Hillary’s Benghazi ‘Scapegoat’ Speaks Out

Exclusive: Hillary’s Benghazi ‘Scapegoat’ Speaks Out

by  May 20, 2013 2:53 PM EDT

Raymond Maxwell, the only official at the State Department’s bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to lose his job after the attacks, tells Josh Rogin that he’s been scapegoated by Hillary Clinton’s team.

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  • Following the attack in Benghazi, senior State Department officials close to Hillary Clinton ordered the removal of a mid-level official who had no role in security decisions and has never been told the charges against him. He is now accusing Clinton’s team of scapegoating him for the failures that led to the death of four Americans last year.

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Hillary Clinton laughs as she testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in January. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Raymond Maxwell was placed on forced “administrative leave” after the State Department’s own internal investigation, conducted by an Administrative Review Board (ARB) led by former State Department official Tom Pickering. Five months after he was told to clean out his desk and leave the building, Maxwell remains in professional and legal limbo, having been associated publicly with the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American for reasons that remain unclear.

Maxwell, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs from August 2011 until his removal last December, following tours in Iraq and Syria, spoke publicly for the first time in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast.

“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.

The State Department declined to comment on the reasons that Maxwell and the other officials were placed on administrative leave, or on what the four were told about the reasons for the decision. It did confirm that the ARB did not recommend direct disciplinary action because it didn’t find misconduct or a direct breach of duty by the officials. “As a matter of policy, we don’t speak to specific personnel matters,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Since the leave is not considered a formal disciplinary action, Maxwell has no means to appeal the status, as he would if he had been outright fired. To this day, he says, nobody from the State Department has ever told him why he was singled out for discipline. He has never had access to the classified portion of the ARB report, where all of the details regarding personnel failures leading up to Benghazi are confined. He also says he has never been shown any evidence or witness testimony linking him to the Benghazi incident.

Maxwell says he had planned to retire last September, but extended his time voluntarily after the Sept. 11 attack to help the bureau in its time of need. Now, he is refusing to retire until his situation is clarified. He is seeking a restoration of his previous position, a public statement of apology from State, reimbursement for his legal fees, and an extension of his time in service to equal the time he has spent at home on administrative leave.

“For any FSO being at work is the essence of everything and being deprived of that and being cast out was devastating,” he said.

Soon after being removed from his job, Maxwell was visited at his home late one evening and directed to sign a letter acknowledging his administrative leave and forfeiting his right to enter the State Department. He refused to sign, responding in writing that it amounted to an admission he had done something wrong.

“They just wanted me to go away but I wouldn’t just go away,” he said. “I knew Chris [Stevens]. Chris was a friend of mine.”

“Behind Beth’s back, Maxwell ended up being put on administrative leave.”

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. What’s more, when Maxwell was promoted to his DAS position in August 2011, most responsibility for Libya was carved out of his portfolio, which also included Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Although Maxwell did some work on Libya, all security related decisions were handled by Dibble and Jones, according to the three officials.

One State Department official close to the issue told The Daily Beast that Clinton’s people told the leadership of the NEA bureau that Maxwell would be given another job at State when the Benghazi scandal blew over. Maxwell said Jones assured him he would eventually be brought back to NEA as a “senior advisor,” but that Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, reneged.

“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.”

Jones and Mills both declined to comment for this article, but a source close to Mills denied that any kind of deal was made or reneged on regarding Maxwell’s future employment. The decision to place Maxwell on administrative leave was based on the classified portion of the ARB’s report, which named Maxwell specifically, the source said, but since the ARB didn’t say that Maxwell had committed a “breach of duty,” he couldn’t be outright fired.

“Administrative leave was the best option available within the very narrow authority that anyone had. That was the harshest discipline the department could mete out,” a State Department official involved in the decision making process said. “There really weren’t any other options available. If they could have been fired they would have been.”

One person who reviewed the classified portion of the ARB report told The Daily Beast that it called out Maxwell for the specific infraction of not reading his daily classified briefings, something that person said Maxwell admitted to the ARB panel during his interview.

“The crime that he is being punished for is not reading his intel. That explains why Jones and Dibble were not disciplined,” this person said.

