ISAT teams, as you are
aware, with the DoD and State. We went out to the 19 posts
around the world, the high-risk posts, to evaluate. We intend
to take those ideas and come back as it relates to the 2014
budget, which you know we are in the midst of doing as we
speak. So the $1.3 billion addressed what Secretary Clinton
believed and the President believed was an immediate need
today. But I want to be clear to all of you, we intend to come
back to the Congress as relates to 2014 to lay that out for you
as well. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Engel.
Mr. Royce, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism,
Nonproliferation, and Trade, is recognized.
Mr. Royce. Madam Chair, I would just like to begin by
acknowledging the role that you have played in leading this
committee. You have always brought energy and a smile to this
committee, and we look forward to working together next year on
the committee. I would also like to wish Howard well as he
moves on to the next chapter. And I would like to say to both
of you that this committee and the institution is better
because of the service on your part, the leadership on your
And we look forward to Secretary Clinton testifying next
year, or next month. And I think all of us want to make sure
that at the end of the day our diplomats are safer. And I look
forward to working with Mr. Engel and with all of the members
here. We look forward to making certain that something like
this does not happen again.
But part of that is making the right policy decisions. Part
of that goes to policy. And if we look at some of the
observations that our Ambassador Chris Stevens made, he knew
that Libya had become a cauldron of weapons, of jihadists, of
violent ideology. He called it a security vacuum that had
developed there. And it is discouraging, frankly, to read his
communiques warning of the consequences of this, and
discouraging, I think, to see that there wasn't any credible
contingency plan in place. An 8-hour firefight, truly tragic,
without the ability to rescue our personnel during those 8
hours. And the upshot is this report, which finds a systemic
failure by the State Department at senior levels.
But there are other policy questions about what created
this environment. And that security vacuum that we are talking
about, that was compounded by certain policy choices that led
to this tragic day, policies that fed this instability in
Libya. Here is a recent New York Times headline: ``U.S.-
Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell into Jihadists' Hands.''
And it reports, ``The Obama administration secretly gave its
blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last
year . . . Within weeks of endorsing Qatar's plan to send
weapons . . . the White House began receiving reports that they
were going to Islamic . . . groups.'' This was a policy choice
on the part of the administration. They decided not to send
arms, but to use Qatar as a proxy for this purpose. But in
turning the keys over to the Qataris we were turning it over to
someone whose views were diametrically opposed to our own.
I remember the Libyan transitional authorities screaming at
the time about the militants that the Qataris were picking in
this fight, and what those militant jihadists would ultimately
do as a result of receiving those arms, of being empowered by
Qatar. I was warning the Secretary about this weapons flood
from Qatar. The Times reports that the subject of the Qatari
arms shipments dominated at least one of the deputies meetings,
which I assume, Ambassador, you probably attended, probably
And so I was going to ask you, Secretary Burns, the
Accountability Review Board had a narrow focus here, they
didn't address some of the larger questions about policy,
especially the policy in terms of arms that flooded that area
on the part of the Qataris. Wouldn't you agree that empowering
Qatar in this regard was a poor policy choice?
Mr. Burns. Well, Congressman, there was a serious concern
during the Libyan revolution and in its aftermath about not
only the arms that were in abundance in Libya, but also the
insecurity across Libya and the difficulty that the
transitional government had in restoring security and
Mr. Royce. No, I understand that. But with our tacit
approval you had 18 weapons shipments, 20,000 tons of weapons,
and basically the policy choice that the Qataris would supply
them and we would allow them to go through. And those weapons
went to the most hardcore jihadist elements. So now those
weapons are spilling into Mali, where al-Qaeda affiliates have
taken up shop, imposing Sharia law. I mean, this country has a
history with this issue, and the decision here has been made
again. And I just want your answer to that. You were cognizant
of this, I know. And Ambassador Stevens was approached on this.
He was rebuffed when he told an American arms dealer don't do
that. But when the dealer applied to sell Qatar $200 million in
arms, that application was approved.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Royce. I am sorry,
but we are out of time.
Mr. Royce. Approved by State.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much.
Mr. Royce. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Meeks, the ranking member on the
Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, is recognized.
Mr. Meeks. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I would just for the
future chair, and I appreciate his coming and looking forward
to working with him, and look forward to working with Mr.
Engel, and want to say thank you to both our outgoing chair and
of course to our ranking member, who we are going to miss
dearly, and my good friend Gary Ackerman.
And I just had to follow up with, I know the debate was
before when we were talking about Libya there was the argument
that we needed to arm the rebels. It is the same kind of
argument that is going on right now in Syria, some saying that
we have to arm the rebels. And so, I don't know. But anyway,
you know, I have often said that over the years our diplomats
are really the unsung heroes of United States security. They
should no longer be unsung. The attacks on our mission in
Benghazi should compel Congress to better recognize that our
diplomats are critical to our Nation's security and that we
must do better to ensure their security. It is time for us to
acknowledge not just with our words, but also with our deeds
the importance and the danger some of America's finest public
servants face abroad. With over 80 high-threat posts operating
at any given time, our diplomats are often in the same kind of
harm's way as our military is, without the same kind of body
armor and firepower to protect themselves.
We here in Congress have a role to play in giving them the
resources, respect, and attention they deserve. I can't tell
you how many times that I travel and I meet with an Ambassador
who is trying to juggle their budget. They are trying to figure
out, and so oftentimes they want to say, often they request,
they want to figure out here is what they have. And they say,
if there is one thing that Congress can do for us is to make
sure that we have the additional resources. And they do the
best that they can to try to stretch that budget as much as
they can. And I hope that, you know, we don't come back here
next year and we start shortchanging them for what they need.
And I appreciate what the ARB has come forward with. To me,
when I look at your report, you are coming with facts, you are
looking, suggest there were some mistakes made and here is how
we are going to correct them and here is how we want to move
forward. The Secretary of State said, I take full
responsibility, so there is no ducking and there is no hiding
or anything of that nature. And so I would hope that we could
move on and ask, and I have a few questions I want to ask, I
hope it is in the vein of what Mr. Ackerman was talking about.
So, for example, we have focused on Benghazi. I would like
to know what was the status, though, before Benghazi in
Tripoli. Did we have any additional security in Tripoli? Was
there a difference between the kind of security we had? I know
one was just a consulate, the other was the Embassy, et cetera.
Was there a different request, et cetera? Could you tell me
Mr. Nides. As you know, the mission in Benghazi was a
temporary facility. As you know, that is where Chris Stevens
started. He felt comfortable there. That was a temporary
facility. The facility in Tripoli was our Embassy, and it had,
obviously, additional security in Tripoli than we did actually
have in Benghazi. It was larger, we had more people there, and,
obviously, the ratio between the numbers of people we have and
security that were on the ground.
Mr. Meeks. So now going, you know, with the debate that we
have going on now in Congress, we could have sequestration that
takes place. And if sequestration takes place there are across-
the-board reductions. What does that mean to security at our
Embassies and for our Ambassadors?
Mr. Nides. I am calling on all of you to fix that for us so
we don't have sequestration. But if we do, we will have to make
some really substantial cuts and it will hurt, it will hurt not
only diplomatic security, but make no mistake, it is not just,
as to your point, not just Benghazi. We have over 275 posts,
Embassies and consulates around the world which dedicated
diplomatic security are protecting every day, and 99 percent of
the time we get it right. We want to be at 100 percent. But you
are absolutely right, we need the resources. And we hope that
we won't be facing massive cuts through sequestration, which I
know I probably speak for most of you around on this committee
that hope that won't occur as well.
Mr. Meeks. Now, in your report, and I don't recall, I think
Benghazi, as you said, was special, meant it had a nonstatus.
Do we deal now in any comprehensive manner with any other
missions that we have that has a nonstatus as opposed to
something that has a status? Should it be treated differently?
Mr. Nides. That is actually one of the recommendations of
the ARB, that we look at that. It is clearly an issue that we
need to determine. There are very few of those types of
facilities, but we need to look at it. That is one of the
reasons the Secretary directed us to take these teams around to
the most high-risk posts, because it is not just the temporary
facilities, but we are dealing with a new normal, so we need to
look at each and every one of those posts and make the
determination on the security on the ground.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Meeks.
Mr. Chabot, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Middle East
and South Asia, is recognized.
Mr. Chabot. Thank you Madam Chair. I thank you for your
work in arranging for this hearing. I know it has been very
difficult to get administration witnesses to testify before
this committee, not just on this matter but quite a few other
things as well. And your relentless efforts to schedule this
hearing are greatly appreciated by a lot of us.
I also want to take a moment to thank you and say job well
done. I don't know what the committee's schedule is going to be
for the remaining days of the 112th Congress, and we are not
sure how long we are necessarily going to be around. So in the
event that this may be our last formal hearing of the year I
just wanted to commend you for the great service that you have
performed for this committee and our country as chair of the
committee. And I thank you and your staff for the work and the
many courtesies that you have extended to both me and the other
members and to our staffs on both sides of the aisle, and look
forward to continuing to work with you hopefully for many years
And I don't want to get into a long thing relative to some
of the other comments I have heard from the other side of the
aisle, but I have to say that in denouncing alleged
partisanship I don't know that I have heard more partisan
statements from some of my colleagues, many of whom I have
great respect for and wish the best in the future because some
will be leaving. But I think what this committee is attempting
to do is to find out what went wrong, why, and prevent these
types of things from happening again. You know, we lost the
lives of four very patriotic Americans, and I think it is
appropriate for us to look into these matters.
