WASHINGTON — The seasoned diplomat who penned a highly critical report on security at a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, defended his scathing assessment but absolved then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“We knew where the responsibility rested,” Thomas Pickering said Sunday.
“They’ve tried to point a finger at people more senior than where we found the decisions were made,” Pickering, whose career spans four decades, said of Clinton’s critics.
The Accountability Review Board, which Pickering headed with retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not question Clinton at length about the attacks but concluded last December that the decisions about the consulate were made well below the secretary’s level.
Pickering and Mullen’s blistering report found that “systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the State Department meant that security was “inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”
Pickering’s defense of his panel’s conclusions, however, failed to placate Republicans who have called for creation of a special select congressional committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.