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Politics

Florida Republicans: ‘Stronger Leadership’ Needed to Avoid Sequel to Benghazi

December 18, 2012 - 6:00pm

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, slammed the State Department following the release of a scathing report that outlined the security failures at the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.

Three State Department officials, including two who oversaw the security decisions in Libya, have already stepped down since the report by the Accountability Review Board on the deadly Sept. 11 attack was released on Tuesday.

This report makes clear that the State Department ignored warnings and security concerns from the intelligence community, leading to a preventable attack that cost four American lives. This failure of leadership is unacceptable, Rooney, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, stated in a release.

Our investigation into the terrorist attack in Benghazi isnt about finger pointing; this is about figuring out what went wrong so we can prevent future attacks. We need stronger leadership at the State Department, we need the administration to heed warnings from the intelligence community, and we need significantly better security at our diplomatic posts around the world.

Rooney had previously questioned whether the U.S. is prepared should similar terrorist attacks occur at our other consulates.

House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, called the report a portrait of systematic failures at the State Department and other federal agencies.

If they would not spend money on programs like climate change, there are funds available," she said. "Any requests for additional security in Benghazi would have been taken care of, and no such requests were made.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took a shot at the White House leadership saying the report shows that better protection and swifter military response could have saved Stevens and the other Americans.

Despite all of the information available to them, the State Department failed to construct an adequate safety plan, declined to provide sufficient security personnel and failed to consider closing the mission given the growing threat, Rubio stated in a release.

This is evidence of a flawed process to access and provide security for our diplomats. Such oversight failure and neglect is unacceptable. He also called on Secretary Hillary Clinton to address the Foreign Relations Committee and put in place a process to ensure this never happens again.

Deputy Secretaries of State William Burns and Thomas Nides will testify before House and Senate committees, including Ros-Lehtinens committee, on Thursday.Clinton has been recuperating from a concussion suffered when she fainted last week.

The independent Accountability Review Board report cited "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department were in part responsible for the terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

The report, which recommends increased security and improved intelligence collection in highly dangerous zones, notes that a lack of resources played a hand in the deaths.

But more blame was placed on how State Department administrators handled requests for increased security and that on the night of the attack, with Libyan mission guards not present and the local militia running away from their assignments, there wasnt time for armed U.S. military to make a difference.

Washington tended "to overemphasize the positive impact of physical security upgrades ... while generally failing to meet Benghazi's repeated requests," the report stated.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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