The State Department Inspector General's office has drawn up plans to conduct several reviews of the State Department's handling of embassy security and the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, including a review of the State Department's own internal review.
The State Department's acting Inspector General Harold Geisel wrote an Oct. 26 letter, obtained by The Cable, to Senate Homeland Security Committee heads Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), outlining several reviews his office has already started and some they are about to start to determine if embassy security around the world is sufficient, being implemented properly, and if that was a factor in the attack that killed Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
One of their tasks will be to keep tabs on the proceedings of the State Department's own review of the Benghazi attack, which is being conducted by an Accountability Review Board (ARB) led by former Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering and including former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
"Inspectors will monitor the implementation of any recommendations from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) report and will review them as future inspections are conducted," Geisel wrote.
Lieberman and Collins were among the first to call for a widespread investigation into diplomatic security at American outposts worldwide when they wrote to Geisel on Sept. 14 to request that the inspector general conduct an independent examination of security, with a focus on smaller posts and non-permanent facilities established by the department in post-conflict nations like Libya.
The senators want the inspector general's office to investigate whether there was adequate security at the Benghazi consulate, whether there was an established and clear process for determining security requirements at overseas posts, and whether that process was followed in Benghazi. They also want the IG to investigate the operational security procedures around Stevens and determine who might have known that he would be in the consulate at that time and why he didn't have more protection.
In his response, Geisel said that the IG's office has begun two new audit projects -- one to evaluate how the State Department analyzes, disseminates, and uses threat intelligence to defend vulnerable posts in dangerous places, and one to evaluate the process for choosing and vetting local guards hired by contractors to protect American facilities and personnel abroad.
Last month, the IG began an audit to determine whether diplomatic posts in key countries in Africa are following the security procedures. The IG's review of the ARB report will be conducted by the Office of Inspections, which is also looking at how State's Intelligence and Research Bureau (INR) is handling credible threat information and whether that information is getting to the posts in an efficient manner.
Without mentioning Benghazi specifically, Geisel mentioned that the IG office has been recommending ways to increase security and crisis-response capability at diplomatic posts for some time.
"Recommendations related to responding to attacks and other emergencies included the need to properly equip alternate command centers to use them in crisis management exercises," he wrote. "We recommended conducting weekly emergency and evacuation radio checks and mandated emergency drills. We also emphasized the need for maintaining updated emergency action plans, installing secondary means of egress from safe havens; and providing surveillance detection teams with the ability to remotely activate imminent danger notification systems in response to an actual or potential attack."
Meanwhile, the senators have begun their own investigation and have asked for various documents and briefings from the State Department, the Defense Department, and the Office of the Director for National Intelligence.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.