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The Elusive Patrick Kennedy
Republicans keep asking why the buck stopped so low at the State Department.

Patrick Kennedy testifies on Benghazi, October 12, 2012.

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Jim Geraghty

The State Department’s under secretary for management, Patrick F. Kennedy (no relation to the former congressman from Rhode Island), would not be the first official in Foggy Bottom one would accuse of being an Obama-administration stooge.

He’s not a political appointee or a longtime Obama backer; he has worked in diplomatic and government positions his entire adult life. For six months in 2003 he was chief of staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and for four months he served as chief of staff of the Transition Unit in Iraq. In spring 2005 he headed the transition team that set up the newly created office of the director of national intelligence, and he worked in the DNI’s office until 2007. In 2008 he irked some Democrats when he defended the U.S. embassy in Berlin for instructing Foreign Service personnel stationed there not to attend then-Senator Barack Obama’s public rally.

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But congressional Republicans increasingly see Kennedy as a key figure in what they characterize as the State Department’s culture of unaccountability, secrecy, and rear-covering. He was the sole witness yesterday morning at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the State Department’s accountability for Benghazi.

“Under Secretary Kennedy did little to assuage my concerns about how the State Department handled this entire situation, from the first moments of the attack to the hearing this morning,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) after the hearing. “Frankly, the four Americans that lost their lives in Benghazi and their families deserve better, and we will continue fighting for accountability.”

“At the end of the day, no one is held accountable. That’s contradictory to the thesis that you’re advancing here,” committee chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) told Kennedy in the hearing’s opening exchange.

Kennedy replied, “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. . . . To me, that is serious accountability.”

From the moment lawmakers began questioning the subpar security around the Benghazi compound on September 11, 2012, Kennedy stood out as a key figure in the security decisions. But it was in the May 8 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), that key witnesses repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusions of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) and asked how Kennedy could be spared any punishment or consequence.

Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, testified:

Well, I guess the question that I have about the ARB — and again, it’s not what the ARB has. It’s what it doesn’t have and that it stops short of the very people that need to be asked those questions — and that’s the Under Secretary of Management [Patrick F. Kennedy] and above. Those are perfect questions that he needs to answer.

Later in that May 8 hearing, Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires in Libya, concurred:

Given the decision-making that Under Secretary Pat Kennedy was making with respect to Embassy Tripoli and Consulate Benghazi operations, he has to bear some responsibility. . . . The fact that Under Secretary Kennedy required a daily report of the personnel in country and who personally approved every official American who went to Tripoli or Benghazi, either on assignment or TDY, would suggest some responsibility about security levels within the country lies on his desk.

In testimony Wednesday, Kennedy said, “I don’t believe I got a daily report, I don’t remember getting a daily report of people in country.” He said he had “set a cap” on the number of personnel allowed in Benghazi at one time.



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