State Dept. Undersecretary Kennedy Signed Off on Benghazi Security Memo

Image: State Dept. Undersecretary Kennedy Signed Off on Benghazi Security Memo

Saturday, 22 Jun 2013 11:57 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A review of internal State Department memos and congressional testimony shows that the decision to keep personnel at the Benghazi embassy in Libya, but at a lower level of security, was signed by State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy.

Fox News reports that nine months before the Sept. 11 attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stephens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Kennedy received an internal memo concerning the embassy. The December 2011 document, sent by then-Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, called for rapidly implementing corrective security measures, but none were made, with exception to the height of the embassy's wall, according to testimony by Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom to the House Oversight Committee.

Part of the problem may have been that Benghazi was not referred to as a consulate in the internal memo, which may have exempted it from mandatory Overseas Security Policy Board security standards. Fox reports the State Department's emails show it was insistent the White House not call the Benghazi embassy a consulate, but instead a "mission" or "diplomatic post."

The memo also revealed other State Department goals for Benghazi, including being able to "monitor political trends (Islamists, tribes, political parties, militias) and public sentiment regarding the 'new Libya,' as well as report on the critical period leading up to and through Libya's first post Qaddafi election."

However, Nordstrom repeatedly warned that the Benghazi site was still "undefined," and months before the attack, he worried that the site never met federal standards for security.
Former state officials told Fox that Kennedy, who was responsible for overseas building operations and security that should have followed strict OSPB standards.

"I find it very hard to believe that he (Kennedy) would sign this memo without having talked to Secretary Clinton or at least Deputy Secretary (William) Burns," former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said. "Keeping this position open in Benghazi is a policy decision. It's a policy decision that overrides normal security considerations. And I think that's significant enough that a careerist like Undersecretary Kennedy would not do it on his own."

According to the OSPB, strict standards can't be waived in locations that provide diplomatic services. But Nordstrom said "more importantly, senior decision makers in the Department, including the U/S for Management, determined that funding would not be provided in order to bring the facilities into compliance with the aforementioned standards," he said.

After leader Muammar Quaddafi's fall in 2011, several factions came into the region and more than 16,000 criminals were released. But that November, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the United States had committed $40 million to help Libya secure and recover its weapons stockpiles.

Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the memo isn't important, and that the policy question was dealt with before the House Oversight Committee last fall.

"Let me just say on this particular memo, it's been available to the House of
Representatives since October. It was discussed in October in a hearing on the House side and in many, many, many briefings. It was even posted -- this sensitive document was posted on the website as well," Psaki said.


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