Transcript: Deputy Secretary William Burns’s remarks on the ARB’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of press briefing remarks by Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns on the Accountability Review Board’s (ARB) report on the Benghazi consulate attack on Dec. 19, 2012:
Thank you very much, and good afternoon. As all of you know, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen appeared today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi. Deputy Secretary Nides and I will testify tomorrow, so I’ll make just two quick points and then give the floor to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen to discuss the report and take your questions.
First, as Secretary Clinton said in her letter to Congress, we accept each and every one of the board’s recommendations and have already begun to implement them. In accordance with the law, Secretary Clinton ordered this review to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi, because that’s how we can learn and improve. And I want to convey our appreciation to Ambassador Pickering, Admiral Mullen, and their team for doing such a thorough job. The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix.
In the hours and days after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, at the Secretary’s direction, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We launched a worldwide review of the Department’s overall security posture. Interagency teams of diplomatic and military security experts gave particular scrutiny to high-threat posts. The Pentagon agreed to dispatch hundreds of additional Marines to posts around the world. We asked Congress for funds to hire new diplomatic security personnel and reinforce vulnerable facilities. We also named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and we’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experienced and well-trained staff serving at those posts.
Tom and I will be discussing all of this work and more with Congress tomorrow, so for now, let me just make one other point. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service for more than 30 years, and I’ve had the honor of serving as a chief of mission overseas. I know that diplomacy, by its very nature, must sometimes be practiced in dangerous places. Chris Stevens, my friend and colleague, understood that our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs.
And we have a profound responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our diplomats and development experts in the field. It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day for years on end in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.
But we have learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better. We have to do more to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need. We owe that to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi. We owe it to the security professionals who acted with such extraordinary heroism that awful night to protect them. And we owe it to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world.
And so with that, let me turn to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen.
- State.gov: Video of press briefing on the Accountability Review Board’s report on Dec. 19, 2012
- State Department: Accountability Review Board’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack – December 2012 (PDF)
- State Department: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s letter to Congress on the Accountability Review Board’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack – December 2012 (PDF)
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Ambassador Tom Pickering’s remarks on the ARB’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Admiral Mike Mullen’s remarks on the ARB’s report on the Benghazi consulate attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript of press briefing Q&A on the Accountability Review Board’s findings on the Benghazi consulate attack