And, you know, these events in Benghazi are absolutely
tragic, no question about that. Ambassador Stevens was known to
many members and staff, both before and during his
ambassadorship, and he was thought by all, I believe, to be one
of our most able diplomats. I had the opportunity to visit with
him in Libya a little less than a month before he and the three
other outstanding Americans were murdered in Benghazi. His
enthusiasm for the job at hand was immediately evident. He was
excited about the opportunity to help a nation newly freed from
decades of brutal dictatorship, and his death was not only a
terrible blow to his family and Nation, but a terrible blow to
those who seek to build a new democracy and a vital economy and
to restore fundamental human rights for the Libyan people. We
have many patriotic Americans like Chris Stevens and his
colleagues serving around the world and oftentimes they serve
in dangerous regions, sometimes separated from their family and
in many cases living in a very restricted existence because of
security threats. What we often take for granted, like freedom
of movement and relative safety from those who would do us
harm, they often live without.
Today we are here to review what happened, as I said, in
Benghazi, and why, and what we can do to protect our diplomatic
personnel stationed abroad in the future. And as has already
been mentioned, the report that we have all had an opportunity
to see does state that there was no protest at the American
facility in Benghazi prior to the attack. And I know many
members, particularly on this side of the aisle, would like to
have more answers as to why exactly the White House and the
State Department in the days following the Benghazi attack
chose to pursue a strategy that was ham-handed at best and a
cover-up at worst. I will focus my question on the findings and
recommendations of the report with the hope that one day soon
we will get a straight answer from the administration on the
matter of the administration's early-on insistence for weeks
that terrorists were not to blame for the murders of our fellow
Americans but, you know, some video was.
Ambassador Burns and Secretary Nides, we have reviewed the
report and we have shifted through a lot of paperwork and that
sort of thing that the Department provided us. We have seen
cables where security officers on the ground express
frustration at the difficulty in getting the personnel they
believed they needed to protect American diplomats and
property. And we now know that management of security
personnel, especially the assignment of DS agents on very
short-term duty, virtually guaranteeing very limited
institutional knowledge, was grossly inadequate. We clearly had
a problem in Libya, and it is probably fair to say that the
Department's shortcomings in addressing diplomatic security
issues are not isolated to Libya. The Government Accountability
Office has called on the Department on a number of occasions, I
believe, to conduct a strategic review on security mission and
And in light of the Benghazi tragedy could you discuss,
relative to the resources that are going to be necessary in
this issue, is there a timeline on when we are actually going
to get this? And in the other Embassies around the world that
are in security-challenge areas, are these types of things in
all likelihood present and need attention in other areas as
well? Either one of you.
Mr. Nides. As you know, as I mentioned earlier, we did take
a very aggressive look with DoD and the State Department, sent
these teams out immediately to look at every high-risk post.
That is what Secretary Clinton ordered us to do. We are now
bringing back those recommendations. There are many, many
recommendations. We are ordering them through. She has given us
very clear instructions on when she expects these results to be
in. And we are going to come back to this body to get either
funding that we need to do them or use existing funds to
actually address those issues. And the answer to that is yes.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Chabot.
Mr. Chabot. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Carnahan, the ranking member of
the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is
Mr. Carnahan. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I just want to
take a moment at the beginning of my remarks and say thank you
to you and to our ranking member, Howard Berman, for their
service during this Congress, your friendship, your work. Also
really to wish well our colleagues in this next Congress, the
entire committee, but particularly Ed Royce and Eliot Engel as
they take over the leadership of this committee. And this next
Congress is going to have a full plate. I think the hearing
today is really just a preview of that.
I also want to acknowledge the work and leadership of
Secretary Clinton. She has aggressively, her entire team, and
thank you for your service, all of our diplomats everywhere,
for the Secretary's leadership in embracing all 29 of the
Board's recommendations and her strong commitment to have the
implementation of all the recommendations well underway even
before the next Secretary of State is in place.
I also want to, I guess, admonish my colleagues on the
committee. There is a long tradition of bipartisanship in this
committee, how we should be standing side by side when we are
dealing with attacks on our people overseas. It really cheapens
that to make it into some kind of a gotcha game or to try to
make it into some conspiracy to dupe voters in November by the
words used or the causes of this horrible tragedy that happened
in Libya. So this is really about, I believe, our foreign
policy, the very core interest of our country, how we are seen
around the world, our national security, our economic success,
our fundamental values. That is what it is about.
And it is bigger than Libya. We are going to see this in
countries across the globe, country by country, the same kind
of repeated challenges. We have to stay focused on that. Let's
not backslide into pettiness from either side. Let's really
focus on what needs to be done.
And I guess for our witnesses here today really just two
quick questions. Because of this very changing nature and these
increased demands that we are seeing, is there any additional
country-specific criteria the State Department is considering
to determine these additional security needs at our posts? And
secondly, what steps should be taken with host countries to
honor commitments to the Vienna Convention to ensure that it is
not an impediment to our security and to guarantee better the
safety and security of our diplomats?
Mr. Nides. So let me just answer the first question. As I
point out in my testimony, for 200 years we have relied on the
Vienna Convention. And that is something that we have to
continue to rely upon, and if we don't we can't be in many of
these places, because at the end of the day we cannot provide
our own security enough to protect ourselves without these host
governments. And in most, if not all of those countries that
works. But in this new environment, as we call the new normal,
especially in new governments that are standing up, the
Secretary implored us to go to visit those countries with the
Defense Department and ask that question, which is the division
between their desire to protect us and their ability to protect
us. So the answer to that is we are looking at each and every
one of these countries to make that determination and determine
the risk factors that exist and do we have it right as we look
forward to making sure that we are protecting ourselves
Mr. Burns. All I would add, Congressman, is that this is a
reality that we are going to have to deal with for some years,
and not just in the Middle East, but it is particularly true
there with all the revolutions and transitions that are taking
place. It is post-revolutionary governments that are going to
have a very difficult time building security institutions that
work, and we are going to have to take that into account and
adapt to it, as Tom suggested.
Mr. Carnahan. Thank you. I yield back.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. And thank you again for
that family photo that is in some of our big photos here, Russ.
Thank you. Was that your great grandfather?
Mr. Carnahan. Grandfather.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Grandfather who served on the
Before I recognize Mr. Wilson for his questions I would
like to advise our members that we expect a short vote series
around 2:45 and that Deputy Secretaries Burns and Nides have
kindly agreed to remain so that we may continue the question-
and-answer period for the remaining members after the vote.
Thank you, gentlemen.
And with that, Mr. Wilson of South Carolina.
Mr. Wilson of South Carolina. Thank you, Madam Chair. And,
Madam Chairwoman, I want to thank you for your extraordinary
leadership. You have been such a strong proponent on behalf of
the American people. Additionally, I have certainly appreciated
the bipartisan cooperation with Mr. Berman. Both of you have
just come across so well.
I look forward to the leadership of Chairman Royce. He and
I have a shared interest in promoting a better relationship,
and particularly with the very important country of India, the
largest democracy on Earth. And so I am really excited about
his leadership. And then I share the appreciation of
Congressman Engel. He and I have gone on CODELs together, and
indeed there will be a bipartisan angle to this committee with
Congressman Engel. So this is all positive.
I am grateful, Secretary Burns, Secretary Nides, for you
being here today, and I look forward to asking some questions.
I do want to express again my deepest sympathy to the heroic
Americans that were killed at Benghazi. We should never forget,
and we want to send our deepest sympathies to the families of
Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone
Woods. These truly heroic Americans lost their lives in
Benghazi to a terrorist attack, but their dedicated service
will always be remembered by the American people.
As we are into the Accountability Review Board evaluation,
the Pickering report, there is an indication, directly the
quote was, ``In the weeks and months leading up to the attacks
the response from the post, Embassy Tripoli, in Washington to a
deteriorating security situation was inadequate.'' And from
each of you, what was the response and what steps have been
taken? And, indeed, could this tragedy have been averted?
Mr. Burns. Well, Congressman, clearly, as the ARB report
concluded, there were inadequacies. There was not an active
enough response to requests that were made from post. Just to
be clear, I think typically those kinds of requests, and it was
true in this case, tend to come up toward the assistant
secretary level in those bureaus, and the ARB was very clear in
emphasizing the importance of us reinforcing shared
responsibility in those areas.
There was, and I draw a distinction between that and the
more generalized concern about insecurity in Libya that I
mentioned before, all of us, including the Secretary, who
traveled to Libya over the course of the last year or more,
were concerned about the importance of the Libyan interim
government building security institutions without which it
would be extremely difficult to make a successful political
transition or to rebuild the economy. And that broad issue was
something that concerned many of us, including the Secretary.
On the specific issue with regard to security requests, the
ARB was quite clear in saying that there was an insufficient
response in those areas, there were mistakes, and serious and
systemic problems which are unacceptable, as I said before, and
which have to be addressed to prevent a repetition of this kind
of attack and this kind of tragedy in the future.
Mr. Wilson of South Carolina. And specifically the chairman
of the Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon, has asked a
question, and that is, to anyone's knowledge has the Department
of State or any Federal agency requested additional U.S.
Military forces to augment security of U.S. personnel in Libya
prior to the attack?
