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House panel rips review of Benghazi attack

| Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

WASHINGTON — House Republicans are strongly criticizing the review board that investigated last year's Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The report on Monday from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa faults the Accountability Review Board for questioning senior State Department officials insufficiently or not at all. It claims the reviewers had conflicts of interest.

According to the official House Oversight Committee report, the board downplayed security decisions made by senior officials at the State Department, especially that of Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy, and instead blamed four subordinates who, in some cases, “had little to no” responsibility for the key events. In some cases, “the ARB correctly identified poor individual decisions while apparently failing to take into account decisions made by more senior (State) Department officials,” the draft report says. “Such senior-level decisions played an equal if not greater role in the vulnerability of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.”

Issa's committee will hear from the board's chairman and vice chairman on Thursday. Both were top officials in Republican governments. Thomas Pickering was President George H.W. Bush's U.N. ambassador; Adm. Mike Mullen was Joint Chiefs chairman under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

State Department spokesman Douglas Frantz called the Benghazi review “thorough and transparent.” He said facts were being twisted to “advance a political agenda.”

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack.

As required by law, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board to examine the attack.

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