WRITTEN BY CHRISS W. STREET
The Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 requires after any major security incident at a diplomatic facility the U.S. State Department convene an official Accountability Review Board. Due to death of Americans at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the State Department established The Benghazi Accountability Review Board. Despite prior precedent of delivering these reports to all Bureau of Diplomatic Security personnel who provide security around the world and hold top secret clearances, the report and its findings were released on Dec. 18, 2012 only to “DS Seniors.” This concealment of vital “lessons learned” explains why America was so unprepared to defend its facilities and people, that the United States State Department closed 19 embassies last week and gave al Qaeda a big victory.
Following security lapses that led to attacks on U.S. facilities in Beirut and Kuwait in the 1980s, Congress demanded the formation of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, which was chaired by former Deputy CIA Director Bobby Inman. The Inman Commission produced a set of recommendations requiring the State Department to benefit from “lessons learned” by taking steps to avoid future failures.
Congress legislated Inman Commission recommendations into law as the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986. The law requires that within 60 days of injury, property damage, loss of life or serious breach of a diplomatic mission’s intelligence activities, the State Department must convene an accountability review board and produce a report. Within 90 days after filing a report, the Secretary of State must inform Congress of measures taken to implement the report’s recommendations.
But on February 1, 2013, just 45 days after the Benghazi Accountability Review Board Report was issued, Hillary Clinton resigned as Secretary of State and John Kerry replaced her. Unlike classified reports regarding security failures in the past, there were no security personnel on the Benghazi Accountability Review Board. According to Stratfor Global Intelligence, the Benghazi report also not distributed to personnel within the Diplomatic Security Service who possess “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearances and are directly assigned to operational security at individual embassies around the world.
Security staff members in the past received the accountability review board reports from the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam; Tanzania, the 2002 assassination of Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan; the 2004 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; the September 2005 deaths of DSS Special Agent Stephen Sullivan and seven security contractors in Mosul, Iraq; and the January 2008 assassination of John Granville in Khartoum, Sudan.
On May 20, 2013 the U.S. State Department released under the title, Diplomacy In Action, a highly sanitized public version of the review board’s report containing only 24 of the 29 recommendations. The regional security officers accountable every day for protecting threatened diplomatic missions and staff, their supervisors, and support personnel in Washington DC, do not know what are in the five secret Benghazi recommendations and are unable to implement the full recommendations of the report.
There may be political value in withholding any embarrassing information from the public regarding the September 11, 2012 security failures at the Benghazi, Libya diplomatic mission. But there is no excuse for magnifying the risks to State Department embassies and personnel by withholding the full report of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board Report from the professionals with direct daily responsibility to ensure the security of U.S. diplomatic facilities and staff.
The closing of 19 embassies over the last week is a victory for al Qaeda, who demonstrated that the United States does not believe it can protect its own facilities and staff. The State Department’s continued unwillingness to acknowledge and accept that lessons must be learned from Benghazi and other failures will embolden our enemies to attack Americans around the world.