Mr. Burns. The ARB report, I think, addresses the issue, I
mean the specific issue of what might have been done on that
night and reaction to the attack, and its conclusion is that
there was simply not enough time. Given the fact that even
though this incident in Benghazi, the tragedy in Benghazi,
unfolded over a period of 8 hours, that the intensive attacks
were really focused on two periods, less than an hour on the
special mission compound at the beginning of this ordeal, and
then another very intensive attack around 5:15 the following
morning on the so-called annex. And so the judgment of the
Accountability Review Board was that there simply wasn't enough
time to make the use of U.S. military force from outside Libya
Mr. Wilson of South Carolina. And it concerns me, too,
there is a foreign emergency support team, a FEST team, but yet
it was not requested, it was not provided. That just is really
just tragic to me.
Mr. Burns. Well, typically, Congressman, in my experience,
FEST teams, foreign emergency support teams, are actually
deployed after a terrorist attack, and they are generally
deployed when a diplomatic facility has been attacked and has
lost communication capabilities and other capabilities. So a
FEST team comes in to augment them. But generally they come
after an attack has taken place, over the course of my
Mr. Wilson of South Carolina. Well, I would certainly hope
that, and I want to thank you for what you are doing, but my
goodness, I appreciate Foreign Service Officers, your courage
of service, but we want the best security possible. And I
appreciate whatever efforts that can be made. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. The committee will be in
recess and we shall return after the votes. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. The committee will now come to
order. I thank our witnesses for coming back, and I thank the
members also for returning. And we will begin our question and
answer period with Mr. Higgins of New York.
Mr. Higgins. Thank you, Madam Chair. Ambassador Burns, you
had provided in your testimony, you had said that I know that
diplomacy by its very nature sometimes is practiced in
dangerous places. And you quoted Secretary Clinton as saying
that our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs.
When America is absent there are consequences, our interests
suffer and our security at home is threatened. When I hear
about attacks on American diplomats they often take me home.
John Granville was a kid from my community. John was a
graduate of Canisius High School in Buffalo. He attended
Fordham University, and Clark University in Massachusetts with
a graduate degree in international relations. John was a
Fulbright scholar. He served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps
and he became a diplomat for the United States Agency of
International Development. John was working with a largely
Christian community in southern Sudan right outside the City of
Juba to prepare them for elections by bringing in thousands of
solar powered radios so that the folks in that region of the
Sudan would have information about the outside world in
preparation for elections for independence. As you know,
Southern Sudan is the newest country in the world.
On January 1, 2008, New Year's Day, it's 6:45 in the
morning, I received a call from John's mother, who informed me
that the night before John was killed. He was actually murdered
by a gunman while driving home from the British Embassy for a
New Year's party in Khartoum. John was ambushed by two gunmen
who stopped their car in front of his; John was shot in the
neck and the chest.
The attack followed warnings, the attack followed warnings
by the United Nations that a terrorist cell in Sudan was
planning to attack Westerners. No one blamed the President,
nobody attacked the National Security Adviser. What John's
mother wanted in the response from our Nation and our community
was: Let's get to the bottom of this so it will never happen
It is my understanding that under the 1961 Geneva
Convention on Diplomatic Relations the host country, the host
country is responsible for the security of our Embassies, and
that the primary focus of our Marine Corps Embassy security
group is to protect classified information at the facility with
the protection of the personnel a secondary focus. It seems to
me that perhaps if we really want to get to the heart of this
thing we need to focus in on that policy. And the policy I
believe deserves reconsideration. Both of you had made
reference to there is a new normal. There are some 33 countries
in the world that are defined by our State Department as places
where Americans shouldn't travel. Diplomacy is dangerous work.
Those who do it are courageous.
So I would like to ask each of you if in fact we as a
Nation, Democrats and Republicans, should be seeking to change
the 1961 Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations to more
closely and more directly take on a policy that assists our
people in these very, very difficult places, or would that
adversely affect the purpose for our diplomatic presence in
those places, including and especially those toughest places?
Mr. Burns. I would be glad to start, Mr. Higgins. I think
the issue here, as both of us have mentioned before, is not so
much the Vienna Convention itself, it is not even so much the
will of certain host governments to be able to fulfill the
obligations of the Vienna Convention and protect foreign
diplomats on their soil. It is a question of their capacity.
And especially in countries that are going through post-
revolutionary transitions, as we see in Libya, as we see in
other parts of the Middle East today, there is a big question
mark about their ability to do that and how quickly they can
develop the kinds of security institutions on which they can
rely for security in their country and on which our diplomats
and other foreign diplomats can rely.
So that is what we have to take into account now as a part
of this review. I am stimulated not just by Benghazi but as we
look at a landscape that is changing very fast in the Middle
East and in other parts of the world, we are going to have to
adapt our approach to diplomatic security to take that into
Mr. Higgins. Thank you. Mr. Nides?
Mr. Nides. And just briefly, you are right as relates to
our desire to add additional Marines. It is not so much the
Marines doing security per se, but it is as a deterrent. In
working with DoD we are determining which countries that would
obtain, as you know, we currently have 150 countries that have
Marines in them, we have asked for an additional 35
detachments. We are working closely with the Defense Department
to achieve that goal, but it is important to know that the
security is in the hands of our Diplomatic Security, this will
be supplemented with that deterrent of having Marines on the
Mr. Higgins. Thank you, and thank you both for your
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Higgins.
Judge Poe, the vice chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight
and Investigations, is recognized.
Mr. Poe. Thank you both for being here all day, since our
early conversation this morning. During my lifetime I have been
called a lot of things, but a diplomat is not one of them, but
I will try to be as candid and nonoffensive as I can be about
this whole situation in Benghazi.
It seems to me that security was a problem, the report says
security was a problem. I think that we ought to make sure that
we are moving forward across the world, and I have been to a
lot of Embassies as most members of this committee have; that
we focus on making sure that the people in charge know what
they are doing, not using militias but using the Marines. I
have total confidence in the Marines. They can solve any
problem we will let them solve. And they are a deterrent, Mr.
Ambassador, as you said, that Marines, the word brings fear and
trepidation into the souls of many people who do not like us
throughout the world. It seems to me they would do a better job
protecting America and American interests than hired guns from
some country like the Libyan militia.
My focus is on two things. One, the day after this event
occurred, September 12th, there was a group, terrorist group,
Ansar al-Sharia, that took credit for the attack against the
Ambassador and the other Americans that were murdered. Of
course we all know what took place took a while for the
administration or the official word to say they were
terrorists. Regardless of how long it took, this group took
credit for the murder, the homicide, and they were glad they
My first question is do we know what terrorist group or
groups, here 90 days later, are responsible for the attack on
the Ambassador and the compound?
Mr. Burns. Congressman, we have made some progress in the
investigation. I don't think we have a complete picture yet
about exactly which terrorists were responsible, but we are
developing a better picture of that. And the FBI is leading the
investigation, a number of other parts of the executive branch
are involved in this, too, and we would be glad to provide you
a briefing in a different setting on exactly what the status
Mr. Poe. Let me ask you another question. With the folks
now in Libya that are in charge of our diplomatic mission
there, have we told them be on alert for this group or that
group or watch out for these guys? Any warnings, watch list,
whatever you want to call it, about any specific Libyan
terrorist groups that we should be more careful in dealing with
or watching, and what kind of notice has been sent out from
Washington to Libya?
Mr. Burns. Well, our mission, our Embassy in Tripoli is
extremely well aware of the various threats out there from
extremist militias, from terrorist organizations; for example,
al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, which is trying
to expand its role, and the threats that it produces across
North Africa, including in Libya, and so our Charge, Ambassador
Larry Pope, is very well aware of this and stays in very close
touch with the Department, the intelligence community about
those kinds of threats.
Mr. Poe. I would hope that we would pursue and whoever is
responsible that we track them down and hold them accountable,
and I hope we hear that news as soon as possible.
The other issue I want to talk about is weapons, guns and
other weapons, rifles that are in the possession of different
groups in Libya. There have been reports, and I don't know if
they are accurate or inaccurate, that is why I am asking you
all, that there may be a situation where the United States gave
tacit approval, a wink and a nod, or looked the other way while
guns were smuggled from Qatar, Qatar, I guess is correct
pronunciation now, Qatar to Libya used by Libyan rebels. Is
that--what about that, is that true, not true or we don't know?
Mr. Burns. There were a lot of arms that flowed into the
hands of various Libyan groups during the revolution as they
sought to overthrow Ghadafi. We had real concerns during that
period and we certainly have real concerns today about the
number of extremist militias, well armed extremist militias in
Libya who can threaten our people as they did in Benghazi but
can also threaten the security of a Libya which is struggling
to succeed in a political transition.
Mr. Poe. Let me reclaim my time since I am nearly out of
time. I guess my real question is we need to find out and we
need to know, Americans need to know if those weapons that were
used in the attack on our folks in Libya were weapons that the
United States some way was involved in getting to Libya.
The second part of the question is really a comment, we
also need to know if those since Muammar Ghadafi met his maker
that weapons have gone to Libya to be repackaged, if you will,
by the militia and sent to Syria. Has the United States been
involved of that, have knowledge of that, or is that just not
an accurate statement? I think we need to track the movement of
And out of time and maybe you could give me a written
answer to this or direct me to a classified briefing on that.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Judge Poe. Karen Bass is
recognized. She is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on
Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.
Ms. Bass. Thank you, Madam Chair. And also let me join in
thanking you for your leadership over the last 2 years and also
for our ranking member Mr. Berman. I know that many of my
colleagues would agree that your departure from this House is
really an example of us losing one of our House giants. So we
will be sorry to see you leave and I would say the same for Mr.
Ackerman. I will miss hearing your comments on this committee.
