Darrell Issa to hear from Mike Mullen, Thomas Pickering on Benghazi
By: Ginger Gibson
September 11, 2013 12:35 PM EDT
After months of delays, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hear testimony next week from the two men who conducted a review of last year’s attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Former Admiral Mike Mullen and Ambassador Thomas Pickering will testify on Sept. 19 as part of a hearing meant to examine the findings of the Accountability Review Board. Mullen and Pickering led the review panel and issued their report in December which found a number of needed security improvements but offered only mild criticism of State Department employees.
In addition to Mullen and Pickering, the committee will also hear testimony from two additional independent reviewers of the attack and family members of the victims who died, although the committee did not name the family members. The Sept. 11, 2012, attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and fellow Republicans on the panel have been highly critical of the ARB report, which they said failed to criticize or recommend punishments for those in upper management positions in the State Department. Republicans also argued the investigation by the ARB wasn’t thorough enough because witnesses weren’t allowed to read their testimony and not everyone in State involved with the response had been interviewed.
Mullen and Pickering volunteered to testify about their report in the spring, but Issa insisted that the two men sit for closed-door, transcribed interviews first. After Issa subpoenaed Pickering, the two men agreed to sit for secret interviews in June. It’s taken months for a public hearing to be scheduled after the two men were initially offered times to testify that they had already said wouldn’t work for them.
Issa last convened a hearing on Benghazi in May, when the criticism of the ARB report reached a fever pitch. Since then, Issa has engaged in a back and forth with the State Department over records.
Recently, Issa began pressing State to make survivors of the attack available to testify before the committee while also pushing for more documents that were produced in the course of the ARB investigation.
“From denying the Committee access to survivors of the attack to refusing to turn over key documents, the Administration’s continual reluctance to cooperate with our investigation is flatly unacceptable,” Issa said in a statement.
Next week’s hearing is likely to produce another round of criticism for the ARB report and the lack of discipline taken against State employees named in the report. In pressing Mullen and Pickering, Republicans are also likely to return to their criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who some on the panel previously argued was protected in the report.
“Considering that the State Department’s ‘accountability’ review board has yielded no disciplinary action, none of the terrorists have been brought to justice, and we still don’t have key answers about what happened before, during and after the attack, Benghazi remains an important and unresolved matter,” Issa said in a statement.
The hearing will be held at 9:45 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.