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The State Department bureau tasked with secretly sending to embassies plastic and liquid explosives operates under the guidance of Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, whom a congressional panel last year separately found to be largely responsible for security lapses in Benghazi, WND has learned.
A series of WND articles recently exposed the purchase and international transport of many hundreds of pounds of plastic, sheet and linear explosives along with thousands of containers of high-energy liquid explosives.
Weeks after a State official laughed in response to WND’s inquiry, the department belatedly reacted to a follow-up request for information about how, where and by whom the blasting equipment will be used.
The inquiry sought to determine whether, as contracting documents indicate, State will ship the bombing equipment globally through its Sterling, Virginia-based Diplomatic Pouch and Mail facility, or DPM. It’s the primary government facility by which secure pouches and crates are sent to U.S. embassies and consulates.
Since department guidelines explicitly prohibit the unit from shipping explosives, State’s Public Affairs Office was pressed to clarify whether DPM, U.S. Despatch Agencies or “some other mode of delivery” will be used to deliver the explosives and related equipment.
State neither confirmed nor denied it was transporting explosives, tens of thousands of feet of blasting wire and thousands of blasting caps via DPM.
Bureau of Diplomatic Security Public Affairs spokeswoman Gale L. Smith, responding specifically to the question about DPM’s potential role in the delivery, said the Department’s Bureau of Administration “provides secure global delivery of customer materials to the foreign affairs community in support of their mission.”
The Bureau of Administration, which Smith said is responsible for diplomatic shipments, is one of several bureaus operating under the umbrella of Under Secretary Kennedy’s authority.
His authority includes oversight of “the people, resources, budget, facilities, technology, financial operations, consular affairs, logistics, contracting, and security for Department of State operations,” according to the bureau website.
The Accountability Review Board, or ARB – which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assembled to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the Benghazi compound that killed four Americans – did not hold Kennedy accountable for decisions about Benghazi’s status as a diplomatic facility.
The Obama administration lauded ARB for investigative thoroughness.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, however, rejected the notion that ARB conducted a comprehensive investigation.
Indeed, Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., lambasted ARB for casting blame for the Benghazi compound’s poor security on several mid-level bureaucrats rather than on Kennedy.
“Documents and testimony obtained by the committee show that the exemption of the Benghazi special mission compound from department physical security guidelines was not the result of a decision made by any of the four individuals singled out for ‘accountability’ by the ARB,” the committee said in “Benghazi Attacks: Investigative Update Interim Report on the [ARB].”
“In fact, the Under Secretary for Management [Patrick F. Kennedy] approved the decision to allow U.S. diplomats to move into an ‘as-is’ facility.”
Where is it going?
Smith said the explosives “will be used exclusively for training in support of the Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program,” or ATA.
ATA, she explained in the email response, “fosters cooperative efforts between U.S. law enforcement officers and those of our partner nations engaged in the front lines of the global war on terrorism. ATA provides advanced counter-terrorism training and equipment grants to maintain and increase our partners’ capabilities to find and arrest terrorists.”
Ukraine currently “is not a partner nation,” she emphasized in response to questions about third-party speculation that the embattled nation is a destination for the blasting gear.
WND also asked how the purchase of the explosives fits with the State Department’s mission to “shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”
Smith reiterated that the blasting materials are for exclusive use in ATA cooperative training efforts “between U.S. law enforcement officers and those of our partner nations engaged in the front lines of the global war on terrorism.”
“ATA provides advanced counter-terrorism training and equipment grants to maintain and increase our partners’ capabilities to find and arrest terrorists,” Smith said.
“ATA uses explosives to train partner nation law enforcement to identify, neutralize and safely dispose of explosive devices to keep their communities safe.”
President Obama’s FY 2015 request for ATA is $165.8 million, down from $200 million in FY 2012.
“The requested funds will build upon productive, strategic, and crucial existing partnerships with countries including Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines and a number of other partners,” according to a State Department budget-request summary.
“The funds are also intended to address emerging counter-terrorism needs in countries like Syria.”
A potential $375 million, five-year contract in June 2011 had been awarded to the McLean, Virginia-based Science Applications International Corporation to help State carry out global ATA training.