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The Benghazi report: Conflicts & obstruction

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Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

A supposedly independent State Department report on the fatal Sept. 11, 2012, debacle at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, was tainted by conflicts of interest and willful obstruction, according to the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee.

A committee report obtained by The Hill newspaper says Accountability Review Board (ARB) members and those who selected them had “actual and perceived conflicts of interest” with State. It also says the ARB didn't “record or transcribe” interviews and State still refuses to provide summaries of those interviews, despite a subpoena issued in August by committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The Hill says State and Obama administration leaders “wholeheartedly accepted” the ARB report — which did call the Benghazi assault a terrorist attack, not a protest sparked by an anti-Muslim video, and criticized outpost security — even though the ARB's co-chairmen said the panel's mandate compromised its work. And four State officials placed on administrative leave at the ARB's recommendation were reinstated by Secretary John Kerry.

Committee Republicans suspect the ARB protected his predecessor at State, likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other top administration officials. State's continued stonewalling suggests that protection continues — and that the public has yet to learn the full truth about the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

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