After the internal State Department review of the deadly terror attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, President Obama is chalking up the four deaths and administration double-speak to “just some sloppiness.”
On this morning’s Meet the Press, Obama said he thought the Accountability Review Board report led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen was “very thorough” in identifying weak points in diplomatic security.
“My message to the State Department has been very simple. And that is, we’re going to solve this. We’re not going to be defensive about it; we’re not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem. And we’re going to implement every single recommendation that’s been put forward,” he said. “Some individuals have been held accountable, inside of the State Department.”
Obama said diplomats understand that they sometimes venture into dangerous areas, but the report revealed “what we had already seen based on some of our internal reviews, there was just some sloppiness, not intentional, in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don’t have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies.”
Like in the days after the attack, the president stop short of blaming terrorists.
“With respect to who carried it out, that’s an ongoing investigation,” he said. “The FBI has sent individuals to Libya repeatedly. We have some very good leads. But this is not something that you know, I’m going to be at liberty to talk about right now.”
Obama decried the “politically motivated attack” on UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who withdrew her name for consideration as secretary of State due to outcry over her appearances on Sunday news shows days after the Sept. 11 attack to point the blame at protests over an anti-Muhammad video.
“I mean, of all the people in my national security team, she probably had the least to do with anything that happened in Benghazi,” he said. “Why she was targeted individually for the kind of attacks that she was subjected to, is, it was puzzling to me. And I was very clear in the days after those attacks, that they weren’t acceptable.”
“So you know, the good thing is that I think she will continue to serve at the U.N. And do an outstanding job. And I think that most Americans recognize that these were largely politically motivated attacks as opposed to being justified.”
As far as another controversial cabinet choice looming, Obama said he doesn’t see anything to disqualify former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) from filling Leon Panetta’s job at the Pentagon.
“First of all, I haven’t made a decision about who to nominate,” the president said. “My number one criteria will be who’s going to do the best job in helping to secure America.”