(WASHINGTON) — Following last night’s confirmation that Secretary of State John Kerry has reinstated the four employees who were placed on administrative leave by Secretary Hillary Clinton following the independent investigation of the Benghazi attacks, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf offered a spirited defense of the decision.
When the employees were first relieved of their posts and put on leave, Secretary Clinton seemed to express that she wished she could do more, but under the law the employees conduct did not reach the level of “breach of duty” allowing the department to fire them.
Harf said that when Kerry came into office he took over an additional review started by Clinton following the Accountability Review Board findings, and concluded that the four employees should not be subject to any further disciplinary action. They have all been reassigned from the positions in which they were serving during the Benghazi attack, but will return to work for the department full time.
“What the secretary and his team have been doing over these past few months is doing more facts-findings, going into what happened on the ground but also looking again at the totality of these four employees’ careers at the State Department,” said Harf. “They’ve served in tough places. There were a lot of examples where they’ve had very exemplary careers here. So that was all looked at as we made this determination about what was appropriate.”
Questioned over whether this means that no one will face punishment for decisions made leading up to the terror attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, despite Congressional testimony by former contractors and employees in Libya that management refused to listen to security concerns, Harf said Kerry made his decision based on facts, not emotion.
“We have to let the facts lead where they may, and these are people with real lives and real careers, and we can’t just take action that’s not warranted against them just to make us all feel better,” she said.
This will probably not be the last we hear about this decision. Look for Republican members of Congress who have been calling for further investigation into Benghazi since the attack to publicly take issue with Secretary Kerry’s choice.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Lorenzo D'Agostino and Hilary Clarke, CNN
Camille Verdier, Steve Visser and Margot Haddad, CNN
Angela Dewan and Max Blau, CNN
Ben Westcott, CNN