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December 19. 2012 8:46PM

State Department officials resign under pressure over Benghazi killings

WASHINGTON - Three senior U.S. State Department officials were asked to resign after an official inquiry harshly criticized their offices for failing to provide adequate security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, before it came under attack in September, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security; one of his deputies, Charlene Lamb; and an unnamed official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs were asked to step down because of the inquiry panel's report, which did not fault Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in connection with the attack.

State Department officials declined to comment on the matter, saying it was a personnel issue. The Associated Press first reported that the three officials had resigned.

An unclassified version of the report released Tuesday by the State Department concluded that the mission was completely unprepared to deal with a Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans..

"We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks," retired Admiral Michael Mullen, one of the leaders of the inquiry, told reporters on Wednesday.

The inquiry's chair, retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering, said the panel had determined that responsibility for security shortcomings in Benghazi belonged at levels lower than Clinton's office.

"We fixed (responsibility) at the assistant secretary level, which is, in our view, the appropriate place to look for where the decision-making in fact takes place, where - if you like - the rubber hits the road," Pickering said after closed-door meetings with congressional committees.

The report by the Accountability Review Board probing the attack and comments by its two lead authors suggested that Clinton, who accepted responsibility for the incident, would not be held personally culpable.

"The secretary of state has been very clear about taking responsibility here, (yet) it was from my perspective not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge," said Mullen, the former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.


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