WASHINGTON -- Four State Department officials have been cleared of security failures that led to an attack last year on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, authorities said Tuesday.
State spokesman Marie Harf said the officials, who held senior positions at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, will be reassigned to new jobs.
She said an internal State review concluded "there was no breach of duty" by any of the four, who have been on paid administrative leave for months.
The State Department is not investigating any other employees. But the Benghazi attack has been under intense scrutiny by some House Republicans who have suggested the Obama administration is trying to cover up the circumstances and aftermath of the attack that left Stevens and three other Americans dead.
A review in December by the independent Benghazi Accountability Review Board described a security vacuum in Libya after rebel forces toppled the decades-long regime of strongman Moammar Gadhafi. It singled out the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs for lacking cooperation and being confused over protection at the diplomatic post in Benghazi.
Among the four officials are Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security; Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security; and Raymond Maxwell, deputy assistant secretary of state who oversaw the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The fourth official's identity was not disclosed.
Pushes wildfire spending past $1B: Wildfires burning in California, Oregon, Idaho and Montana are taxing national firefighting resources and helping to push spending past $1 billion for the year. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise upped the national wildfire preparedness level Tuesday to the highest level for the first time in five years. The center lists two central Idaho wildfires as the country's top priorities, helping provide crews and resources for the Beaver Creek fire, which forced the evacuation of 1,250 homes in the resort area of Ketchum and Sun Valley and has cost nearly $12 million so far.
To file longer Chapter 9 objection: Federal judge Judge Gerald Rosen will let Detroit's two pensions systems file longer eligibility objections to emergency manager Kevyn Orr's bankruptcy petition. Rosen granted the Detroit's police and fire retirement system and its general retirement system Tuesday to file objection in excess of the 25-page limit. Orr filed for bankruptcy last month. He's trying to restructure at least $18 billion in liabilities and says the pension systems are the two largest unsecured creditors. Orr said Detroit has underfunded obligations of $3.5 billion for pensions and $5.7 billion for retiree health. Some unions and individual retirees were among more than 100 creditors that filed objections by Monday's deadline.
Court not really into email: The members of the Supreme Court continue to communicate with one another through memos printed on ivory paper even as they face the prospect of hearing cases related to emerging technology and electronic snooping in the years to come, Justice Elena Kagan said Tuesday. The justices have a ways to go to understand technology such as Facebook, Twitter and even email, Kagan said in a conversation with Ted Widmer, a historian and librarian at Providence's Brown University who has been an adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton. "The justices are not necessarily the most technologically sophisticated people," she said, adding that while clerks email one another, "The court hasn't really 'gotten to' email."
Acting head named to SBA: Jeanne Hulit, an official in the Small Business Administration has been named acting head of the agency. Hulit, the SBA's associate administrator in its Office of Capital Access, will take over from current SBA Administrator Karen Mills when Mills leaves her post later this month. A search for a permanent successor for Mills is continuing. Mills announced Hulit's appointment in a memo to the SBA staff that was released by the Washington-based agency's spokesman, Emily Cain. Hulit's office oversees the SBA's loan programs for small business. She has also served as a regional SBA administrator.
Mechanical issue cancels cruises: Celebrity Cruises announced Tuesday it was cancelling the remainder of a seven-night cruise to Alaska, plus four additional cruises, after mechanical issues forced a ship carrying more than 3,100 passengers and crew members to return to port in Ketchikan. The cruise line said in a statement that passengers on the current cruise on its Millennium ship would receive refunds of their cruise fares and chartered air travel home. It also said it was offering future cruise certificates for 100 percent of the fare paid for this cruise. The mechanical issues also forced the cancellation of cruises on the Millennium that were scheduled for Aug. 23, Aug. 30, Sept. 6 and Sept. 13, the company announced late Tuesday.
Wants to question track security: Nearly a month after a train crash killed 79 people in Spain, Judge Luis Alaez, investigating the tragedy, said Tuesday he wants to question whoever is responsible for rail security in the area where the accident occurred as a suspect in the case. Attention has focused on driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo's responsibility after he admitted he was going too fast when the July 24 crash occurred. He has been provisionally charged with multiple counts of negligent homicide.