Panel seeks accountability after Benghazi attacks

Wed Dec 5, 2012 1:07am EST
 
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By Tabassum Zakaria and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After a car bomb struck the U.S. ambassador's residence in Lima in 1992, the State Department convened a special panel to answer the same questions now hovering over a review of the September attacks in Benghazi, Libya: How much security is enough? What is the right role for U.S. diplomats?

The Lima panel, known as an Accountability Review Board, issued a final report "that didn't find anybody had been delinquent," former U.S. Ambassador to Peru Anthony Quainton said. That report was never made public.

Whether the report by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, expected to be completed in mid-December, comes to the same conclusion could affect the arc of a controversy that has seen the Obama White House subjected to withering criticism over security arrangements in Libya and the administration's shifting explanations of the violence.

The attacks on the diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA annex in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and raised questions about the adequacy of security in far-flung posts.

The panel, led by veteran diplomatic heavyweight Thomas Pickering, is expected to consider whether enough attention was given to potential threats and how Washington responded to security requests from U.S. diplomats in Libya.

A determination that top State Department officials turned down those requests, as Republican congressional investigators allege, could refuel criticism - and possibly even end some officials' careers.

Also in the balance is the future of funding for embassy security and of a policy, known as "expeditionary diplomacy," under which envoys deploy to conflict zones more often than in the past.

Central questions raised after the Benghazi attack include why the ambassador was in such an unstable part of Libya on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.   Continued...

 
An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori