Portman, McCain demand that Panetta protect U.S. diplomats, foreign posts

Two leading Republican senators sent an open letter Oct. 10 to Defense Secretary Leon D. Panetta demanding a full inquest into the Pentagon???s security program for American diplomatic posts in Libya and worldwide.

???While the State Department is ultimately responsible for ensuring their protection, it’s vital that we conduct thorough oversight of the Defense Department, which plays an important role in supporting the protection of our U.S. missions overseas,??? said Sen. Robert J. Portman (R-Ohio), the ranking member of that chamber???s Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, who was joined on the letter by Sen. John S. McCain III (R-Ariz.), who is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

???As we???ve seen in recent weeks with attacks against our embassies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, our diplomatic personnel are at the mercy of daily threats in hostile regions of the world, and their safety and security must be our top priority,??? said Portman

In the letter, the two men challenge Panetta and the Pentagon???s commitment to protecting diplomatic missions in the wake of grave security breaches at American missions in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

The senators also posed five questions to Panetta:

1. Prior to the attack on September 11, 2012, did the Defense Department conduct any security assessments in support of the diplomatic mission in Libya, and if so, what were the findings and recommendations of those assessments?

2. Did the State Department request the fielding of a Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) Detachment to assist with security in Libya, and if so, what was the planned timeline for fielding that detachment?  What factors determined the planned timeline and structure of that detachment?

3. Beyond assessment teams and a MCESG Detachment, did the State Department request  any other Defense Department resources to aid in diplomatic security in Libya?  If so, what resources were provided and what was not provided?

4. What, if any, intelligence existed from Defense Department agencies regarding threats to U.S. personnel or our diplomatic mission in Libya and what intelligence was disseminated to the intelligence community?

5. In light of the recent threats to our U.S. personnel and missions abroad, what changes do you plan for Defense Department support for diplomatic security?

Panetta, who previously served President Barack Obama as the CIA director, visited Libya in December 2011. It was the first visit to the North African nation by an American defense secretary.