Eric Boswell, the head of US diplomatic security, has stepped down and and three other senior State Department officials have been relieved of their duties after an official inquiry blamed their offices for failing to provide adequate security at the US consulate in Benghazi.
Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson, said on Wednesday that Boswell and three other unnamed officials were sacked less than a day after the critical report was released.
The statement came after Obama administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Charlene Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and Raymond Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees diplomatic security in the countries of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, were among those who stepped down.
The removals came following a report by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) which cited "systemic failures" and "leadership and management deficiencies" leading to a security lapse during the Benghazi attack, in which armed fighters killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US citizens on September 11.
“The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs," Nuland said in the statement.
"The Secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”
The ARB inquiry's chair, retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering, said the panel had determined that responsibility for security shortcomings in Benghazi belonged at levels lower than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's office.
"We fixed (responsibility) at the assistant secretary level, which is, in our view, the appropriate place to look for where the decision-making in fact takes place, where - if you like - the rubber hits the road," Pickering said after closed-door meetings with congressional committees.
The report by the ARB probing the attack and comments by its two lead authors suggested that Clinton, who accepted responsibility for the incident, would not be held personally culpable.
"The secretary of state has been very clear about taking responsibility here, (yet) it was from my perspective not
reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge," said Mullen, the former chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff.
Clinton, who has decided to step down from her job in the Obama administration in January, said in a letter accompanying the review that she would adopt all of its recommendations, which include stepping up security staffing and requesting more funds to fortify US facilities.
Reporting from Washington DC, Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan said the report puts a dent in Clinton's record at the State Department.
"This incident obviously happened at a key moment in her tenure," Jordan said.
"There's been much speculation about her future once she steps down," she said about to Clinton's presidential prospects in 2016.