Four officials are out at State Department following ARB report — does the buck stop with them?

Four State Deparment officials have been removed from their posts after the Accountability Review Board criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Three of the four have been identified by name. They are Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who had responsibility for North Africa. The fourth official is said to be another official in the diplomatic security office.

Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary for management, apparently will keep his job, even though he has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to Congress. A blogger who monitors goings on at Foggy Bottom suggests that the State Department is erecting a firewall to protect officials at the Undersecretary level and higher.

The ARB report did not criticize Kennedy or other officials at that level. However, it did find that there was a culture of “husbanding resources” at senior levels of the State Department, and that this culture contributed to the security deficiencies in Benghazi. According to the report, the culture at State “had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation.”

The ouster of Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary with responsibility for North Africa, raises questions too. For example, what specific decisions, if any, did he make that contributed to the Benghazi fiasco, and were those decisons signed off on by his superiors. Also, the ARB report noted that there had been worrisome incidents in Benghazi in the weeks before the attack that should have led to increased security. Wouldn’t/shouldn’t some of Maxwell’s superiors have been aware of these developments? Wouldn’t/shouldn’t they have acted to make sure that security would be increased?

Congress apparently intends to pursue the question of whether, and to what extent, blame should be assigned higher up the chain. Rep. Ed Royce, the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that “the degree that others bear responsibility warrants Congressional review, given the report’s rather sweeping indictment.” And, he added, “the Foreign Affairs Committee must hear from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton concerning her role, which this report didn’t address.”

Royce is right — his committee does need to hear from Clinton. But any way you slice this, it was her management team that provided “grossly inadequate security” and authored the “systemic failure of leadership.”

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