National Security Brief: Benghazi Review Board Co-Chairs Ask GOP To Testify In Public

The co-chairs of the independent review board tasked with investigating the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi terror attacks last year are asking House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) for a chance to testify in public.

Issa and former review board co-chairs Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen have been engaged in a recent back and forth over whether Issa invited them to testify at his hearing on Benghazi last week. Pickering and Mullen said they’d be willing to testify but Issa refused their participation. Issa has also challenged the credibility of the review board’s findings, which blame State Department officials for lack of diplomatic security in Benghazi last September.

Pickering has called claims of an Obama administration cover-up on Benghazi “Pulitzer Prize fiction.

“Recently, you seem to have changed your position on the terms of our appearance, apparently asking for a transcribed interview behind closed doors,” Pickering and Mullen wrote in a letter to Issa, which was obtained by CNN. “In our view, requiring such a closed-door proceeding before we testify publicly is an inappropriate precondition.

“Having taken liberal license to call into question the Board’s work, it is surprising that you now maintain that members of the committee need a closed-door proceeding before being able to ask informed questions’ at a public hearing,” they said. “The public deserves to hear your questions and our answers.”

Meanwhile, McClatchy reports that in the month before the Benghazi attacks, Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in assault, “twice turned down offers of security assistance made by the senior U.S. military official in the region in response to concerns that Stevens had raised in a still secret memorandum.”

In other news:

  • The AP reports: With no broader budget deal in sight, a key House panel responsible for implementing sweeping cuts to agency budgets moved Wednesday to exempt veterans and largely protect spending on border safety and other homeland security programs in the coming year.
  • The New York Times reports: As the bloodletting continued unabated in Syria, the 193-member General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution on Wednesday calling for a political transition to end the civil war there, putting the onus on the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop the killing.
  • Reuters reports: The death toll in Syria from the country’s two-year civil war is at least 80,000, an increase of about 20,000 since the start of the year, the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, said on Wednesday.
  • Foreign Policy reports: Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) introduced a bill Wednesday to arm the Syrian rebels, the latest piece of legislation aimed at pressuring the Obama administration to intervene more aggressively in the protracted civil war. The bill provides lethal weapons to vetted members of the Syrian opposition and beefs up sanctions on weapons sales and petroleum sales to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
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