Diplomat safety top priority, State Department says

May 9, 2013 at 9:57 AM

WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department is committed to keeping its workforce of an estimated 70,000 people safe, a department spokesman said.

The U.S. House of Representatives committee Wednesday heard testimony on security for overseas diplomats in places such as Libya. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three members of his staff died after the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was overrun in September.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said there was a clear focus on safety for diplomats deployed overseas.

"The State Department family is a family of some 70,000-odd professionals around the world at 285 diplomatic posts, and we are doing everything we can to keep our people safe in the dangerous world we live in," he said.

Gregory Hicks, stationed in Tripoli last year, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee he was frustrated that Special Operations soldiers were told to stand down when they asked to deploy from Tripoli to Benghazi.

Republican leaders said they were frustrated with security lapses and accused U.S. President Barack Obama's administration of trying to cover up the incident. Supporters of the president and members of the intelligence community said the response was indicative of the best information available at the time.

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