I wanted to thank the leadership for convening this meeting
and I want to thank the witnesses for taking their time to come
out and be here with us here today. When we had the hearing
last month the members of this committee really wanted to hear
what the ARB was going to come back with before we rushed to
any judgment. And I want to stress that I think that it was
very important and it is very important that we have an
objective assessment of what happened and I think you have
provided that, but I really wanted to focus on what happens
now, where do we go from here. And I wanted to ask a couple of
questions, specifically wondering how you manage planning for
Diplomatic Security when we are rather unpredictable in one, if
and when we get a budget done and then what the level of
And then also I wanted to know if you could comment if
there are any new technologies or alternative protective
measures that would be very useful in terms of how we protect
diplomats, and to what extent if we had had any new
technologies you think would be useful would it have made a
difference in Benghazi?
Mr. Nides. Well, let me just say as someone who is
relatively new to the Department but has traveled to almost
every hotspot in the world, the men and women who have
protected us with Diplomatic Security are beyond heroic. I wish
we could be here and say with 100 percent certainty nothing
happens, but as you know it is not a risk free proposition, but
I am every day amazed. Remember we have over 275 consulates and
Embassies, many of them in very, very dangerous areas, where
our Diplomatic Security are not only protecting our Ambassadors
and staff, but USAID and like minded folks all over the world.
So I just--your point is taken, which is we are having to deal
with budgetary constraints, but at no time should any of us
believe that the quality of those men and women who are
protecting us is in any way diminished.
Ms. Bass. Well, you know, one of the benefits of being on
this committee is that we do have the opportunity of travel and
frankly they help provide our protection as well. And so just
wondering how you manage with that, do you shift funds from one
to the other or what?
Mr. Nides. So what we are doing and one of the tasks that
the Secretary asked us to do is to review exactly, especially
in the high risk posts, to make sure in what we refer to as the
new normal, host government's willingness and capability of
protecting us. Do we have the right security footprint? Do we
have the facilities? Do we have the ability to protect our
people to the best of our abilities? And what we are doing now
is looking at the resources we were given, moving those
resources around appropriately to make sure that we are not
putting our people in harm's way. As I said before, we get this
right 99 percent of the time. And I knock on wood on that. We
would like to be 100 percent right. But this, as you know, is
not risk free for any of us, and so we are attempting to try to
manage within the constraints which we have.
As to a question of technology I would say that Diplomatic
Security is working with every law enforcement agency in the
world to make sure we are on the cutting edge and I think we
are achieving that. Can we do better? Sure, I think every
security agency could do better, but I believe, fundamentally
believe in my core that they are at the top of the heap as it
relates to the quality of their technology and ability to
Ms. Bass. Is attrition in the Diplomatic Security Service a
problem? And if so, what are you doing to address that?
Mr. Nides. I think attrition at State Department generally
is quite low. As you know, I guess they came out yesterday or a
couple days ago, we are the third most liked place to work.
Part of that is I think we treat our people with respect.
Ms. Bass. The security part?
Mr. Nides. Generally I think the whole State Department, I
wouldn't divide it up between departments. I think one of the
criticisms that the ARB did point out is our reliance on TDYs,
on people who are coming to us for short periods of time.
Ms. Bass. TDYs, temporary?
Mr. Nides. Temporary employees. We have to address that
issue, because that is one of the recommendations of the ARB
that we examine the use of TDYs, again to remind people there
are people who are coming in for shorter periods of time than a
year or 6 months, and that is something we need to address.
That is something Secretary Clinton has insisted that we
address to make sure that we have the numbers and that is why
in our new budget request we have asked for additional
Diplomatic Security officials so we can lessen our reliance on
Ms. Bass. And where do the temporary employees come from?
Mr. Nides. Most of them, if not all of them, are here, but
Ms. Bass. They are State Department?
Mr. Nides. Yes. They are not contract employees but they
are moving around, and one of the criticisms in the ARB was
that the people that we were moving in and of Benghazi weren't
there for long periods of time. Obviously like any law
enforcement officer if you are on the ground for a long period
of time you build a team and expertise and contacts. And one of
the criticisms of the ARB which we need to learn from is what
happens if someone only comes in for 30 days and leaves? And I
think that is something that we have to learn from and improve,
especially in high risk posts.
Ms. Bass. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Ms. Bass. Miss
Schmidt of Ohio is recognized.
Mrs. Schmidt. Thank you. Gentlemen, something has been
troubling me all along, and that is that we knew from the start
this was a terrorism event and yet for whatever reason we chose
not to call it a terrorism event. I look at some documents and
uncovered one that was dated September 12, 2012, at 6:28 a.m.
From Freiburg, Benjamin D., on behalf of DS Command Center,
sent 9/12, at 6:28 a.m.--I am reading the whole thing
verbatim--to Steven Orloff, copy to DS Command Center, subject:
Benghazi update. All com. The DS command center is sharing the
following terrorism event, information for your situational
awareness, please contact the DS Command Center directly for
any follow up request for information. As 0500 Eastern Standard
Time, the U.S. Mission in Benghazi has been evacuated due to
ongoing attacks that resulted in the death of four chiefs of
mission personnel, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and
three additional com wounded. At this time everyone had been
evacuated to Tripoli and is receiving medical aid and awaiting
further movement. This is an initial terrorist incident report
from the DS Command Center. This information contained in this
report is provided only for immediate situational awareness,
additional reports may follow. Updating and correcting
information, please protect accordingly. DS Command Center SBU.
This email is unclassified. Presented by Bladow, Christopher
R., page 1 of 1.
My concern is this, we knew from the start that it was a
terrorist attack, it was a terrorist event, and yet for
whatever reason we chose to call it something else, a YouTube
video. And I am troubled because it puts Susan Rice, the
President and other officials in a bad light. I am also
troubled because the soft message doesn't allow us to get to
the root of the problem. The furthest thing is to blame a
YouTube video somehow makes it appear that we are saying it is
okay if we have someone of our people say something bad about
another nation that it is okay for the nation to respond. I
mean that is the kind of insidious message that is going on
here. And I would like to know why when this came out just
hours after the initial attack we called it something else.
It is just a question.
Mr. Burns. Ms. Schmidt, there is nothing that is okay about
the murder of four of our American colleagues. This was a
terrorist attack. Secretary Clinton, as I said before, was
quite direct the next morning in talking about an assault by
heavily armed militants on our compound. President Obama spoke
to an act of terror. What was not clear at the time was exactly
which terrorists were responsible, what their motives were,
whether they were motivated in part by the sight of an armed--
of a mob coming across the wall of our Embassy in Cairo, which
may have partly have been in response to the video that you
mentioned. Just didn't know exactly what the motives were. But
what there was no question about was that this was a terrorist
Mrs. Schmidt. It was never said a terrorist attack. It said
an act of terror, is different than a terrorist attack.
Mr. Burns. But, Ms. Schmidt, what I would add, as I
mentioned in response to an earlier question, the officials who
addressed this issue and the intelligence community specialist
on whom they relied were focusing on trying to be as factual as
possible and they were also focused on action in this period
because, as I mentioned, they were also dealing with the
reality, all of us were, where you had mobs coming over the
walls of our Embassies in Cairo, in Tunis, in Sanaa. We were
focused, Secretary Clinton was so focused, all of us were, on
protecting our people in that period. No one was trying to
misrepresent anything. People were trying to get to the bottom
of this and deal with those immediate threats. And of course
the intelligence community, my colleagues there, I am sure they
wish that they could have corrected the inaccuracy, because in
fact there was no protest and no demonstration in Benghazi that
night prior to the attack, as the ARB report points out. Wish
they could have corrected that inaccuracy earlier. But that
inaccuracy was not the result of anybody trying to misrepresent
anything or mislabel or anything else. People acted in good
faith during that period. I am absolutely convinced.
Mrs. Schmidt. I have something else that is troubling me.
In plowing through information, I am still trying to plow
through it, we used the February 17th group to protect us,
correct? And yet we knew that they were unreliable in other
instances and yet we still allowed them to be our protection
and yet when things happened they ran, and is it because they
are cowards, they are ill prepared, are the ill trained or is
something more nefarious going on? I mean, there are some folks
that suggest, and one of them is Joan Schaan, a fellow at Rice
University Institute of Public Policy, that these folks were
connected to al-Qaeda and that this was to undermine our
Are we looking at those kinds of things to make sure that
when we are having security on the ground from a foreign
country secure us that they are not connected to our enemy?
Mr. Burns. We certainly are, Ma'am. And the ARB report
points out the inadequacy of the reliance on the February 17
Brigade. The reality is that our diplomats had experience
dealing with them during the revolution where they played a
prominent role in Benghazi. Especially Chris Stevens knew, you
know, a number of those groups and they had responded
adequately in earlier occasions, but the obvious reality is
here that it was inadequate.
Mrs. Schmidt. I know I have 5 seconds. But have we looked
at who they are friends with and what their lineage was and if
there is any connection to a terrorist organization like al-
Mr. Burns. Absolutely, we are looking at all those
questions very carefully.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Thank the gentlemen.
Mr. Cicilline of Rhode Island is recognized.
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and I want to
begin by thanking you for your leadership of this committee as
it may be the last opportunity I have to do that and also to
acknowledge the extraordinary leadership of our ranking member
Mr. Berman, who is a recognized statesman and will be missed by
this committee, by this Congress and by our country and I just
want to thank him for his extraordinary contributions. And to
Mr. Ackerman, thank you and I hope it is appropriate for me to
associate myself with your remarks toady, they were poetic and
important and to Mr. Carnahan, thank you also for your service.
