Reassigning State Dep’t Workers ‘Does Not Equal Accountability,’ GOP Lawmaker Says

By Penny Starr | September 19, 2013 | 10:23 AM EDT

Staffers for Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) display photos of the four Americans killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, outside of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room on Sept. 18, 2013. ( Starr)

( – A Republican lawmaker says no one at the U.S. State Department has been held accountable for actions that may have contributed to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, including the four employees who were put on leave and then reinstated in different State Department jobs.

“Reassignment does not equal accountability,” Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) said on Wednesday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack.

“They’re reassigned. They are being put into another position where they’ve never missed a paycheck, where they’re going to have their cushy government job, and they’re still going to get a pension,” Radel said. “In the real world this would never happen.  This would never, ever happen.

“They would be fired. They would be terminated because they failed,” Radel said.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department information officer Sean Stevens, and former Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Wood, were killed when terrorists attacked the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and then opened fire hours later on a nearby CIA annex.

Rep.Trey Radel (R-Fla.) questions Patrick Kennedy, under secretary for management at the U.S. State Department, at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Sept. 18, 2013 into the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2013. ( Starr)

“This is unacceptable,” Radel said of the deaths.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put four State Department employees in Washington on administrative leave in December, after the department’s internal Accountability Review Board issued a report on the attack.

The Board found that "certain senior State Department officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility” in Washington “demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability… in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection.”

However, the Board did not find that any government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities; and it did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty in a way that warranted a recommendation for disciplinary action.

On Aug. 19, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the four employees who had been placed on administrative leave had returned to jobs at the State Department.

The Daily Beast quoted a State Department official as saying that “all four officials placed on administrative leave were now returned to regular duty and would not face any formal disciplinary action.”

Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Wednesday’s hearing was held as part of an ongoing effort to hold accountable those at the State Department responsible for the security lapses.

Staffers for Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) display photos of the four Americans killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, outside of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room on Sept. 18, 2013. ( Starr)

But Patrick Kennedy, under secretary for management at the State Department, and the sole witness at the hearing, pushed back.

“Mr. Chairman I respectfully disagree about the subject of accountability,” Kennedy said. “Four employees of the state department were relieved of their senior positions as assistant secretaries or deputy assistant secretaries of state and are no longer holding those senior positions.

“I submit, respectfully, Mr. Chairman, that accountability includes being relieved from your job and assigned to other positions,” Kennedy said. “To me that is serious accountability.”

But when Radel had an opportunity to question Kennedy, he made an impassioned plea for the committee to get to the bottom of what took place on that day more than a year ago.

“People are dead,” Radel said. “There are four men who are dead.

“The young girls will never walk down the aisle with their father at their wedding,” Radel said. “Young boys will never be able to toss a football with their dad.

“And the people who are responsible for this have been relieved of their senior positions,” Radel said. “You had said it earlier: reassignment equals accountability. It does not equal accountability.

Radel expressed the hope that “in a bipartisan fashion we can in some way, shape or form actually have someone be held accountable -- not only within our own government but let’s pray that we find the people that are responsible for this attack, because everyone has blood on their hands.”

Democrats on the committee, however, saw things differently. One, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), called Benghazi “the scandal that never was.”