WASHINGTON - The attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11 has sharpened congressional scrutiny of a State Department office that protects diplomats in the world's most dangerous corners, as lawmakers ask whether it fatally misjudged the dangers of post-revolution Libya.
The little-known Bureau of Diplomatic Security saw its budget expand about tenfold in the decade after the deadly 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Contributing to that growth were the US-launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, with more diplomats moving into hostile territory.
Known as "DS" within the State Department, the bureau took pride in its work last year after the Arab Spring, including its rush to establish a safe diplomatic outpost in Benghazi following political upheaval in Tripoli, according to a report touting its successes.
But its handling of security in Benghazi, which will come under scrutiny on Wednesday at a House of Representatives committee hearing, is not the first time the bureau has come under review for costly mistakes.