The State Department-chartered investigation into the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, last year erred in not interviewing more senior officials at the department, a packed hearing of the House oversight committee heard Wednesday.
Eric Nordstrom, who was regional security officer for the embassy in Libya until a few months before the attack, told lawmakers in prepared testimony that in particular it was “inexplicable” that the inquiry panel, known as an Accountability Review Board, did not interview State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy.
The co-chairmen of the board, retired veteran diplomat Thomas R. Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Adm. Michael Mullen, said in a statement this week that they were allowed to interview whoever they wanted and that they spoke with everyone they needed to answer the questions they had.
But in dramatic prepared testimony for Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Nordstorm states that the buildings housing U.S. facilities in Tripoli and Benghazi did not meet departmental security standards and should not have been occupied by U.S. personnel.
He said he was told by officials in Washington that Mr. Kennedy had personally signed off on the decision to move in anyway.
Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. in Libya Gregory H. Hicks slated the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for putting all the responsibility for poor security in Benghazi on officials at the assistant secretary level and below.
The board’s failure to review the actions of Mr. Kennedy and other senior officials, “who made critical decisions regarding all aspects of operations in Tripoli, to include occupancy of facilities, which did not meet the aforementioned [security] requirements, is inexplicable,” he said.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darryl Issa, a California Republican, said he had invited Mr. Pickering and Mr. Mullen to testify, but they had declined.
He opened the highly-anticipated hearing by saying that his goal was a simple one: “To make certain that our government learns the proper lessons from this tragedy so that it never happens again.”
Mr. Issa shot back at Democratic claims that his investigation is politically driven by claiming that time and again over the past eight months the minority side has “sat silent” while Republicans sought answers from the administration about Benghazi.
The “administration has not been cooperative,” Mr. Issa said.