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    Ambassador Pickering talks Benghazi probe investiagtion

    9:47 AM, Sep 20, 2013   |    comments
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    WASHINGTON (CBS) -- The ambassador who led a state department probe of last year's Benghazi, Libya attack says the review was not a whitewash.

    Republicans on the House Oversight Committee say investigators were too soft on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials.

    Ambassador Thomas Pickering testified before that committee Thursday, and then he spoke with CBS' Sharyl Attkisson.

    The accountability review board found serious security lapses in Benghazi and faulted for managers but did not blame more senior officials four out of five board members were selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but Pickering said there was no conflict of interest.

    Thomas Pickering and his investigative panel co-chair Mike Mullen told Congress that not a single military plane could make it to the rescue during the eight hours Americans were under threat in Benghazi. Mullen said, "There were no strip alert aircraft ready to go."

    U.S. Rep. Chaffetz responded, "It was Libya after the revolution on 9/11! We had been bombed twice prior. There's nobody that's ready to go?" Mullen said, "Everybody in the military wanted to move forward. It became a physics problem. And it's a time and distance problem."

    Attkisson asked Pickering, "That message do you think that might send to our enemies that there, for a pretty long period of time, we were apparently unable to help?" Pickering responded, "Well it would send a message to our enemies, if we don't posture ourselves in a different way and change, that we're weak and vulnerable and that's not the message we want to send."

    Pickering says change is in the works; the military has begun to adjust its readiness stance in some regions. He and his co-chair Mullen say they were fiercely independent. Mullen said, "We had unfettered access to personnel and documents."

    But Republicans questioned the Board's independence when Mullen admitted he offered advice to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for an upcoming Congressional hearing while he was investigating her agency. Attkisson asked Pickering if he agreed that was appropriate and he responded, "I left that to Admiral Mullen to make his own decision with respect to do it." Would he have done so? He says he didn't think he would."

    But Pickering defended the decision not to record hundred of witness interviews and says there was no need to interview top officials, including Clinton. Attkisson asked, "Do you think in retrospect it might have been a good idea just to do some deep interviews with the Secretary of State and her top deputies?" Pickering responded, "No I don't. We took a hard look at this and a very serious look and I think we made that decision in good conscience on the basis of everything that we had that there was no trail."

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