Military veterans and retired special operations officers demanded on Wednesday that former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen be deposed by Congress in order to learn the reason why U.S. forces were not ordered to rescue the four Americans killed during the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Mullen and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering were responsible for issuing the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) report about the attack.
The report was widely criticized by lawmakers for being incomplete and for allegedly whitewashing the role senior officials played in the administration’s botched response to the attack.
Pickering was deposed Tuesday in a closed-door session of the House Oversight Committee following his being subpoenaed.
The military veterans and special operations officers maintain that Mullen could provide critical information that has not yet come to light.
"Deposing Ambassador Pickering about the serious gaps in the ARB report is a start but it’s actually his co-chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, who has some of the most important questions to answer," the veterans wrote in an open letter released by OPSEC, a non-partisan group seeking answers about Benghazi.
"Until the Committee hears about the unacceptable gaps in the report’s treatment of military response decisions around Benghazi we won’t begin to get a true understanding of what actually happened," the veterans wrote.
House lawmakers led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) have been asking for Mullen and Pickering to testify since mid-May. They want to know exactly how the ARB reached its conclusions about the failures leading up to and during the attack.
Several State Department officials criticized the ARB last month during testimony before Congress.
"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 to Mullen and Pickering on May 13, when he first requested their depositions.
The special operations officers and military veterans maintain that the ARB report ultimately obfuscated the truth about Benghazi.
"As subsequent testimony has proven, the ARB report is incomplete and inconsistent with the facts of what transpired during the Benghazi attack," they wrote. "The Committee has a responsibility to seek an explanation from Admiral Mullen as well about those gaps in the report and a transcript of his deposition should be released in full immediately thereafter."
The veterans have demanded that Mullen answer several key questions, including:
-"Why does your report include no mention whatsoever of requests for military assistance made by the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya which he has testified he made and which were denied?"
-"Your report states that you found "no evidence of…denial of support from Washington or the combatant commands." That finding is in direct conflict with sworn testimony by DCM Hicks that a Special Operations team was denied permission to fly to Benghazi to assist in the response to the attack. Why did your report fail to account for that incident?
-"The report finds that any military response could not have reached Benghazi in time to save lives but that was not possible to know at the time of the attack when requests for assistance – requests not included in your report – were denied. Why do you believe those requests should have been denied when Americans were still under armed attack?"