|Benghazi: Lawmaker Raps Administration for 'Zero Accountability'|
|By LEE FERRAN (@leeferran) and JAMES GORDON MEEK (@meekwire)||Jan 23, 2014, 5:43 PM|
The recent Senate's report on the Sept. 11, 2011 Benghazi attack has not satisfied Rep. Frank Wolf, who today sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner alleging a complete lack of government accountability for the deaths of four Americans and pushing for the Speaker to convene a Select Committee to once again investigate the Libyan disaster.
"While we have our differences on the House's current approach, I think we can both agree that the current investigations, in both the House and the Senate, have not resulted in anyone being held accountable," the Virginia Republican wrote. Wolf said that in conversations he's had with some family members of three of the four victims of the attack, they were "very frustrated and disappointed" that no administration official "has been held responsible for the security failures and poor response that night."
Though some family members of the victims have voiced their frustrations several times publicly, others, including one who contacted ABC News, have previously criticized what they saw as the politicization of the deaths of the four Americans.
The Senate's bipartisan 85-page report, published last week, placed blame for the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, first and foremost on the armed Islamist militants who attacked the Benghazi facility that night, but also with the State Department run by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose staff the report said failed to heed incessant warnings that security was evaporating there.
The committee's majority Democrats, led by Chairman Dianne Feinstein of California, concluded that the attacks were "likely preventable." The report also held Ambassador Stevens partially accountable, faulting him for declining additional military security -- a conclusion countered in a Wall Street Journal Op Ed Wednesday by Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.
The Senate report was the latest of major U.S. government reviews of the events leading up to the attack of Sept. 11, 2011 and its immediate aftermath – one of the first reports being the State Department's own Accountability Review Board report, released in December 2012. While the ARB report found "systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels… result[ing] in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," it still found no individual State Department official who had engaged in misconduct or ignored their responsibilities. It did not recommend anyone be fired.
The State Department did relieve four employees of their duties following the ARB report, but all four were mid-level officials from the Assistant Secretary level and lower, and all were allowed to stay on at the State Department. Currently one is retired, but the three others continue working for the Department at positions "that do not include responsibility for worldwide security," a spokesperson told ABC News.
"After a thorough investigation, interviewing more than 100 people… and reviewing thousands of documents and watching hours of video, the ARB found there was no credible evidence that relevant decisions on security in Benghazi rose above the Assistant Secretary level," the spokesperson said.
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The Senate report said that five groups with ties to al Qaeda conducted the Benghazi attack in which Ambassador Stevens, State Department computer specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Doherty and Woods were working in Libya as contractors with the CIA. One revelation from the Senate report was that the military's Africa Command was unaware the CIA had a facility in Benghazi.
Weeks before he died, Doherty told ABC News in an exclusive interview a little about what he did in the north African nation, saying part of his job was to work with the CIA on the State Department's effort to round up thousands of surface-to-air missiles that had gone missing in the Libyan revolution earlier that year.
Doherty and Woods died together on the roof of the CIA annex while repelling attackers, helping a majority of the Americans in Benghazi escape with their lives, according to the State Department's ARB report.
Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, Doherty's best friend from his SEAL days, told ABC News today he's long been frustrated by the government's lack of accountability.
"The sad thing about Benghazi and American foreign policy is that we aren't learning from our mistakes," said Webb, Editor-in-Chief at the special operations website SOFREP.com. "Mistakes happen and are a part of learning and improving, but if we don't learn from them – and hold people accountable – it sets a bad precedent… We need to take this opportunity to learn from our mistakes and hold people accountable or we are doomed to repeat history. I only hope for the sake of four American heroes, one my best friend, that we don't choose the latter."
Wolf, who is preparing to retire from the House after serving 17 terms, told ABC News in an interview that after sending 50 "dear colleagues" letters around to other lawmakers to urge creation of the special panel, he is hopeful that Boehner will bend.
"I've met with the families. They're not directly urging me [to pursue an investigation] but they want to find out, they want to know," Wolf said. "They want accountability and transparency."
[Note: This report was updated Jan. 27 to reflect that at least one of the Benghazi victims' family members, who contacted ABC News after publication, said they were not in touch with Rep. Wolf and took issue with their implied inclusion in Wolf's letter. Wolf's office provided ABC News more detail about whom the congressman contacted, which is also shown in the updated report.]