Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s committee hearing, titled: “Benghazi and Beyond: What Went Wrong on September 11, 2012 and How to Prevent it from Happening at other Frontline Posts.” The statement follows:
Madam Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing on a very important and pertinent issue, the safety and security of our embassies and missions around the world.
On a personal note, I’d like to say – in case this is the final Committee hearing this Congress -- that it has been an honor serving with you for nearly fiveyears, Madam Chairman. We have addressed some of the most challenging, sensitive foreign policy issues of our day. I appreciate your cooperation and teamwork on common achievements, such as Iran sanctions legislation, and I leave Congress with a sense of deep gratitude towards my colleagues and towards you personally.
It has been a little over two months since the tragic events in Benghazi, where terrorists attacked our consulate and killed four dedicated and courageous American public servants. I want to again convey my condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods. These men committed their lives to advancing our values and interests in often dangerous places, and we owethem an enormous debt of gratitude.
Today, we have a responsibility to help ensure that we better protect Americans serving abroad – not only in Libya, but in all of our nearly 300 diplomatic posts around the globe.
As Congress examines the Benghazi tragedy, it is important that we not jump toconclusions before we know all the facts. And those facts are being gathered, as we speak, by an Accountability Review Board, or ARB. The ARB is tasked by the State Department to analyze what happened, why it happened, and what can be done to reduce the risks facing our personnel in the future.
The practice of establishing ARB’s after security incidents at our diplomatic posts began in the 1980s, based on a recommendation of the so-called Inman Report, which itself was a response to the bombing of U.S. facilities in Beirut, which caused massive casualties. In 1986, Congress made the establishment of ARBs a requirement under law. Since then, at least a dozen of them have been set up under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.
This particular Accountability Review Board is being chaired by Thomas Pickering, a highly respected and experienced diplomat. His 45 years with the State Department, including service as ambassador in six countries with serious security challenges, make him particularly well suited for this position. Among the other members of the board is retired Admiral Mike Mullen, until recently the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So I think we have the right people in place for the job. Their report, along with recommendations to Secretary Clinton, is supposed to be ready early next month.
As a result of the ARB investigation, I expect the State Department to examine our security posture at posts around the world, including temporary facilities like Benghazi, in order to determine whether the Diplomatic Security and the Overseas Buildings Operations Bureaus should institute new security procedures.
There are several critical questions which I hope this hearing will help answer: Should we continue to maintain so-called temporary facilities like the Benghazi consulate, and if so, how should we protect them? What steps can we take to be better prepared for the type of large-scale assault that took place at Benghazi? And are we devoting enough resources to help ensure the security of our overseas facilities?
Secretary Clinton put it well when she said -- and I quote -- “our diplomats and development experts are on the front lines, just like our troops. And the entire United States Government needs to work together to protect them. We will not retreat. We will keep leading, and we will stay engaged everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and security are at stake. That is the best way to honor those whom we have lost.” Unquote.
I could not agree more.
Thank you Madam Chairman.