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Mr. Gaffney also lashed out at Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, the veteran diplomat appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to head the State Department’s mandatory inquiry into the incident.

The five-member panel began its work last month but is not expected to report until next year.

Mr. Pickering’s appointment was “as vivid an example as you could ask for of the administration’s efforts to conceal and deflect questions rather than get to the bottom of them,” said Mr. Gaffney.

He said Mr. Pickering “has a conflict of interest because he is a creature of the state department.”

Neither the department nor Mr. Pickering’s office responded immediately to requests for comment, but Mr. Rustmann demonstrated that not all critics of the administration’s response agree.

“[Mr.] Pickering is well-respected at all levels of State and CIA and the rest of the government,” he told The Times, “He’s an honorable man who will do an impartial assessment of the facts.”