- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
State Department review board on Benghazi attack works in secrecy
Question of the Day
Retired Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, who was tapped by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to lead the board, says it has “decided to keep its deliberations confidential to preserve the integrity and objectivity of its work, in accordance with the statute providing for its activity.”
The statement was issued in response to requests by The Washington Times for information about the board — such as the size of its budget, the number of its staffers, a list of who has been interviewed and when its findings will be made public.
State Department officials have declined to answer those questions or divulge how often the board meets, and the secrecy appears driven by a desire to shield the investigation from the partisan politics that has engulfed the Benghazi attack.
Republican lawmakers have excoriated the Obama administration for its handling of security in Libya before the attack, and lambasted the White House for initially characterizing the incident, which coincided the 11th anniversary of 9/11, as something other than terrorism.
A hefty portion of the criticism has been aimed at U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, who appeared on TV talk shows five days after the attack with assertions that it had resulted from spontaneous protests.
The underlying insinuation is that the White House — through Mrs. Rice — intentionally muffled intelligence on the incident to protect President Obama from accusations of a security meltdown in the Middle East before the general election.
Meanwhile, the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 requires that an Accountability Review Board be convened to conduct an investigation in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a diplomatic post.
The review board has broad powers of subpoena, according to the law, which stipulates that it consist of five members — four appointed by the secretary of state and one by the director of central intelligence.
In addition to Mr. Pickering, the Benghazi board includes retired Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, a former chairman of the joint chiefs; Catherine Bertini, a former director of the U.N. World Food Program; Hugh Turner, a professor at the University of Maryland; and longtime State Department official Richard Shinnick.
In a letter to House Republicans last month, Mrs. Clinton said the board is “charged with determining whether our security systems and procedures in Benghazi were adequate, whether those systems and procedures were properly implemented, and any lessons that may be relevant to our work around the world.”
She encouraged Congress to “withhold any final conclusions about the Benghazi attack” until after the board presents its findings.
Foreign policy insiders say the goal is to keep those findings as free of political manipulation as possible. While that may explain the board’s secrecy, it is likely that the board is delving into politically sensitive questions, such as the extent to which Mrs. Rice may have knowingly misled the American public in the days after the Benghazi attack.
“Since Susan Rice is part of the State Department, I’m sure that Tom Pickering and the [board] will attempt to address who knew what and when,” said P.J. Crowley, who served as assistant secretary of state for public affairs from 2009 through 2011. “Whether that satisfies the zealots on the issue remains to be seen.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.
His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.
Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...
- Israel's ambassador praises Obama, slams Human Rights Watch report
- U.S. intelligence nearly certain pro-Russian separatists downed Malaysian Airlines flight
- U.S. scrambles as violence escalates in Israel-Hamas conflict
- MH17: Fear of ground-to-air missile strike becomes nightmare reality in Ukraine
- U.S., China to participate in unprecedented joint ground force exercise
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By David Keene
Allowing states to innovate could reduce dependency on bureaucracy
- White House says Russia 'losing' war in Ukraine
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- EPSTEIN: All IRS roads lead to the archivist
- HAYDEN: Intelligence, evidence and the case against Russia
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Border surge puts Obama legacy on immigration at stake
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- KUHNER: Will Russia-Ukraine be Europe's next war?
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq