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Benghazi Investigation Deepens: Lawmakers Seek Interviews of 13 Officials Involved

5:16 PM, May 23, 2013 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Lawmakers want to ask Nuland about an email she sent expressing her concerns and those of her “building leadership” at the State Department to some of the contents of the talking points. In another email, Nuland notes that State Department leadership would be contacting the National Security Staff directly.

In testimony on January 23, Hillary Clinton claimed that the talking points were “an intelligence product” and that the “intelligence community was the principal decider about what went into the talking points.” But her testimony is contradicted by an email from the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs, which reported: “The State Department had major reservations with much or most of the document. We revised the document with their concerns in mind.”

Was Clinton involved in the revisions?

Beyond the talking points, lawmakers want answers to questions decisions on security before and during the attacks. Kennedy, who has testified previously about Benghazi, will no doubt face additional questions about his role in refusing to send the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) to Benghazi when the attack began. CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson reported this week that deployment of the FEST team to Benghazi was “ruled out from the start,” a “decision that became a source of internal dissent and the cause of puzzlement to some outsiders.” An official who spoke to Attkisson said that Kennedy dismissed the idea. 

Maxwell, who was placed on “administrative leave” last winter, recently told Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast that he had nothing to do with decision making on Benghazi. “I had no involvement to any degree with decisions on security and the funding of our security at our diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” Maxwell said. Maxwell’s punishment came after the release of the ARB report, and Rogin reports that Maxwell has never had access to the classified version of that report, where some of the State Department’s failures are laid out.

The same is true for Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, who recently offered in congressional testimony a critical assessment of State Department leadership during and after the Benghazi attacks. Victoria Toensing, who is representing Hicks, says he has still not been allowed to review the classified version of the ARB report, despite his having been interviewed for it.

This lack of access to the classified ARB report is one of many questions Pickering will face when he is interviewed early next month. Why not let Hicks and others interviewed for the report see the final product?

In addition, lawmakers will press Pickering on a report that many consider to be a whitewash. Not only did the ARB team fail to interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they didn’t speak with lower-level personnel in the chain of decision making who had volunteered to speak with them. One of those officials, Mark Thompson, the State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary of state for counterterrorism, offered to share his experience from that evening with the ARB, but was never contacted for an interview.

Thompson was one of a handful of State Department officials who had a firsthand view of what was happening in Libya that night. When he learned that Ambassador Chris Stevens was missing and that others had sought safe haven, Thompson testified, he told his leadership at the State Department “that we needed to go forward and consider the deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support Team.”

“I notified the White House,” Thompson continued. “They indicated that meetings had already taken place that evening” and that FEST would not be deployed.

Did the ARB leadership believe this testimony wasn’t relevant to their investigation? Or was it inconvenient to the conclusion they wanted to reach?

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