Maxwell had no response to this allegation other than to say he has not been officially counseled on what he did wrong and has not been allowed to read the classified report. Also, he believes that Clinton’s staff, not the ARB, was in charge of the review of the attack that took place during her watch.

“The flaws in the process were perpetrated by the political leadership at State with the complicity of the senior career leadership,” he said. “They should be called to account.”

“There are people who seem to have responsibility who have yet to be held accountable.”

Eight months after the attack, Congressional investigators and outside groups are still pressing the State Department to explain how the ARB came to the conclusion that four mid-level officials were the only ones with responsibility for the failures that led up to the attack.

The Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA), has announced that he will subpoena Pickering in order to compel him to submit to a deposition. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chairman of the subcommittee on national security, told The Daily Beast in an interview that he wants to know exactly why Maxwell and the three other officials were placed on administrative leave, and have not been granted due process to defend themselves.

“I certainly would like to hear their side of the story. It seems fair that they should be given that opportunity. If they can’t get it within the administration, I think Congress would love to hear their story,” he said. “Secretary Clinton says she takes responsibility, but that seems like lip service rather than the reality because there are people who seem to have responsibility who have yet to be held accountable and I don’t understand that.”

Chaffetz and Issa sent a letter in January to State asking why Clinton, Deputy Secretary Tom Nides, and Deputy Secretary Bill Burns were not interviewed by the ARB. Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy admitted in Oct. 10 congressional testimony that he was in the loop on decisions regarding security requests in Libya before the attack. He was interviewed by the ARB but not identified as having done anything wrong.

“The ARB tried to blame everyone but hold no one responsible, except for some of the lower level people who were not in control of the situation,” said Chaffetz. “You have a report that seems incomplete at best.”

Susan Johnson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), told The Daily Beast that administrative leave does damage to a foreign service officer’s reputation and career if it goes on for more than a couple of weeks, much less several months. The treatment amounts to a de facto disciplinary action, she said.

“There’s a feeling that foreign service officers often end up as scapegoats when scandals rise to congressional or public attention,” she said. “Our broader concern is to ensure some measure of fairness and transparency, ensure some reasonable process that meets some kind of minimal standard here.”

AFSA sent a letter to Burns in January asking a number of questions about the review process and the criteria senior department leaders used in choosing to discipline the four individuals removed from their jobs in relation to the Benghazi attack.

“The State Department began an administrative process to review the status of the four individuals placed on administrative leave. That review process continues and Secretary Kerry will be briefed with an update, and decisions will be made about the status of these employees,” Psaki told the Beast. “This internal administrative process can take some time.”

She added: “It is also important to remember that the four people discussed are all long-serving government officials who over the years have provided dedicated service to the U.S. Government in challenging assignments.”

Maxwell just wants his day in court. He wrote a poem on his personal blog in April which referred to the State Department’s treatment of the four officials removed from their jobs after Benghazi as a “lynching.”

Last week, he posted another poem about the growing Benghazi scandal.

“The web of lies they weave gets tighter and tighter in its deceit until it bottoms out -at a very low frequency – and implodes,” he wrote. “Yet all the while, the more they talk, the more they lie, and the deeper down the hole they go.”

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Clinton Injured, US Navy Seal Killed In Secret US Mission To Iran | EUTimes.net

A new Foreign Military Intelligence (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today is saying that United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [photo ] was injured, and a top US Navy Seal Commander killed when their C-12 Huron military passenger and transport aircraft crash landed nearly 3 weeks ago in the Iranian city of Ahvaz near the Iraqi border. 

Iranian intelligence agents quoted in this GRU report confirm that the C-12 Huron aircraft is still in their possession in Ahvaz, but will only admit that the plane was “forced to land because of technical problems”.

Huron

The US Navy Seal member reported killed in this bizarre incident, this report says, was indentified as Commander Job W. Price [photo ] who as a leader of this highly specialized American Special Forces unit protects high-ranking diplomats traveling in Middle Eastern and Asian combat zones.

Curiously, US media reports on Commander Price’s death say it being investigated as a possible suicide as he died from what the American Defense Department describes as “a non-combat related injury”.

Equally as curious, US media reports state that Secretary Clinton will return to work next week after her having suffered what they describe as a “nasty bout with stomach flu” and a “concussion” which have kept her missing from public view the past three weeks.

