Did less funding contribute to the tragedy?
Diplomatic security, like diplomacy itself, is the province of the executive branch, the administration.
So a congressional committee is correct to seek accountability from the State Department for the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens and three other Americans.
The administration itself aroused suspicion by failing to quickly identify the nature of the attack. Someone in the administration, though not in the State Department, initially said it was a spontaneous uprising prompted by an anti-Islamic move trailer, before concluding that it was an orchestrated terrorist attack.
The level of security staffing, timeline of events and communication between the Embassy and Washington relative to security all are fair targets for inquiry.
So, too, however, is the role of many of the congressional committee members. While excoriating the administration for its handling of security and the aftermath of the attack, some of the representatives earlier had voted to reduce funding for global diplomatic security by about $500 million.
While condemning the administration, for example, committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah sees no contradiction in cutting security funds. He said the administration simply had to prioritize its security spending.
While holding the administration accountable, the committee also should examine the extent to which the funding reduction might have contributed to the tragedy.