During questioning on the first day of the Benghazi Committee Hearings, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) brought up a seemingly minor detail about the Benghazi compound that could have huge implications for the State Department's fault in the 2012 attack.
In question was the designation of the embassy as a “Special Mission Compound.” Roskam asked Todd Keil, a member of the Independent Panel of Best Practices, what that term actually means. Keil stated:
To be honest, from our review, Under Secretary Kennedy, in authorizing that, made up that term in order to avoid the OSPB security standards.
Keil was referring to Patrick Kennedy, who is the Under Secretary for Management. Several bureaus, including the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, fall under his jurisdiction.
The OSPB, or Overseas Security Policy Board, security standards are in place to carry out “the statutory security responsibilities prescribed by the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986.”
They consist of “threat-indexed countermeasures (i.e., actions, devices, procedures, or techniques that reduce vulnerability),” according to State Department documents.
In searching for other instances of “Special Mission Compounds,” Roskam said he and his staff found nothing - Benghazi alone had this designation.
So if the category of the compound was changed to avoid important anti-terrorism security standards - as Keil confirmed - that mere word change could have drastic effects on how the crisis would be handled. Roskam continued:
“What does it mean if something is said, 'Well, we're just going to declare this as something other than that which is to be regulated.' That means you have no regulations, isn't that right?”
Keil's brief response: “Correct, sir.”
This minor detail of a designation change has major implications for the State Department's responsibility. It furthers the idea that State Department leaders, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were either in over their heads, or that they were preemptively covering their tails should they fail to protect the compound and its inhabitants.