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Pickering, Mullen reject request to testify on Benghazi in private

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 9:48 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The two retired senior U.S. officials who oversaw an internal State Department review of last year's attacks on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday rejected as “an inappropriate precondition” a Republican request that they submit to a closed-door interview before testifying in public.

The letter from former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen added new tension to the battle between Republican lawmakers and the Obama administration over the assaults last Sept. 11 on a diplomatic mission and a CIA complex that killed four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The latest development occurred as Democrats on Capitol Hill praised the White House for releasing 100 pages of documents that they asserted put to rest GOP charges that the administration had tried to cover up a bungled response to the attack to protect President Obama's bid for re-election.

Responding to criticism that U.S. military units and aircraft were not positioned to reach Benghazi in time to save Stevens and the other three Americans, Obama said he had directed the Defense Department “to ensure that our military can respond lightning-quick in times of crisis.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said an investigation by five GOP-run committees would forge ahead.

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