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Libya attack: Congressmen casting blame voted to cut diplomatic security budget

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But it's certainly true that US embassy security is under strain around the world. Foreign nationals increasingly replace US citizens in everything from visa offices to security details. The new consulate in Benghazi, just over a year old, would have been particularly top-heavy with US nationals to start. Some reduction in US staffing was inevitable.

After I wrote a piece earlier this week about the political gain being sought from the deaths of Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, a number of diplomatic acquaintances of mine emailed to say I should have looked at the State Department's security budget. Two of them had unprintable things to say about Congress.

Who can be blamed for that? Well, Chaffetz and Issa among others.

Since retaking control in 2010, House Republicans have aggressively cut spending at the State Department in general and embassy security in particular. Chaffetz and Issa and their colleagues voted to pay for far less security than the State Department requested in 2011 and again this year.

A bit rich

Is that responsible for the tragedy in Benghazi? Probably not, at least not entirely. Usually when security goes wrong, it's down to a cascade of small failures piling up. But it's a bit rich to complain about a lack of US security personnel at diplomatic missions on the one hand, while actively working to cut the budget to pay for US security personnel at diplomatic missions on the other. 

It would have been Ambassador Stevens' call as to whether he made that visit from Tripoli, with advice from his regional security adviser. If they thought there was a high likelihood of an attack, they wouldn't have gone. They sadly got it wrong. A glaring intelligence failure? A cavalier attitude towards security? Or simply bad luck, in a dangerous country that the US is eager to see stabilized? 

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