Saturday, September 14, 2013

State could have fired employees over Benghazi attack, says Pickering

By Julian Pecquet 09/14/13 06:00 AM ET

The State Department could have fired two employees over last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, the chairman of the independent panel that investigated the crime told The Hill.

“Our report recommended two people should leave their jobs, nothing more, nothing less,” former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, the chairman of the Accountability Review Board, told The Hill in an e-mail.

Asked if that meant firing or reassignment, he said “either,” but that it was “up to the Department of State.”

“We left open their staying on in the Department,” Pickering said.

The department instead announced last month that it has reassigned the two employees, along with two others who were also faulted by the panel but weren't singled out for disciplinary action.

That decision is expected to come under stark criticism next week when the House rekindles its Benghazi investigation following the first anniversary of the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last Sept. 11.

Pickering's comments mark the first public suggestion that two of them could have been fired as a result of Benghazi. The ARB report, released in December, faulted “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” at high levels of the State Department for inadequate security at the U.S. mission.

The ARB stopped short of officially recommending disciplinary action, however, because it lacked the authority to do so absent a finding of “breach of duty.” The State Department has repeatedly highlighted that fact to explain its decision not to fire anyone.