I thank you, Ambassador and Mr. Secretary, for being here
and appreciate both the work that you are doing and the
testimony that you have provided today. I particularly want to
extend recovery wishes to Secretary Clinton and acknowledge her
extraordinary work and leadership and wish her a full and
speedy recovery and ask that you communicate that to her on my
This is the committee's second hearing on the events of
September 11th at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya that
resulted in the tragic deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three
other brave Americans, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen
Doherty. These attacks are an example of how increasingly
dangerous it is for our diplomats to do the work that they do
all around the world. And while we cannot eliminate all risk, I
think it is clearly our responsibility to do everything that we
can to mitigate and manage those risks. And I want to
acknowledge and thank Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering
for undertaking this really comprehensive and prompt review of
this important matter, and again applaud Secretary Clinton for
accepting the conclusions and for developing a task force for
the immediate implementation of all 29 recommendations. And I
want to say that I look forward to determining how we can help
facilitate the implementation of those recommendations. If
there are specific ideas that you have today of things we
should be doing as a committee, as a Congress to support the
implementation of those important recommendations, I would very
much like to hear that.
I appreciate the insight that this review has provided and
I think our responsibility now is to be sure that the resources
and other necessary support that we can provide is provided so
that these recommendations can be fully adopted.
What I would like to ask you to comment on is I know that
the Secretary ordered a worldwide review of diplomatic posts,
particularly posts that have high threat, identified as high
threat posts. And I would like to know whether or not we--
whether or not the Department has the resources it needs or are
there additional things we should be doing to be sure that in
the interim, as the longer process of implementing the 29
recommendations is underway, would you tell us a little bit
about what you found in that review, if it has been completed,
about the remaining high risk posts, are there things we should
be doing. I am particularly interested to know have you done an
assessment of the capabilities and commitments of our host
nations, which I know are responsible for some of the security
and I think we have a long-term sort of responsibility and some
things in the short term. Again I am very grateful you are here
today and thank you for your testimony.
Mr. Nides. Congressman, thank you very much. When about 60
days ago, when Secretary ordered us to take a review, a very
clear view of the posts in what we are referring to as the new
normal, the high risk posts. We determined that list of
approximately 19 posts. Again this is not an exhaustive list,
any day we could wake up and find another country on that list.
There were 19 posts in which a team of Defense and State
Department together, actually there were four people on each
team, five teams. They immediately hit airplanes and went
around the world to basically assess. And we gave them very
clear instructions. Number one, they could ask any question.
They were to determine any kind of vulnerability which we may
have. They need to assess not only the desire of the country to
protect, but their ability to protect. As my colleague has
pointed out, there is sometimes a difference between the two,
especially in some new governments. We have come back with a
lot of conclusions, including quite frankly some very specific
needs, everything from we need bigger walls; do we need more
fire equipment?; do we need to move the consulate?; that it is
too close to the road. We went to a level of detail to make
sure we weren't missing anything. We compiled that, we have an
ISAT implementing team that I will meet tomorrow morning again
for now I think the third time over the last 3 weeks and list
out exactly every item that we need to address.
I want to make it clear, though, even with the 19 posts
there are many, many other places around the world that we are
vulnerable. But again, as I said before, we are relying on two
things. We are relying on the host government to protect us,
and we are relying on the fine work of our Diplomatic Security
operations and, quite frankly, to make sure they have the
resources. We are very much focused on that and we will be
coming back to this Congress with the needs to make sure that
we have for the 2014 budget on top of the money we have already
asked for in 2013, which is the monies we have already
Mr. Cicilline. I hope that as you implement the
recommendations of the report that you feel free to communicate
with this committee about what your needs are so that we can be
certain we are supporting the resources that you need to
successfully implement all those recommendations.
I thank you again.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Mr. Johnson of Ohio is
Mr. Johnson. Thank you, Madam Chairman. Gentlemen, first of
all, thank you for coming before our committee today and
testifying. Let me ask were either one of you in a decision
making role, either part of the decision making process to
having received the request for increased security at our
compound in Benghazi, or denying that security, or denying the
support when it was asked for in those tragic last moments?
Were either of you a decision maker?
Mr. Burns. In the run-up to the attack that took place in
Benghazi, as the ARB report makes clear, there were a number of
requests that were made by----
Mr. Johnson. Were either of you a decision maker?
Mr. Burns. No, no.
Mr. Johnson. Then I am not sure why we are talking to you
two guys. You see, I am way past the rhetoric of the YouTube
video and the ruse that the administration tried to perpetrate
on the American people in an election year. The American people
are looking for accountability. Who made these decisions that
got four Americans killed? I spent 26\1/2\ years in the Air
Force. Our troops and our diplomats that go into foreign places
in harm's way go with the knowledge of two things: One, they
understand that there is a risk, but they also understand that
they are citizens of the greatest, most powerful nation on the
planet and they go with the confidence that America is going to
do everything possible to ensure their security. It is
unconscionable to me that anyone, any American diplomat would
be in a situation where their security request would be denied
and that forces were not in place to respond when and if things
got out of control.
I want to look at a couple of things in the report. The
report says although the interagency response was timely and
appropriate--I don't know how we can say that, we got four dead
Americans--there was not enough time for military assets to
arrive and make a difference. Intelligence provided no
immediate specific tactical warning of the attacks. In other
words, we got surprised. We got surprised. One of the most
important factors in warfare is the element of surprise. And we
are at war with these seemingly visible elements of terrorist
groups like al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah. We have known about the
importance of surprise for generations and throughout the study
of the art of war. Throughout my military career I have studied
and practiced not only how to best exploit the element of
surprise to gain the advantage against our adversaries, but
also how to prevent our nation from falling victim to surprise.
To say that we had no warning when clearly there were requests
for increased security, to say that we had no warning after
repeated requests for additional security represents absolute
failure on someone's part. And I want to know who made the
decision that our Ambassador and his staff, that their lives
were not worth the risk of adequately preparing security for
what we knew was a dangerous place.
You see, the bad guys were sitting out there watching. They
were testing the soft underbelly of America's resolve. That has
been our soft underbelly since we were founded as a country.
Are we really willing to stand up and protect the individual
freedoms and liberties of the American people when the die is
cast? They were probing and they saw no response to a worsening
security situation and they caught us by surprise. It was a
The other thing the report says, that there was inadequate
leadership and management by officials in Washington. That is
why I gave you guys a back door to walk out of. You weren't
decision makers, but somebody was. That is an understatement,
that there was inadequate leadership, but to say it is excused
because it was not willful is disturbing to me. When national
security is at stake, leadership demands action, when serious
security risks put American lives at stake, and in my view the
decision makers who chose not to provide that security
demonstrated not only irresponsibility, but willful misconduct
and they should be held accountable.
Mr. Burns, you answered earlier before we had to take our
break that we were using every available resource in the State
Department to get answers to these questions. You know, the
State Department can't even muster the resources to free an
American veteran being held illegally in Mexico against his
will. I have little optimism that the State Department will
achieve positive results on bringing the murderers to justice
that killed our Ambassador and his staff. I respect that you
two are here, but I want the decision makers in front of this
Congress to answer to the American people on why we have got
four dead Americans.
Mr. Burns. Congressman, let me just say a couple of things,
first with regard to the issue of bringing to justice those
responsible for those murders. What I said was that every
resource of the U.S. Government, not just the State Department,
is being brought to bear on that, and we are absolutely
committed to that.
Mr. Johnson. I will give you that.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Johnson. But that young man is still in Mexico so----
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Nides. And--sorry.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Ambassador, and thank you
very much, Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Connolly of Virginia is recognized.
Mr. Connolly. Madam Chairman, before my clock starts I also
want to thank you for your chairmanship, for your service to
your country and to the Congress. Stop that clock, please,
somebody. And I really do appreciate how fairly and
evenhandedly you have managed this committee under your
chairmanship and I thank you. I also want to thank the ranking
member, the former chairman of this committee, who has graced
us for so many years and provided such a balanced and
thoughtful and an intelligent approach to foreign policy. He
will be missed, certainly by this Member of Congress, and I
thank you both so much for your years of service.
Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, thank you, Mr. Nides, for being
here today. Now were you both at the meeting in which senior
officials of the State Department clearly conspired to make
sure the word ``terrorism'' was blotted out from the American
lexicon at least through the election?
Mr. Burns. Congressman, there was no such meeting.
Mr. Connolly. Oh, gosh, just listening to my colleague just
now I thought there must have been such a meeting. No? Well,
certainly you were at the meeting where Ambassador Brenner was
directly told he had to stop talking about terrorism. Were you
at that meeting?
Mr. Burns. Congressman, Congressman, all I can say to you
is that this administration, the U.S. Government throughout my
30 years of service has been deeply concerned about the
Mr. Connolly. Mr. Ambassador, non-denial, were you at such
a meeting or not?
Mr. Burns. As I said, no such meeting.
Mr. Connolly. No such meeting happened. How about you, Mr.
Nides, you must have been at that meeting.
Mr. Nides. No, sir, I was not.
Mr. Connolly. Well, then one of you must have been at a
meeting in which Secretary Clinton, the President and our
Ambassador of the United Nations, Ms. Rice, Ambassador Rice
conspired to get Susan Rice on the Sunday television shows and
lie about the tragedy of Benghazi. Were you at that meeting?
Mr. Nides. No.
Mr. Burns. No, sir.
Mr. Connolly. To your knowledge was there such a meeting?
Mr. Nides. No.