This GRU report, however, states that US military flight logs recorded by Russian air and space forces confirm that Commander Price, and other members of US Navy Seal Team 4, left their base in Urozgan Province, Afghanistan on a flight to US Naval Support Activity Bahrain where they met up with Secretary Clinton and all of them transferred to the C-12 Huron that began a flight path to Baghdad, Iraq.

Within minutes of leaving Bahrain airspace, this report says, the C-12 Huron carrying Secretary Clinton and her US Navy Seal protectors, “without notice,” deviated from their assigned flight path heading, instead, directly towards Iran’s Ahwaz International Airport where, coincidentally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had previously landed on an “unscheduled” visit.

Important to note, GRU analysts say in this report, was that when the C-12 Huron entered into Iranian airspace neither American nor Iran air force units responded clearly indicating that this secret mission was sanctioned.

Upon the C-12 Huron landing at Ahwaz, however, this report says it encountered “extreme turbulence” causing it to leave the runway where its main landing gear then collapsed causing it to crash.

Within seconds of the C-12 Huron crashing, this report continues, Iranian emergency and security personal responded freeing the victims, including Secretary Clinton who was reportedly unconscious and “bleeding profusely.”

After emergency aid was given, GRU agents stationed in Iran state that another US military flight was dispatched from Bahrain to Ahwaz which evacuated all of those wounded and killed in the crash including Secretary Clinton.

Strangely to note, this report says, is that in the aftermath of this crash, Iran’s main oil company announced today that they were buying the Ahwaz airport with the intention of moving it because, they say, oil was discovered beneath it.

To what the Americans mission to Iran was about this report doesn’t speculate upon, other than to note that with the Gulf State Monarchies rapidly approaching a union of their oil rich nations to counter Iranian power, and with President Obama signing a new law this past week to strengthen American borders against threats from Iran, and with the highly-publicized “Velayat 91” Iranian military exercises now taking place across a wide area from the Strait of Hormuz, a new and catastrophic war in this region is much closer to being a reality than many realize.

To if Secretary Clinton’s mission was meant to forestall such a war it is not in our knowing, other than to note, that with the United States continued backing of some of the cruelest dictatorships in the world, our entire planet is but one spark away from a fire that could very well consume us all.

via Clinton Injured, US Navy Seal Killed In Secret US Mission To Iran | EUTimes.net.

Obama & Axelrod Throws State Department Under Benghazi Bus – By Eliana Johnson – The Corner – National Review Online

The State Department is the latest casualty of the Obama administration’s obfuscation of the events surrounding the Benghazi attack.

Tearing a few pages out of the old Clinton playbook, David Axelrod carefully defined the word “we” this morning for Fox News’ Chris Wallace: when the Vice President said in Wednesday’s debate that “we” weren’t aware of the Benghazi consulate’s requests for increased security, “we” included only the President and the Vice President – not the Obama administration at large or the State Department.  You got that, right?

In response to Wallace’s inquiry about whether the President takes personal responsibility for the denial of security requests in Benghazi, Axelrod said, “these were judgments that were made by security folks at the State Department.”

via Axelrod Throws State Department Under Benghazi Bus – By Eliana Johnson – The Corner – National Review Online.

It’s time for Hillary Clinton to resign | Fox News

“This is Libya’s moment.  This is Libya’s victory and the future belongs to you.”

–Hillary Clinton, October 17, 2011

That was our Secretary of State on a visit to Libya almost a year ago, when administration was touting the overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi as its biggest foreign policy triumph after killing Usama Bin Laden–and the success of  “leading from behind.”  Well, now we know that leading from behind was just the excuse for a policy of weakness and passivity–and the cost of that weakness in American prestige and lives, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Remember that Hillary Clinton ad in the 2008 presidential campaign, about who we would want answering that phone call to the Oval Office at 3 a.m.?   Now we can assume she would answer the same way she’s handled this Libyan debacle: with weakness, prevarication, and stunning misjudgment.

As details leak out about the events leading up to the brutal murder of Stevens and three other Americans, it’s becoming obvious the State Department knowingly put Stevens in danger of his life, and Secretary Clinton needs to take the lion’s share of the blame.

via It’s time for Hillary Clinton to resign | Fox News.