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Chaffetz: More State Department resignations may come

Published December 19, 2012 7:02 pm

Politics • Utahn promises continued investigation into Benghazi attack.
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Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who has been at the forefront in criticizing the Obama administration over the U.S. consulate attack in Libya, says the resignation of three State Department officials was "appropriate" but more questions remain and others may have to follow suit.

"I still have a number of additional questions for some of the more senior leadership," said Chaffetz, who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on foreign operations. "These decisions went higher up the food chain than just those people."

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died when the consulate in Benghazi was attacked in September. The administration initially blamed the deaths on a mob prompted by an anti-Islamic video but later investigation showed it was a heavily armed group that attacked the compound and a nearby CIA annex.

Unclassified portions of an internal State Department review released Tuesday night concluded that scarce security at the consulate contributed to the deaths and that the temporary, rotating deployment of personnel at the site left gaping holes in the protection of the consulate.

"Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department [resulted] in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," the report states.

Chaffetz, who visited Libya shortly after the Sept. 11 attack, said he was disappointed the State Department investigation didn't hold specific individuals accountable and noted that a classified version of the report — which he said he can't speak about — contains more information that should be made public.

"I want to make sure that people are held accountable and the State Department is making the changes necessary," Chaffetz said.

An administration official told The Washington Post that the resigned officials include: Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security; Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security; and an unnamed official with the Bureau of Near East Affairs.

Earlier, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state following unflagging criticism by Republicans of her public comments characterizing the attack.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the Benghazi attack in October and plans more hearings once the Senate and House foreign relations committees have a chance to question Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials.

Chaffetz says the State Department report isn't the final word.

"My subcommittee will continue to pursue an investigation into this tragedy," he said Wednesday.

tburr@sltrib.com