Mr. Connolly. Oh, because I would have thought there must
have been. When a tragedy occurs such as this, and I am old
enough to have worked up here when Ronald Reagan was President
and we had not just one tragedy in Lebanon, we had multiple
tragedies in Lebanon. We lost our Embassy, we lost an MAU, a
Marine Amphibious Unit, that was guarding the airport, hundreds
of lives lost. I don't remember Democrats saying he had blood
on his hands. I don't remember Democrats saying that he was
conspiring to lie. When in fact shortly after he pulled out in
the dead of night from Lebanon and we then invaded Grenada, I
don't remember people questioning his integrity or his
patriotism. Some people might have questioned his judgment. But
apparently we don't have any limits anymore in foreign policy.
A tragedy occurred in Benghazi. Benghazi is inherently
unstable. Would that be a fair statement, Ambassador Burns?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir, Benghazi in that period and to this
day is still in a very unstable place.
Mr. Connolly. Have you read the report chaired by
Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen?
Mr. Burns. I certainly have.
Mr. Connolly. And did that report conclude that Susan Rice
or Secretary Clinton or Charlene Lamb for that matter were
responsible for the tragedy in Benghazi, was that the
conclusion of this report?
Mr. Burns. The report concluded very clearly that it was
terrorists who were responsible for the deaths of our 4
Mr. Connolly. Did the report conclude that there was a
deliberate or even less than deliberate effort to cover up that
fact at any time, at the time of the event or subsequently?
Mr. Burns. No, sir.
Mr. Connolly. Is it fair perhaps to conclude that in
retrospect mistakes were made within the State Department about
the allocation of resources and about the nature and extent of
security that needed to be provided to Benghazi?
Mr. Burns. It certainly is. The ARB was quite clear and
quite candid in identifying the serious systemic problems that
occurred. As we have both said before, those problems were
unacceptable. We take responsibility for them and we are
working very hard and we will continue to work hard
relentlessly to fix them.
Mr. Connolly. Mr. Ambassador, there is an old saying in
legal circles that when they say it is not about money, it is
about money. Did Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen
conclude inter alia that the focus on lack of resources imbues
all decisions by the State Department, including this one, that
decision, at the decision level managers are very aware of the
fact they have scarce resources and they are constantly
figuring out whether they can afford something or not afford
something, including security which can sometimes lead to bad
judgments. Is that a fair statement?
Mr. Nides. Yes, it is.
Mr. Connolly. And was that not in fact also part of the
conclusion made by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen?
Mr. Nides. There is no question the report indicates that
we need to examine our funding levels to make sure that we have
the resources to pay for the security and other operations that
we currently need.
Mr. Connolly. So with have no conspiracy, we have no secret
meetings plotting to cover up, we have no secret meetings
trying to pretend that the word ``terrorism'' somehow can be
blotted out of our diplomatic efforts before or after the
election, and we have a tragedy that we are trying to study to
make sure it doesn't recur, but no conclusion was drawn in this
report that it was somebody's direct responsibility and fault;
it was a series of bureaucratic decisions that might have,
might have avoided or mitigated the circumstance but no
guarantee to that and money indeed was a factor in those
Mr. Nides. Yes.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much.
Mr. Marino of Pennsylvania is recognized.
Mr. Marino. Thank you, Madam Chair. I want to thank you for
your leadership. I have learned a great deal from you.
And, Ranking Member Berman, thank you so much.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. I admire
your professionalism and your candor with us. First of all, I
would never second guess any of our personnel on the ground in
Libya. As a prosecutor, I never second guessed other district
attorneys or U.S. attorneys on a case that didn't turn out the
way they wanted to. One doesn't realize until you are in that
position. And I have the greatest respect for our military and
rely on them actually more than politicians.
But I do have a concern about why for several days,
particularly Ambassador Rice was out blaming this on a video.
And I know that you and our briefing yesterday clearly stated
that the FBI is looking into that matter, so I am not looking
for a statement from either of you on that issue because, quite
honestly, if there were a meeting to cover something up I doubt
very much if you two would have been invited.
Now, saying that, I would like to talk about dollars a
little bit and how much more we can become effective. And these
figures that I am going to recite to you, I am not trying to be
facetious, I am not trying to grandstand here, I am just trying
to get an idea of where these decisions are made. Judicial
Watch said that in 2011 about $5.6 million was spent on issues
not related to what I would consider to be State Department
issues. For example, $750,000 to restore a 16th century tomb
complex in India, $700,000 to conserve ruins in Tanzania,
$600,000 for a temple of the Winged Lions in Jordan. And I can
go on and on. And my favorite is $100,000 for a program to
document endangered musical traditions in Mali. And on top of
that another $4.5 million, this is from the New York Times, to
acquire art acquisitions for Embassies around the world through
a program called Art in Embassies.
Now, I appreciate the arts just as much as anyone else
does, but who looks at these numbers? Is there any individual
or entity that looks at these numbers and they are saying,
well, we need personnel, we need equipment, and also we need to
buy art for the Embassies? And that came to a total of about
$10.1 million. Now, I am not even going to get into how many
guards would that have hired and how much equipment could we
have purchased. And I am sure this goes on in all departments
and agencies and right here in Congress, you know, the same
things. What can we do to prioritize and take advantage of the
dollars that are there and at this point not wasting them, in
my opinion--of course someone may have a good reason--on things
like this? Would you please care to respond to that?
Mr. Nides. Congressman, as someone who comes up here on a
weekly basis and sits in front of the Appropriations Committee,
and the appropriations and the authorizing committee staff as
well, and has to justify every single dollar, and then I have
to go in and justify whatever moneys are spent to Secretary
Clinton--and you know Secretary Clinton, you know she does not
like or will stand for wasting a dime. As relates to our needs
to make sure every dime is spent correctly, we have lots and
lots of people looking at this to determine that to be the
case. There is nothing more we care about than to make sure
that every dollar that we spend is used for the security and
the infrastructure of our people.
I think we get it right 99 percent of the time. And I am
not going to comment on either one of these programs you spoke
about. We could have a conversation later if you would like to.
We can talk about each one of those programs. But I think
generally most people would suggest, certainly our authorizers
and appropriators, that we spend our money, for the money we
have, and again which is less than 1 percent of the Federal
budget, pretty effectively.
Mr. Marino. But let me say again, in explaining to my
constituents who are losing their jobs and their houses, there
is no explanation according to that.
Mr. Nides. And I appreciate that.
Mr. Marino. Ambassador, do you have any comments?
Mr. Burns. No, I don't really have anything to add to what
Tom said. It is a very good question and we weigh very, very
carefully how these resources are used in the Department.
Mr. Marino. Perhaps in the future, not only at State, but I
hope in other departments, we do have someone that takes a look
at these expenditures, and I would have rather seen over $10
million go toward our Embassies for protection.
I yield back. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Marino.
Mr. Berman, the ranking member, is recognized.
Mr. Berman. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. I would
like to put into the record a----
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Without objection.
Mr. Berman [continuing]. Congressional Research Service
report detailing how much was requested by the administration
and how much was funded and appropriated by the Congress, both
for the personnel for Worldwide Security Protection and for
Embassy Security Construction and Maintenance accounts.
Needless to say, the amount shows in each of the last 3
fiscal years cuts by the Congress from the requested amount,
particularly in construction, maintenance, and Embassy
Secondly, we talk about what programs money was spent on
and if they were a higher priority. My guess is if we looked at
our own congressional budget we could see programs that the
people in our districts might not be that excited about. But on
the issue of global climate change the Congress has
appropriated out of the foreign assistance program for 3 fiscal
years--Fiscal Year 2010, $507 million; Fiscal Year 2011, $522
million; Fiscal Year 2012, $481.5 million--the request this
year is a lesser amount. We haven't completed the
appropriations process for the year that began in October 1st,
but the administration requested $469 million. The money spent
on bilateral foreign assistance programs for climate change is
appropriated by the Congress. That is just the bilateral
assistance, it doesn't cover assistance going to the World
And finally I have a question for Ambassador Burns. I am
told a Fox News report today titled ``State Department Official
Suggests Libya Warnings Went to the Top,'' implies that
Secretary Clinton knew about the request for security at the
post in Benghazi. It cites something that you said this
morning. I have to admit I didn't watch television to see the
hearing this morning so I don't know what it is they are
referring to, but I think it is misinterpreting, from what I
understand, what you did say this morning; so I want to clear
it up. Did Secretary Clinton know about the request for
additional security? Did she know that requests had been denied
or that some of our folks on the ground thought that the post
was inadequately secured?
Mr. Burns. No, Congressman, she did not. As I mentioned in
response to an earlier question this afternoon, the ARB report
makes very clear that the specific security requests for
Benghazi were dealt with at the bureau level, and the ARB is
very clear in highlighting the importance of fixing the
problems which existed there. So those specific security
requests came up to the bureau level.
That is distinct from general assessments of the security
situation overall in Libya, including in eastern Libya, which
the Secretary and others of us did see from time to time. And
it did paint a troubling picture of the deterioration of the
overall security situation in Libya, and in particular the
weakness and incapacity of Libyan Government security
institutions. And that is something that a number of us who
visited Libya, including the Secretary, stressed to the Libyan
authorities. And we have made concrete offers of assistance,
along with some of our European partners and others, to try to
help the new interim government in Libya develop those security
Mr. Berman. Thank you very much. And I yield back Madam
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much Mr. Berman.
Mr. Duncan of South Carolina is recognized.
