Issa: Benghazi Probe Let State Dept Bosses off Hook

Image: Issa: Benghazi Probe Let State Dept Bosses off Hook

Monday, 16 Sep 2013 03:01 PM

By Elliot Jager

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The State Department's internal investigation of last year's terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi fell short of the inquiry that Obama Administration officials had promised, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee claim.

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A staff report prepared for committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa determined that critical decisions that approved a continued temporary U.S. presence in Libya's second city were fatally flawed.

The temporary designation exempted the site from more rigorous security requirements standard at permanent missions.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was among those who wanted to extend the temporary mission in Benghazi, the report said. As a consequence, the mission was limited in its ability to field permanent security agents.

The Oversight Committee was looking at the State Department evaluation by its Accountability Review Board (ARB). The committee said the board, chaired by former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Michael Mullen did not take the senior officials to task.

Instead, it claimed, four lower level individuals were singled out for "accountability" though none of these had made the crucial security decision at the Benghazi mission. The four were later re-instated, Fox News reported.

"The ARB was not fully independent," said Issa, a California Republican, as he released the report Monday.

"The panel did not exhaustively examine failures and it has led to an unacceptable lack of accountability. While Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen have honorably served their country, the families of victims and the American people continue to wait for more conclusive answers about how our government left our own personnel so vulnerable and alone the night of the attack."

The report determined that the State Department's internal review was not comprehensive because it did not conduct thorough interviews of officials most closely involved in the decision making. It said Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs second-in-command Elizabeth Dibble appeared before the internal review once for only 90-minutes.

Accountability Review Board sessions were not recorded or transcribed though summaries were compiled. However, the State Department refused to hand these over to the congressional staff researchers.

Senior State Department officials who were involved in discussions about Benghazi security were also responsible for the process of selecting Accountability Review Board members and team, which the staff report said was a conflict of interest.

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The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, called the staff report's claims "unsubstantiated accusations."

The House Oversight Committee has scheduled hearings for Sept. 19, Fox News reported.

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