How Trey Gowdy can win the war

A diagram on the Department of State Wiki page has information that would help Benghazi Committee chairman Trey Gowdy verify claims Hillary Clinton made during her testimony that “security professionals” at State, not she – “not my job” – decided effectively to ignore repeated requests for additional security from Ambassador Stevens.  I am frankly amazed that this diagram, sometimes called an org chart, did not make an appearance during the meeting.

The org chart shown there is dated 2014, so the first step would be for Chairman Gowdy to make sure he has the chart current as of September 11, 2012, when the Benghazi embassy compound was attacked by terrorists.  Having obtained that chart, step two would be to match positions on the chart with names current on that day – a day that also deserves to “live in infamy.”  The chart here does not show names, but presumably someone with the standing and authority of Chairman Gowdy can find out who they are.

What names am I talking about?

Perusal of the right side of the org chart will reveal a box with the title “Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.”  I admit I’m not an expert, but it seems obvious to me that this individual almost certainly read (or should have been aware of) Ambassador Stevens’s cables requesting additional security.  Chairman Gowdy can subpoena the former (maybe still current) assistant secretary for diplomatic security and find out what he/she knew and when.

Would this individual have made a decision how to respond to Ambassador Stevens on his/her own?  That would be another question Chairman Gowdy can ask him/her.  I will hazard a guess that he/she would not have made a decision of such importance without checking with the boss.  For one thing, a United States ambassador probably outranks an assistant secretary for diplomatic security.

So who is up the chain of command?

According to the org chart, the answer is the Undersecretary for Management. In response to a direct question, Hillary Clinton answered, in effect, that no one was fired because of the Benghazi fiasco. It may well be that the current Undersecretary for Management was on the job on September 11, 2012 as well. Chairman Gowdy can subpoena this individual (or whoever had the job then) as well and ask appropriate questions, including whether he/she decided how to respond to Ambassador Stevens’ requests on his/her own without consulting with his/her superior.

Who would that be?

According to the org chart, the answer is the executive secretary of the Department of State.  Chairman Gowdy can repeat the questions above, and others as appropriate, and see who else pops out of the woodwork.  If we go up the chain of command again, we run into the deputy secretary of state, the most senior officer at State except for the secretary of state.

The current deputy secretary of state is Tony Blinken, who assumed office on December 14, 2014.  His predecessors most likely to have known about Ambassador Stevens’s cable requests are William Joseph Burns (July 28, 2011 to November 3, 2014) and James Steinberg (January 28, 2009 to July 28, 2011).

Steinberg and Burns may well have relevant information that Chairman Gowdy needs, including whether they reported anything regarding Ambassador Stevens’s cable requests to their immediate superior, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  It may be that the answer is “no,” as Clinton in effect claimed during her testimony – to which the response from Chairman Gowdy should be “why not?”

If Steinberg and Burns testify that they weren’t told anything about Ambassador Stevens’s cable requests and the response made (“fuggeddaboutit”), then Chairman Gowdy can ask the executive secretary of the Department of State why he/she didn’t tell them.  If that person also puts on the Sergeant Schultz “I know nothing, nothing” act, then Chairman Gowdy can ask the undersecretary for management why he/she did not consult his/her boss.  And so on.  You get the idea.

It may well turn out that these five individuals will testify that they really, really (“cross my heart and hope to die”) didn’t know much about Ambassador Stevens’s cable requests and the decision to ignore them; that some low-level “security professional” did the deed and kept everyone else in the dark.  “No, Mr. Chairman, we can’t tell you who that is or we’ll have to shoot you.”

Should this eventuality transpire, we can at least conclude that Hillary Clinton ran a highly dysfunctional Department of State, where senior officers were not kept in the loop on something as self-evidently important as a desperate cry for help from a United States ambassador posted in a region where terrorists were known to be active.  If Clinton can’t do a proper job of managing an agency of the government, how can she be trusted to lead this huge country of ours?

Yes, it’s a rhetorical question. 

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