Mr. Duncan. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and your leadership
will be missed on this committee, but we are looking forward to
Just want to say that words mean something, and they should
mean something. And I am glad that we are all finally in
agreement that this instance was a terrorist attack. It took
some in the administration a little longer to get there. But I
noticed on page 1 of the ARB's report that the ongoing
investigation is labeled an ongoing criminal investigation when
I think it should be labeled a U.S. terrorist investigation,
but maybe the same people that worded that also are the ones
that called the Fort Hood massacre an incident of workforce or
workplace violence. Words mean something.
The ARB report points out a tremendous number of failures,
and your testimony here today states that they are being
addressed, and I appreciate that. I think they should be
addressed for the safety and security of diplomatic personnel
all over the world. But there are still many unanswered
questions, especially about how do we protect and defend
diplomatic corps and our sovereign territory, which is what
Americans see our Embassies and our missions and our consulates
as, little slices of U.S. territory located around the world.
And let me just back up and say, you know, when we talk
about labeling the incident in Benghazi a terrorist attack,
even the President of the United States on the 12th said in his
statement that no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve.
He labeled it a terrorist attack the day after, and then they,
after that, subsequently labeled it other things about a video.
But what was the U.S. military's force posture in the region at
the time of the attacks and the resulting ability of the U.S.
Armed Forces to respond in the event of an attack like this?
Mr. Burns. Well, Congressman, I can't describe in detail
the precise force posture of the U.S. military in North Africa
and the Mediterranean at that time. Admiral Mullen spoke to
this publicly after the release of the ARB report when he
explained that, given the speed of events and the pace of the
attack, that there simply was not enough time for U.S. military
forces in the region to have been used effectively to avoid
what happened in Benghazi.
Mr. Duncan. Was there a military liaison or attache at the
Embassy in Tripoli?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir.
Mr. Duncan. So he should have been the one to coordinate
any response from a military standpoint working with the
Department of State?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir. And the Embassy was very actively
involved, in fact, and they chartered a plane within 2\1/2\
hours of the attack beginning in Tripoli and moved a reaction
force of about seven security personnel from the Embassy in
Tripoli to Benghazi that night. So they moved very quickly and
professionally, just as the ARB report makes clear.
Mr. Duncan. Let's just assume that there were military
personnel in the area that could have responded. Were there any
international agreements or over-fly rules that prevented
immediate U.S. military action from taking place?
Mr. Burns. No. Our priority at the time, if we could have
moved forces fast enough to make a difference in that attack,
that is certainly what we would have done. But as you know from
the report, the first intensive part of the attack took place
in less than an hour in the special mission compound. It
resulted through fire in the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and
Sean Smith. And then there was a period of a number of hours of
fairly sporadic firing. It appeared as if the incident was
dying down. And then there was a second very intense attack at
Mr. Duncan. Well, I am going to assume that there were
military assets in place that could have responded rapidly.
Were there overflight rules in place or anything that would
have prevented the United States military from taking action?
Mr. Burns. I am not aware of anything that would have
prevented us from taking action to try to protect our people
had there been time to do it. The issue, as Admiral Mullen
pointed out yesterday, was simply the pace of events and the
Mr. Duncan. Okay. Was the Joint Chiefs of Staff advising
President Obama on how best to utilize the military resources
to rescue the American Ambassador?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir. To the best of my knowledge there was
a previously scheduled meeting at 5 p.m.--in the midst of the
attack going on--between the President, Secretary Panetta and
General Dempsey in which they discussed the ongoing situation.
And so the President had the benefit of the best advice from
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs at that time. And from
everything I understand, the President was committed and
instructed all of his officials to do everything possible.
There simply wasn't enough time at that point to bring U.S.
Mr. Duncan. How long did this attack last?
Mr. Burns. The first part of the attack lasted for less
than an hour at the special mission compound at Benghazi. And
then, as I said, there was a period of a number of hours of
kind of sporadic firing from time to time. And then the second
intense part of the attack took place in about 15 minutes, from
roughly 5:15 in the morning to 5:30 at the annex, which was
about 700 meters away.
Mr. Duncan. How long was it until we found out that our
Ambassador was dead?
Mr. Burns. As I can reconstruct it, it was about 4:15 in
the morning when one of the locally engaged staff from Benghazi
informed the team that I mentioned had come from Tripoli and
was at the airport that Ambassador Stevens was confirmed dead.
Mr. Duncan. Okay. One other question. I am out of time. But
we have Marines in Buenos Aires guarding the Embassy down
there. It is not a threat country. Libya is. Why weren't there
United States Marines in a country that we knew was a threat to
this country and to our assets there? And I will yield back.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
And now Mr. Turner of New York is recognized.
Mr. Turner. Thank you Madam Chair. And thank you for your
leadership during my brief time here.
The security lapses and misstatements surrounding the
attack in Benghazi I think have been covered rather thoroughly
and I have very little to add. But these failures maybe speak a
policy mindset of some disengagement in the epic worldwide
battle, not simply between radical Islam and the West, but
within Islam between the democratic forces and totalitarianism.
Our seeming failures to engage and support the democratic
forces have marginalized our intelligence efforts and our own
effectiveness in positively influencing political and strategic
outcomes. As a matter of state policy, are we indeed somewhat
disengaged? Are we doing what we can to promote and support
democracy in the Muslim world? Are we establishing the right
relationships and communications channels that might have
obviated this problem in Benghazi?
Mr. Burns. Congressman, we are not at all disengaged. In
fact, over the course of the last 2 years, as we have seen the
Arab awakening bring profound changes across the Arab world,
the United States has been very active in making clear our
support for the dignity and the universal rights the people
across that region deserve. And that has produced revolutions,
the pursuit of dignity by those people, and it has also
produced some very complicated transitions, transitions, which
hold a great deal of promise in terms of people eventually
being able to build political institutions that will protect
those universal rights. But it has also produced a lot of
dangers: The danger that power vacuums develop, the danger that
others, extremist groups, will seek to hijack the promise of
The United States cannot afford to be disengaged in the
face of those kinds of challenges. There is risk involved, and
we faced some of that in an extraordinarily painful way in
Libya. But we have to be engaged, we have to do what we can to
support successful transitions and ultimately the emergence of
institutions which are going to protect people's dignity and
produce over the long term partners with whom the United States
can work on important issues around the world.
Mr. Turner. Thank you.
Would you like to add anything, Mr. Nides?
Mr. Nides. I don't think there is anyone who is more
eloquent in speaking than Ambassador Burns, I will let the
Mr. Turner. I would have to agree with that. Thank you. I
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much Mr. Turner.
And I believe that our last question will be Mr. Mike
Kelly, we are in good hands, the vice chair of the Subcommittee
on Asia and the Pacific. Thank you, Mike.
Mr. Kelly. I thank you, Madam Chair. And again, my first
time in Congress was very privileged to serve with you, and I
appreciate your leadership. Mr. Berman, we are going to miss
Ambassador Burns, when you talk about, and I keep hearing
about resources, only 1 percent of the budget, that doesn't
sound like very much money. So what is our budget?
Mr. Nides. Our budget is $50 billion.
Mr. Kelly. $50 billion.
Mr. Nides. That is correct. That is approximately 8 percent
of the defense budget.
Mr. Kelly. Okay. So when people hear 1 percent, doesn't
sound like a lot of money, but $50 billion is certainly a lot
of money. When we talk about resources, and I am trying to
understand because I have listened to a couple of different
briefings, I heard Mr. Pickering and Admiral Mullen, I have
heard you gentlemen today. And I think maybe you are not the
folks that should be here because, as Mr. Johnson pointed out,
you aren't really part of the decision-making process. But what
I am trying to understand, what I can't get my mind wrapped
around, is everybody says this was a very unstable and highly
volatile area. Then why, for God sake, would we take out the
best trained people we have? Why? Why did we move the SST team?
Was it because of money?
Mr. Nides. Well, as you are aware, as we spoke about
Mr. Kelly. It is just a yes or no. Was it because of money?
Mr. Nides. No.
Mr. Kelly. No, it wasn't because of money, because we know
the SST team really came out of the Department of Defense
budget, right? So it didn't have anything to do with your
Mr. Nides. The SST team, as you are aware, was in Tripoli,
Mr. Kelly. No, I am aware where they were, and also aware
that Lieutenant Colonel Woods had begged to stay there. Mr.
Nordstrom, with the regional office, had begged to stay there.
Ms. Lamb said it wasn't because of money that they couldn't
stay. Somebody made a really bad decision.
Now, I don't have any idea of the voting registration of
Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Mr. Woods, Mr. Doherty, I have
no idea how any of these folks were registered. So for me it is
not a matter of it being a partisan issue. We have four dead
Americans. I am trying for the life of me to understand how
when we say--and I have read Ambassador Cretz, when he was
leaving there, you know what everybody says about the area? It
is a Wild West show, nobody is in charge, we are in a host
country that can't supply us with the assets that we need.
What in the world were we thinking? Why would we pull out
people and make our Ambassador more vulnerable? What were we
doing? And who made the decision? And if neither one of you
made the decision say I didn't have anything to do with it.
Because what I am finding out in this administration, that
nobody had anything to do with it. If you had anything to do
with it just say I had something to do with it and I made the
Mr. Nides. No.
Mr. Kelly. Neither one of you?
