GOP Attacks State Department Over Independence of Benghazi Review

Image: GOP Attacks State Department Over Independence of Benghazi Review From left, Thomas Pickering, Adm. Mike Mullen, Mark Sullivan and Todd Keil are sworn in during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Sept. 19.

Friday, 20 Sep 2013 10:30 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was given an advance copy of the State Department's report on the 2012 Benghazi attack, and her staff was warned not to field a potentially weak witness for a congressional hearing.

Republicans say the revelations raise serious questions about the independence of the review, which was intended to be an independent investigation into the security lapses that led to the attack and the lack of response from the government during the two assaults over eight hours.

Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, vice chairman of the accountability review board, acknowledged he warned Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills not to send a particular official to appear before Congress because he thought "she would be a weak witness" who might have hurt the State Department's case, according to The Washington Times.

Breitbart identified the woman
as Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary of state for embassy security, who was one of four officials put on administrative leave following the attack. All four have been reinstated.

"If this (investigation) is so independent, why are you giving the State Department a heads-up about a witness coming in front of this committee?" Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan asked during Thursday's House Oversight Committee hearing at which Mullen and his co-chairman, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, testified.

Pickering nevertheless defended the panel's work.

"I am aware that no report will ever be perfect, but I am proud of this one, which has been seen by many as clear, cogent, and very hard-hitting, as it should be. New information is always welcome.

"I feel that this report is still on the mark, free of cover-up and political tilt, and will personally welcome anything new which sheds light on what happened and that helps us to protect American lives and property in the future," Pickering said.

Meanwhile, before the hearing convened, committee Democrats released an 80-page report contradicting claims by many Republicans that the U.S. military was ordered to stand down during the attacks instead of coming to the rescue of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans that died.

Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, one of the former SEALs who was killed in the attack, disputed the findings, according to the Times.

"Ambassador Stevens was alive for a substantial period of time after he made that initial distress call. It's very possible that there would have been no loss of life if that first order to stand down had not been given. We need to find that out," he said.

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