Senior State Department official Patrick F. Kennedy testified before a House panel today about a host of issues involving the U.S. government’s response to last year’s September 11 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.
Several members of the panel expressed frustration over the absence of any arrests or criminal charges of those who planned and carried out the attack.
"Not one terrorist perpetrator has been captured or killed, despite the president saying that this was his highest priority," said Rep. Edward Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Tedd Poe echoed Royce’s sentiments, pointing out that although the FBI has not arrested anyone, CNN reporter Arwa Damon was able to interview the leader of a Libyan militia believed to be involved in the attack.
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Kennedy responded by telling the panel that the Libyan government is not allowing U.S. government officials into the country at this time.
"Benghazi has taken, even since the events of 9/11, a serious turn for the worse,” Kennedy said. “Yes, they will let journalists in, but they are not letting U.S. law enforcement in to arrest people there because the government of Libya is not in control to that degree.”
Kennedy also responded to criticism that State Department officials have not been held accountable for the security lapses that lead to the attack.
Rep. Edward Royce again voiced these concerns on behalf of the committee.
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“Accountability can be painful,” Royce said. “Those making bad decisions may have long and otherwise good records. But the department cannot have a culture of accountability, which is what any well-functioning organization needs and which is essential to protecting its personnel, if no one, literally no one, is held accountable for the mismanagement and poor leadership the ARB itself identified.”
Kennedy responded by saying that although no one has been fired, four senior state department officials were demoted from the positions they held at the time of the attack.
“They were relieved of their senior-level positions. That is a serious action,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy closed by reminding the panel that although the government is doing everything possible to prevent another attack like the one in Benghazi, international diplomacy is a risky trade by nature.
“The unfortunate fact is that our diplomats and facilities abroad will face attacks again, as they just did last week in Herat, Afghanistan. Since the tragic attacks in Benghazi, the tempo of threats and attacks against us has not diminished,” he said.