Mr. Nides. That did not have anything to do with it. That
said, we do need to make sure----
Mr. Kelly. Okay. Are you aware of a GAO request in 2009 to
do a review because they thought it was woefully--the strategic
review of our Embassies that were not taken and it was a
strategic problem, a security problem? Any of you aware of
that? We had a hearing on the October 10th. GAO was in here,
said to this day the Department of State has not responded or
done the review. Now, I find it interesting now we are going to
do the review. It is a little bit late. So that hasn't take
place. Now, I want to ask you, in addition to the four dead
Americans, how many people were wounded that night?
Mr. Burns. I think there were three Americans who were
wounded and one of the wounded is still in Walter Reed
Hospital, one of our colleagues.
Mr. Kelly. Just one of them?
Mr. Burns. I am not certain.
Mr. Kelly. Any idea of how bad they were injured?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir. I mean, the gentleman, our colleague,
who is at Walter Reed, was injured very badly.
Mr. Kelly. Very badly. Okay.
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir.
Mr. Kelly. So whenever we found out this attack took place
how long did it take us to get there, to fly to get there to
help those people out that we knew were wounded? We knew we had
dead, we knew we had wounded. How long did it take to get there
and where did the plane leave from and where did it land?
Mr. Burns. There was a plane that left from Tripoli within,
as I mentioned before, about 2\1/2\ hours.
Mr. Kelly. Where did the flight originate, do you know?
Mr. Burns. In Tripoli.
Mr. Kelly. So it was sitting in Tripoli?
Mr. Burns. No. It was a chartered aircraft that the Embassy
chartered as soon as they found out that the attacks----
Mr. Kelly. So where did the chartered airplane take off
from to get----
Mr. Burns. Tripoli.
Mr. Kelly. Tripoli?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir.
Mr. Kelly. So it flew to Benghazi?
Mr. Burns. Yes, sir.
Mr. Kelly. How long did it sit on the tarmac?
Mr. Burns. It sat on the tarmac--well, the team was there
for about 3 hours while they were trying to determine what had
happened to Ambassador Stevens.
Mr. Kelly. Okay. So they couldn't get off the tarmac. So we
flew them from Benghazi. Where did we fly them back to?
Mr. Burns. I am sorry, fly?
Mr. Kelly. The plane, you said it flew from Tripoli.
Mr. Burns. Yes.
Mr. Kelly. To Benghazi.
Mr. Burns. Went to Benghazi.
Mr. Kelly. Picked up our dead and our wounded?
Mr. Burns. That is right.
Mr. Kelly. And where did it fly to then?
Mr. Burns. To Tripoli.
Mr. Kelly. To Tripoli?
Mr. Burns. Yes.
Mr. Kelly. And then where did they eventually get their
Mr. Burns. Well, they got immediate medical care there
first in Benghazi, then in Tripoli, and an Embassy nurse
behaved heroically during that period.
Mr. Kelly. I understand that. Where did the plane land
Mr. Burns. Then they were evacuated to Germany.
Mr. Kelly. Germany. And when did we evacuate our people in
Mr. Burns. It was within a few hours----
Mr. Kelly. Of the attack?
Mr. Burns [continuing]. That they returned to Tripoli.
Mr. Kelly. Okay. A great deal of time. See, the timelines
really get me confused here. And I think people were waiting to
hear can we land, can we not land, can we get our people out,
can we not get our people out. There is a great deal of time
that evolved in between. And really, listen, I am not blaming
you two because you two really shouldn't be here today, the
Secretary of State should be here today. She can't be here. I
understand she is injured, and I respect that. But there is
something wrong here.
And I am going to tell you this, that the American people
should wonder what happened that night and why it took so long.
But before that, why, why would we pull the best trained people
we have out of an area that is called, it was a dangerous spot,
it was a high risk, it was a high threat, and we made it a soft
target. That is what I heard from Admiral Mullen, it was a soft
target. We actually emboldened those folks that were there that
night to say, you know, come and get us. We pulled out all our
people. Do you know who we replaced the SST team with? Libyan
nationals at $4 an hour, unarmed? And that is the way we
respond to high-risk areas, that is how we respond to areas
that are volatile, that is how we respond to areas that are in
the worst spots possible?
You know, the same time that we were doing this, do you
know what we were doing in Vienna? We had a big party, the
green initiative. We put in a $108,000 electric charging
station for two electric cars, we had a champagne party, we
talked about how great we were in this green initiative. But
you know what I don't understand is how in the world could we
leave our people in Benghazi so vulnerable.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Kelly.
Mr. Kelly. And if it is about resources that is baloney,
and you know it and I know it. And I for one am really
disappointed in the way the Secretary of State and Department
of State has handled this?
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you Mr. Kelly.
Mr. Fortenberry, the vice chair of the Subcommittee on
Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, is recognized?
Mr. Fortenberry. Thank you, Madam Chair, for holding this
important hearing. Although this might be a bit discomforting I
must divert and address something that happened earlier in this
hearing. I don't care to be lectured to about the need to be
bipartisan, particularly in such an intolerant and uncivil
Now, this is an important hearing, there are serious
questions here, and to suggest that our motives are a ruse for
political motivation to me is disrespectful and discourteous
and I think unworthy of the levity of this important matter. So
gentlemen, I want to thank you for coming and your willingness
to address in a professional manner hard questions that are
before you today. I also do look forward to hearing from
Secretary Clinton when she is available and wish her the best
After meeting with Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen
recently I am confident that they did a thorough job with the
Accountability Review Board. Theirs was a sobering and daunting
task and I think they gave us a good strong framework for
future guidance. However, there are still some unanswered
questions. You have touched on them at length today, but I have
got to go back to a few. Many people see the administration's
public commentary in the aftermath of Benghazi as misleading.
The video narrative was given as the primary explanation of the
deadly assault and this was wrong. You have suggested so.
I can see how there might have been an initial discussion
of the potential linkage of the video given the incidents,
particularly in Cairo, to the suggestion that that was a motive
for the attack. But I also think the video narrative reflects a
certain tendency at State perhaps to inordinately place hope
and good will and civil society, deemphasizing the harsh
realities that there are enemies out there who could
potentially conduct a coordinated attack on our facilities. Our
officials quickly knew that we were dealing with a premeditated
terrorist attack, but the video narrative persisted. Can you
Mr. Burns. Well, Congressman, I would say a couple of
things. First, I have learned in more than 30 years in the
Foreign Service to understand harsh realities very clearly. It
is a very complicated world, especially in the Middle East, and
it can be a very risky landscape. And I can assure you that our
diplomatic missions understand that very well, and we certainly
do in Washington as well. As I tried to explain before, the
officials, the administration officials who addressed this
issue, and the intelligence community professionals, on whom
they depended, acted in good faith.
This was a terrorist attack and we tried to address that
plainly at the start. What was unclear were the exact
composition of the attackers, their motives, how this came
about; whether it was more a target of opportunity or something
that had been planned well in advance. And those issues are
still the subject of investigation. But there was no protest,
there was no demonstration that took place before the attack. I
am sure my colleagues in the intelligence community wish that
they could have come to that conclusion more quickly. It did
take a period of several days to debrief the survivors of the
attack in Benghazi. And then as soon as my colleagues in the
intelligence community were able to conclude there was no
protest, there was no demonstration, they were up here to brief
you and your colleagues on that.
As I said, Congressman, the truth is people operated in
good faith. I have been through a number of these kinds of
crises in the past. The first stages of them are often
confusing and you are sifting through lots of conflicting
information. I honestly do not believe that there was ever an
attempt to misrepresent or mislead anyone?
Mr. Fortenberry. I guess the question becomes then, what
was communicated to the White House and the State Department
during the Benghazi attack?
Mr. Burns. Well, during the attack, sir, there was very
intensive communication between our Embassy in Tripoli, our
people on the ground in Benghazi. You know, the ARB looked very
carefully at this issue, and their conclusion, and I respect
it, is that there was a very professional and systematic
communication and decision-making between Washington and the
field during this period. And the President was actively
engaged, certainly Secretary Clinton was very actively engaged
throughout that awful night.
Mr. Fortenberry. There is a letter from several United
States Senators to the President in early October, nearly a
month after the attack, asking for more fullness of
explanation. So you have again a video narrative still churning
out there as one possible explanation. Some conflicting
viewpoints, publicly stated, I accept that, you are correct.
But there was no answer to that letter asking for a full
unpacking of what information was to be had given what we
clearly know now. And they asked for information again at the
end of October. So I think you can understand why there are
questions as to why this has persisted for so long and
suggestions that why is there an intention to potentially
Mr. Burns. All I can say, Congressman, again, is I honestly
do not believe there was ever any intention to mislead or
misrepresent. There were some inaccuracies in the original
Mr. Fortenberry. Can you explain the delay in response?
Mr. Burns. I am sorry, response?
Mr. Fortenberry. Well, I am looking at a letter from
Senator Graham and McCain and Ayotte and Johnson.
Mr. Burns. No, I mean, we owe you straight answers to
Mr. Fortenberry. Okay. Well, again, thank you for your
professionalism, your dedication. I appreciate your willingness
to come today.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Fortenberry.
Gentlemen, thank you again for your testimony. Please
convey to the Secretary our wish for her speedy and full
recovery. We look forward to her testimony here before mid-
And, ladies and gentlemen, it has been a thrill to have
been the chairman of this committee but for a minute, and it
has been a delight to serve with my ranking member, Mr. Berman.
Mr. Berman. You are a true friend.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. And with that the
committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:50 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing RecordNotice deg.
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Letter submitted for the record by the Honorable Howard L. Berman, a
Representative in Congress from the State of California
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Congressional Research Service report submitted for the record by the
Honorable Howard L. Berman, a Representative in Congress from the State
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