The House Select Committee on Benghazi is narrowing in on one high-ranking State Department official who has “magically” avoided punishment for failing to provide additional security in Benghazi before the Sept. 11, 2012 attack there, South Carolina Rep. [crscore]Trey Gowdy[/crscore] said in an interview.
Gowdy, who chairs the Benghazi committee, declined to name the official during an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on Friday. But he provided enough clues that it is clear that the committee is focusing on the actions of Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy.
“There was an intermediary level of scrutiny or leadership that escaped consequence,” Gowdy said. “I’m not going to give you a name because it wouldn’t be fair to that person.”
But Gowdy did say that the official was mentioned by name during former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s marathon hearing on Thursday. Kennedy was brought up several times during the course of the 11-hour event. A spokesman for the Benghazi Committee did not directly confirm that Kennedy is the official Gowdy was referencing, but did state the career diplomat is a central figure in its investigation.
Gowdy also said that the committee has received only a small number of the official’s emails.
“In fact, we don’t have most of the emails,” he claimed, explaining that the official in question is of great interest to the committee because “he was actually part of the [Accountability Review Board] selection process.”
“So this person helped pick members of the ARB who magically did not include him in the list of people to be disciplined because of the security failure,” Gowdy added.
Kennedy did have input into the selection of the five-person ARB. Clinton herself set up the panel, which blamed four mid-level officials for some of the security failures in Benghazi.
One recurring theme in Thursday’s hearing was that if leadership failures contributed to the security failures, as Clinton and the State Department have acknowledged, why were mid-level officials the only ones to be disciplined? The four officials were merely repositioned within the State Department while keeping their same salaries and benefits.
Republicans have long maintained that the ARB was tainted because Clinton and Kennedy helped select the members. Clinton, though, regularly cites the ARB’s findings as evidence that she bears no direct responsibility for the failures that led to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
“If her position is she didn’t do it then we need to find at what level that decision was made,” Gowdy said.
In September 2013, the House Foreign Affairs Committee released its report on the Benghazi attacks and identified Kennedy as someone who should have faced consequences for disregarding requests for additional security in Benghazi, a heavy rebel enclave in eastern Libya.
“The Under Secretary for Management then is responsible for approving or rejecting security requests in consultation with the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources,” the report reads. “This process implies that the approval and denial of security resources would have been made by — or at least briefed to — Under Secretary Kennedy, and perhaps even the former Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, Thomas Nides.”
“In addition to their duties in reviewing security requests, these two individuals are functionally responsible for the deployment of personnel and the approval of expenditures at overseas posts, making the Benghazi ARB’s silence about their respective roles a clear oversight,” the report continued.
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Two State Department officials who testified in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 8, 2013 also said that Kennedy was positioned to approve security changes in Libya.
Former Embassy Tripoli Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom testified that all resource determinations are made by the Under Secretary for Management.
Gregory Hicks, the former Embassy Tripoli Deputy Chief of Mission, testified that Kennedy “has to bear some responsibility.”
The report stated that in December 2011, Kennedy signed off on a document classifying the Benghazi outpost as a temporary station for an additional year. That decision prevented the facility from being classified as a consulate, making it more difficult to qualify for additional security resources.
Kennedy is also the official who told the Defense Department in July 2012 that the State Department would no longer need the support of the military’s 16-member Security Support Team.
“Mr. Kennedy rejected the SST despite compelling requests from personnel in Libya that the team be allowed to stay,” the report reads, nothing that “the ARB report does not mention this decision.”
Kennedy also lent support to the Obama administration’s demonstrably false claim that a YouTube video served as the catalyst for the Benghazi attacks.
He testified in October 2012 that he would have used the same language as United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who said five days after the attacks that they were motivated by the video “Innocence of Muslims.”
But private discussions between State Department officials and those in the Obama administration that have recently been released show that it was known even while the attacks were unfolding that the video was not a catalyst and that terrorists were involved.
Clinton herself emailed her daughter Chelsea saying that an al-Qaida-like group was responsible for the onslaught. She said the same thing in phone conversations with Egypt’s prime minister and Libya’s president. (RELATED: Hillary Told Daughter Chelsea That Terrorists Were Behind Benghazi Attack The Night It Happened)
Michael Morell, the CIA’s deputy director at the time of the attacks, which left two CIA contractors dead, has also said that his agency never considered the YouTube video to have played a part in the assault.
In his managerial position, Kennedy also likely played a role in the ongoing fiasco surrounding Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email account while in office. Kennedy is the official who sent a letter to Clinton last October requesting her emails. Kennedy also oversees the State Department division that employed Bryan Pagliano. He’s the computer expert who set up and maintained Clinton’s private email server.
The Daily Caller recently filed suit against State Department seeking emails from Kennedy referencing Pagliano. (RELATED: The Daily Caller Sues The State Department For A Variety Of Clinton Email Records)
As The Daily Caller first reported earlier this month, both Kennedy and current Secretary of State John Kerry did exchange emails with Clinton. Despite that apparent knowledge about Clinton’s off-the-books email system, neither official did anything to retrieve Clinton’s emails until they were requested by Congress. (RELATED: Hillary Emails With John Kerry And Another State Department Official At Center Of Email Scandal)