Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) has asked the two top officials on the State Department’s embattled Benghazi Accountability Review (ARB) Board to appear for an interview with investigators ahead of a public hearing focusing on the ARB’s alleged failures.
Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote on Monday to ARB co-chairs Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Admiral Mike Mullen asking that they “submit to transcribed interviews.”
The ARB was tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the lives of four Americans.
Issa asked that Pickering and Mullen respond to his request “no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday May 15, 2013,” according to his office.
While the Obama administration has touted the ARB’s findings, critics maintain that the board failed to interview key witnesses and it sloppily assembled an incomplete report.
State Department whistle-blowers labeled the report “incomplete” and alleged that it let senior Obama administration officials “off the hook” in congressional testimony.
Issa said he is committed to fully assessing the ARB’s work.
“During [Wednesday’s] hearing, the findings and methodology of the State Department’s ‘Accountability Review Board’ (ARB) were discussed frequently,” Issa wrote in the letter to Pickering.
“Three senior State Department officials who testified at the hearing criticized the ARB’s work as ‘incomplete’ and flawed because the ARB did not interview key witnesses and failed to hold senior officials accountable,” Issa wrote.
Pickering has defended the ARB’s report, calling criticism “unfair.”
“The White House and the State Department have touted the ARB’s report as the definitive account of how and why the Benghazi attacks occurred,” Issa wrote. “It is necessary for the committee to understand whether the criticisms of the ARB’s work that we heard from witnesses on May 8, 2013, are valid.”
The letter to Mullen said his testimony would “help the committee better understand how the ARB reached its conclusions.”
Mullen and Pickering would later appear before the oversight committee for in-person testimony following their transcribed interview with investigators, according to Issa.
President Barack Obama dismissed the ongoing controversy over Benghazi during a press conference Monday afternoon, referring to it as a “sideshow.”
“Suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story,” Obama said. “There’s no ‘there’ there.”