The retired diplomat who led the State Department investigation into last year's attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi defended on TV interview programs Sunday the decision not to question former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Former Ambassador Thomas J. Pickering said the Accountability Review Board, created by the department to review the events surrounding the attack, determined that responsibility for what happened fell below the secretary's level. The panel also did not question Clinton's two deputies because it had concluded mistakes were made by lower-level officials.
"We had plenty of opportunity had we felt it was necessary, all five of us, to ask them questions," said Pickering, co-chairman with former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen on the review board. "We didn't believe that was necessary, and I don't see any reason to do so now." The board reviewed the findings with Clinton but did not question her, Pickering said, because "we had questioned people who had attended meetings with her" and "I don't think that there was anything there that we didn't know."
The investigation was criticized by witnesses at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing last week. The board's report let high-level State Department officials "off the hook" said Gregory Hicks, a Foreign Service diplomat who was deputy chief of mission in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. Eric Nordstrom, regional security officer in Libya until a few months before the attack, told the committee that the buildings at the Benghazi outpost did not meet security standards for diplomatic facilities that were adopted after the bombing attack on U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.
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Photo of Hillary Clinton: AP Images