How did the State Department get away with so many failures during Hillary Clinton’s leadership? They ran a consulate in Benghazi with substandard security even for normal locations, let alone in the collapsed-state region of eastern Libya in 2011-12. Hillary herself and her closest aides didn’t use State Department e-mail systems despite both policy and legal requirements to do so. The entire agency didn’t archive its records properly under the Federal Records Act anyway, capturing less than 0.01% of all e-mails sent in 2011. Hillary also didn’t sign her exit paperwork, despite (again) being required to do so.
Only lately have these failures come to light. Why? As Bloomberg’s Arit John reminds readers, the Obama administration finally appointed an independent Inspector General in September 2013, after leaving the position in the hands of an acting IG who was statutorily ineligible for the office, thanks to his connections to State:
One of the many unanswered questions of the Hillary Clinton e-mail story has been: Whose job was it to raise and address concerns about her exclusive use of a private account? According to open government advocates, it would have been the agency’s permanent, independent Inspector General—someone nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate—if such a person had existed.
For five years, including all of Clinton’s time as secretary, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General never had a confirmed inspector. Instead, it was lead by acting inspector Harold W. Geisel, a former ambassador who was accused of being too cozy to agency leadership by transparency groups like the Project on Government Oversight. Throughout the first half of President Obama’s first term, the absence of a State Department Inspector General while internal scandals and Benghazi rocked the department drew bipartisan criticism. …
In a 2011 report, the Government Accountability Office called on the State Department to address concerns regarding it independence writing that “the appointment of management and Foreign Service officials to head the State OIG in an acting capacity for extended periods of time is not consistent with professional standards for independence.”
In other words, if you wanted to inspire confidence in whistleblowers and others that the State Department is being held accountable by an independent official, that official shouldn’t be a former State Department official.
By September 2013, several months after Clinton left State, the department finally had a permanent inspector, and the department recently released a report documenting how few e-mails the State Department has saved for government records. But the long-time gap, as well as the ones at other agencies, raise questions about what other problems aren’t being investigated.
John links to a June 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal that outlines the issues with having an interim IG from within the ranks at State:
Upon the departure of State’s IG Howard Krongard in 2008, Mr. Geisel was appointed deputy IG until, it was presumed at the time, a new IG could be named within the customary 210 days stipulated in the Vacancies Act. Mr. Geisel was not eligible to be the inspector general because of an explicit, congressionally mandated safeguard for IG independence that rules out “a career member of the Foreign Service” from ever being “appointed Inspector General of the Department of State.”
That is one reason why, as Mr. Geisel’s de facto “acting” IG role at State extended into late 2010, the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight complained about this apparent violation of law in a Nov. 18 letter to President Obama. The letter also noted the personal friendship between Mr. Geisel and State’s undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy, who was at the time “responsible for the people, resources facilities, technology, consular affairs, and security of the Department of State,” according to his official biography.
Mr. Kennedy’s long and close association with the person effectively responsible for inspecting and reviewing the department’s performance wasn’t the only troubling issue for many who knew and respected both men. As a group of “very concerned employees” of the State Department made clear in a letter released to Congress in January 2008—when Ambassador Geisel’s appointment as “acting IG” was rumored—the ambassador was so well known as a member of the State Department family that it did not sound like a good idea to have one of their own in charge of investigating, auditing and assessing them.
For those not keeping score, Patrick Kennedy was one of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides at State, and the person who managed the security issues at the consulate in Benghazi even as all the lights were flashing red in the city. The so-called Accountability Review Board that investigated Benghazi managed to completely avoid Kennedy in its probe, despite his key involvement in a waiver that required the signature of the Secretary of State. Geisel managed to stick around long enough as an “interim IG” to cover the period in which the ARB operated while avoiding Kennedy or any other political appointees at State.
CBS News’ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.” …
In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.
The State Department Inspector General’s memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who “routinely ditched … his protective security detai” and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”
Sources told CBS News that after the allegations surfaced, the ambassador was called to Washington, D.C. to meet with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, but was permitted to return to his post.
Only after Hillary Clinton left State did Barack Obama appoint an independent IG for the agency. By that time, of course, any hope of oversight was lost in a mass of corruption and cover-ups. The current IG has apparently attempted to review the Hillary years at State, but the only results so far show just that the Obama administration allowed Hillary to keep an easily manipulated IG in place despite getting public warnings about the risk it would have for transparency and effective oversight. One has to conclude that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama didn’t put much value into either of those goals — and one has to wonder why that might have been.