Tags: Issa | Official | Benghazi | Report

Issa: Officials Will be Asked to Explain Benghazi Report

By    |   Sunday, 12 May 2013 02:27 PM

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said on Sunday that he plans to ask the two men who led the probe into the Benghazi attacks on behalf of the State Department to meet with his House committee.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Issa, whose committee held a hearing on Benghazi last Wednesday, said lawmakers have not yet been given access to all documents and witnesses, so he wants to hear directly from former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen.

Issa, R-Calif., said the White House denied his committee access to Pickering, his report, or even the names of the witnesses he spoke with.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks.

Pickering, also appearing on "Meet the Press," insisted that he had never declined to appear before Issa’s panel. Issa subsequently clarified that he did not believe Pickering or Mullen personally refused to show up, but that the Obama administration had stopped them from appearing.

He added that Democrats on his committee were also free to call Pickering — even at the last minute — but they declined to call any witnesses.

Issa, a California Republican, charged that "David Petraus said what the administration wanted him to say . . . Ambassador Pickering heard what the administration wanted to hear."

Issa dismissed the notion that the CIA ultimately was responsible for what was in the administration's initial talking points on the Benghazi incident.

"You get a first report from the CIA, that’s their report. Then you push back, you get a little different. You push back, get a little different. That’s manipulating the CIA to get the truth you want," he said.

Pickering's five-member Accountability Review Board was appointed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Pickering said he was given access to all documents as well as the people involved though he did not consider the talking points to be under his board's remit.

Later on CBS' "Face the Nation," Pickering also acknolwedged that his panel had access to Clinton but opted not to ask her any questions on the incident.

"We were asked to look in under the law at five questions — all of which had to do with security, with the adequacy of security, with the preparation of security, with intelligence, and whether anyone breached their duties," he said. "That was in effect our mandate. At the time, and still now, I find it hard to see how the talking points' issues relate to the security at the Benghazi mission."

Issa said Pickering and Mullen could speak to his panel privately and would be treated in a nonpartisan way. If issues were discovered that warranted public testimony, that could follow at a later time, he said.

ABC reported last week that the administration's talking points were changed 12 times before finally being given to members of Congress and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who went on all five Sunday talk shows five days after the attack and blamed an anti-Muslim YouTube video for spurring a spontaneous demonstration. The YouTube video was never mentioned in any version of the talking points.

Issa said he is not targeting Clinton or Obama, but that he believes all witnesses have not been heard from.

If Pickering's panel got everything right, he said, the case could be put to rest.

“We believe it was insufficient,” he added.  "We believe that it’s likely that they did not interview all the people."

Issa said he doesn’t think Congress should be checking executive office emails on a regular basis, "but when the wheels come off, when, in fact, people make a decision to give us something that’s false, and it’s shown to be false, and then particularly if there’s false statements to Congress, of course we have an obligation to look at it."

Issa says he regrets to this day that during George W. Bush's presidency he didn't press hard enough for more accountability of the Mineral Management Service, which may have been able to prevent the BP oil spill. He said memories of that have him pressing harder for accountability now.

But Issa said he sees no need for a select committee.

"Let’s not blow things out of proportion," he said. This is a failure. It needs to be investigated. Our committee can investigate."

Appearing on CNN’s "State of the Union," Pickering said that any report is subject to review and criticism. "I welcome that," he said, "but I don’t yet see it."

Pressed to explain why his panel didn’t talk to Clinton, Pickering said that officials were interested in where the decisions were made, "and she did not make the security decisions."

Pickering also said he did not learn anything new from Wednesday's hearings, but noted that the FBI is responsible for the criminal investigation into who was behind the attack, which is separate from his team's security probe.

"We may find out much more," he said.

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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said on Sunday that he plans to ask the two men who led the probe into the Benghazi attacks on behalf of the State Department to meet with his House committee.
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Sunday, 12 May 2013 02:27 PM
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