Monday, May 20, 2013
Hillary's Benghazi 'Scapegoat' Speaks Out
The only State department official to lose his job in the wake of the Benghazi scandal was deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs Raymond Maxwell, a mid-level official who had no role in security decisions or in any of the decisions surrounding the Benghazi debacle. After the internal State department review, he was placed on administrative leave and told to clean out his desk and leave the building, without anyone telling him the charges against him.
A career diplomat who served from August 2011 until his removal last December including tours in Iraq and Syria,Maxwell gave an exclusive interview today to the Daily Beast's Josh Rogin,speaking out for the first time about how he was scapegoated:
“The overall goal is to restore my honor,” said Maxwell, who has now filed grievances regarding his treatment with the State Department’s human resources bureau and the American Foreign Service Association, which represents the interests of foreign-service officers. The other three officials placed on leave were in the diplomatic security bureau, leaving Maxwell as the only official in the bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), which had responsibility for Libya, to lose his job.
“I had no involvement to any degree with decisions on security and the funding of security at our diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” he said.
Maxwell was removed from his job on Dec. 18, the day after the ARB report was released, and subsequently placed on administrative leave, which is meant to give the State Department time to investigate whether Maxwell should be fired or return to work. Five months later, that investigation seems stalled and Maxwell sits at home, where he continues to be paid but is not allowed to return to his job.
Since administrative leave is essentially limbo, Maxwell can't appeal, since he wasn't officially fired. He sits home and collects his paycheck, but he's not allowed to go to his job. He claims that no one at the State Department has ever even told him what he's accused of doing or not doing.
“For any FSO being at work is the essence of everything and being deprived of that and being cast out was devastating,” he said.
The State Department also had an official visit him at home and order him to sign a letter acknowledging his administrative leave and forfeiting his right to enter the State Department. He refused and responded in writing that the way the letter was phrased, it read like an admission of wrongdoing. Also of interest is the way Maxwell was 'chosen':
The decision to place Maxwell on administrative leave was made by Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, according to three State Department officials with direct knowledge of the events. On the day after the unclassified version of the ARB’s report was released in December, Mills called Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones and directed her to have Maxwell leave his job immediately.
"Cheryl Mills directed me to remove you immediately from the [deputy assistant secretary] position," Jones told Maxwell, according to Maxwell.
The decision to remove Maxwell and not Jones seems to conflict with the finding of the ARB that responsibility for the security failures leading up to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi should fall on more senior officials.
“We fixed [the responsibility] at the assistant secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road," Pickering said when releasing the ARB report.
The report found “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department,” namely the Diplomatic Security (DS) and Near East bureaus. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns testified in December that requests for more security in Libya, denied by the State Department, did reach the assistant secretaries and “it may be that some of my colleagues on the 7th floor saw them as well."
But Jones was not disciplined in any way following the release of the report, nor was the principal deputy assistant secretary of State at NEA, Liz Dibble, who is slated to receive a plush post as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London this summer. In the DS bureau, the assistant secretary, principal deputy, and deputy assistant all lost their jobs. In the NEA bureau, only Maxwell was asked to leave.
Jones and Dibble were responsible for security in Libya, Maxwell and three State Department officials said.
Rogin claims one State Department source told him that 'Clinton’s people' made a deal with the leadership of the NEA bureau that Maxwell would be given another job at State when the Benghazi scandal blew over...but that Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, simply reneged on the deal:
“The deal that NEA made with Cheryl Mills and the 7th floor was to keep Ray within NEA and just give him another portfolio. For whatever reason, it didn’t go down like that and that was a complete shock to Beth [Jones], because that was the deal that Beth made with Cheryl,” the official said. “Behind Beth’s back, Maxwell ended up being put on administrative leave.”
Rogin further reveals via another anonymous State Department source that Maxwell was being disciplined for 'not reading his intel memos'. Of course, if that's the criteria, President Obama ought to be on administrative leave too..permanently.
Maxwell responded that he'd never been allowed to read any charges against him, and not allowed to see the Review Board Report the report the charges reportedly appeared in since it's classified, so pretty much anything could have been written or added to the report to fit the need of finding a convenient patsy.
In any event, it would seem odd that a mid level official whom had nothing to do with security of Libya would get slapped while two others that did are still working for State in good standing...perhaps because disciplining them and taking a risk of their opening up their mouths in congress to Rep. Darrel Issa's committee would prove embarrassing.