U.S. Diplomats, Relieved After Libyan Attack, Are Reinstated

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WASHINGTON -- Four midlevel State Department officials who were placed on administrative leave after the deadly attack last year on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, have been reinstated by Secretary of State John Kerry and were given new assignments on Tuesday, the department confirmed.

Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said that an internal analysis by the department had reaffirmed the findings of an earlier independent review that "saw serious concerns or concerns with some of the steps and actions of these four individuals" but did not determine that there had been any "breach of duty." She would not elaborate.

The department's handling of the terrorist attacks, a chaotic episode on Sept. 11 in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died, has been fiercely criticized, particularly from conservatives, who said the Obama administration had provided inadequate protection for its diplomats, failed to respond to signs of trouble brewing in Benghazi, and misrepresented the events of that day.

Word of the reinstatements brought a sharp rebuke from one Republican critic, Representative Darrell Issa of California. 

"Obama administration officials repeatedly promised the families of victims and the American people that officials responsible for security failures would be held accountable," Mr. Issa, the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

He added: "Instead of accountability, the State Department offered a charade that included false reports of firings and resignations and now ends in a game of musical chairs where no one misses a single day on the State Department payroll." Mr. Issa said he would expand his committee's continuing investigation of the Benghazi attacks to include the decision to reinstate the four employees.

Charlene R. Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for embassy security, and another official in the diplomatic security office whom officials would not identify were relieved of their duties late last year. So was Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary with responsibility for North Africa. Eric J. Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, resigned.

The independent review, led by Thomas R. Pickering, a former ambassador, criticized officials in the State Department's Bureau for Diplomatic Security as having shown  a "lack of proactive leadership," and said that some officials in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs "showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi's security issues." 

Ms. Harf said during a regular briefing that that review was not wrong in its analysis, but that the State Department had taken into account "the totality of these four employees' overall careers at the State Department."

"And what we found in that review is that many of them -- they have served honorably, often in very tough places," she said.

The four officials, who had remained in professional limbo since December, will face no formal disciplinary action.

Mr. Maxwell told The Daily Beast, which first reported the reinstatements on Monday, that he had received a memo from the State Department human resources department directing him to report to work on Tuesday. "No explanation, no briefing, just come back to work," he was quoted as saying. Ms. Harf would not specify what positions the four will now occupy. 

Despite efforts by some critics to lay partial blame for the Benghazi episode on Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was then secretary of state, Mr. Pickering did not question her during his review, saying it was clear that responsibility lay at lower levels. In Congressional testimony before stepping down, Mrs. Clinton said that as leader of the department she bore ultimate responsibility.

Since the Benghazi attacks, the State Department has taken an array of steps to improve diplomatic security in risky locations.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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