House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa plans to press ahead with an investigation into last year's terrorist attacks in Benghazi, despite State Department insistence that an independent probe of the Libyan incident is enough.
“We think that we've done an independent investigation, that it's been transparent, thorough, credible, and detailed, and that we've shared those findings with the U.S. Congress, and that should be enough,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
But Issa, a California Republican, has asked for legal protection for lower-level employees who could be called in to testify, and complained that State is interfering with workers' rights to communicate with Congress.
“To date, the State Department has not even taken [the] modest step to assure whistle blowers that they will not face retaliation from the department,” Issa wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
But Ventrell said the embassy employees have already given “extensive testimony” to the FBI and State's independent review board and returned to their duty stations around the world. He also pointed out a report has already been issued about Benghazi.
Further, he noted, lower-level employees don't usually testify in such incidents.
“The standard practice, going back for a very long time, is that there are senior officers who are willing to testify on behalf of this department about our operations,” he said. “Just as you wouldn't have necessarily a soldier or troops called as witnesses, you have their superior officers. That's the same practice for the State Department.”
Issa, though, said State Department workers have approached his committee about the events leading up to the attack
Last week, Issa's committee, along with other lawmakers released a 46-page report that accuses former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of approving lax security at the embassy. It also accuses her of trying to hide her department's responsibility in the attacks, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans were killed.
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