Secretary of State John Kerry has asked the four mid-level State Department officials placed on administrative leave after the Benghazi terror attack to return to work starting today.
After the release of a State Department report on the attack, which found that blame for the attack should be placed at the assistant-secretary level, the officials were portrayed as having resigned or having been removed, though they’d just been placed on leave.
The report, by a special Accountability Review Board, found that there had been no breaches of duty and that there should be reassignments rather than firings. The officials now returning to duty will not face any formal disciplinary action, but they won’t be returning to their old posts.
One official, former deputy assistant secretary of state Raymond Maxwell, said he had received a memo telling him to return to work with no explanation.
“No explanation, no briefing, just come back to work,” Maxwell told the Daily Beast. He previously told the publication that he had never been told why he was placed on administrative leave.
The officials have returned to work because Secretary Kerry has now reaffirmed the conclusions of the board, following a review he’d ordered.
House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa blasted the decision in a statement, likening the officials’ return to “a game of musical chairs.”
The committee found the ARB’s review of the employees did not include interviews with them or their supervisors, Issa said, explaining that the committee “will expand its investigation of the Benghazi terrorist attack to include how a supposed ‘Accountability Review Board’ investigation resulted in a decision by Secretary Kerry not to pursue any accountability from anyone.”
On July 31, Issa wrote to the State Department to ask why Kerry hadn’t made determinations for the officials on leave. In the August 8 response, the Department said that Secretary Kerry would be briefed before making any decisions on their status.