Administration Relying on Shoddy Benghazi Report to Absolve Itself of Blame
By Victoria Toensing
The White House has touted the Accountability Review Board (ARB) investigation of the Benghazi massacre as a review “led by two men of unimpeachable expertise and credibility that oversaw a process that was rigorous and unsparing.” In fact, the report was purposefully incomplete and willfully misleading.
… The ARB report has at least one significant discrepancy, inconsistent with what Mr. Hicks told the Board. He specifically stated, with Pickering present, that the reason Ambassador Christopher Stevens went to Benghazi was to establish a permanent constituent post, an assignment received directly from Clinton in May 2012 when he was sworn in as ambassador. Soon after, Stevens told Mr. Hicks about this assignment over lunch when they discussed the procedures for getting the task done. When Mr. Hicks arrived in Tripoli in July 2012 they revisited the needs related to making Benghazi a permanent post. At the time, Stevens had out of country commitments and could not go to Benghazi until September. The trip was scheduled for mid-September because the report about building structures and security had to be submitted before the end of the fiscal year: September 30.
When Mr. Hicks told the ARB the reason for the trip, Pickering visibly flinched and said: “Does the 7th floor know about this?” (The office of the Secretary of State is on the 7th floor.)
This relevant information was omitted in the ARB’s unclassified report. Worse, it was concealed by a false statement: “The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice. Timing for his trip was driven in part by commitments in Tripoli, as well as a staffing gap … in Benghazi.” Mr. Hicks testified in the hearing that Washington was well aware prior to the trip that Stevens was going to Benghazi.
Many observers have deplored the ARB’s conclusion assigning responsibility to lower-level career officials at State for all mistakes, while clearing the political appointees above the assistant secretary of any missteps. It is a convenient finding—at least, for the State Department higher-ups. But the ARB’s shoddy report is an insult to the memory of four dead Americans. The truth, even or especially at this point, does make a difference.