The co-chair of the Accountability Review Board wants to assure CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson that the report on the Benghazi attack was not a whitewash for Hillary Clinton.  However, Thomas Pickering didn’t bother to interview the former Secretary of State about the systemic security failures surrounding the attack on the consulate.  Oh, and his co-chair Admiral Mike Mullen also took some time out to advise Clinton on her testimony to Congress — while he was pursuing .

But hey, other than that, the ARB was totally independent. Right? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight:

Allahpundit mentioned Stephen Hayes’ Twitter take on yesterday’s grilling of Pickering and Mullen by the House Oversight Committee, and Hayes has a more formal analysis today for the Weekly Standard.  The hearing was an utter debacle for the ARB’s credibility, Hayes concludes:

Among the revelations:

*Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handpicked the two leaders of the ARB who were given the job of investigating her department.

*Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff and senior counselor to Secretary Clinton, was intimately involved with the ARB panel from the beginning. She called the leaders at Clinton’s behest to ask them to serve, she was briefed regularly on the investigation as it unfolded and she received a draft copy of the report before it was finalized.

*Several senior Clinton advisers were provided draft copies of the ARB report before it was released to the public.

*The vice chairman of the ARB testified that he called Mills to warn her that an impending appearance of Charlene Lamb before Congress would be problematic for the State Department. Lamb had done poorly in her interview with the ARB, Mullen said, and he called Mills because he was worried that a poor performance before Congress would cause problems for the State Department and its leadership. When Representative Jim Jordan asked Mullen if he would have placed the call to Mills if Lamb had performed well, he said no.

Is that what an “independent” investigation does — warn its subjects about testimony in advance so they can prepare a rebuttal/response?  And do they water down a report when the subjects demand it?  Apparently so. But it’s not a whitewash!

*The chairman of the panel acknowledged at least one instance in which language in the report was softened after an early draft was sent to Clinton and her top aides. “The draft, as I believe it went to her, said the security posture was grossly inadequate for Benghazi, period. And we made the editorial correction recognizing that there was certainly a very real point that ‘grossly’ was probably not applicable to Benghazi in light of the changes that the State Department had made, but it was clearly applicable to dealing with the specific circumstances of the attack.”

The consulate was sacked, the ambassador assassinated, and three other Americans got killed trying to defend a retreat from it, all after State decided to rely on local militia for security and failed to recognize the danger that prompted all our allies to flee the city earlier.  If that’s not “grossly inadequate” without qualifiers, then the phrase has no meaning at all.  But it’s not a whitewash!

As for Mullen’s declaration that the “physics” of a military response prevented the DoD from defending Americans during the attack, the process of making that determination skipped quite a few people in position to know:

*The ARB did not speak with nine key military officials on the ground in Libya or Germany who were deeply involved in the US response to the attacks. Among those who was never interviewed: Lt. Colonel Steven Gibson, who was on the ground in Tripoli and whom State Department official Greg Hicks has testified was on the receiving end of the “stand-down” order that Obama officials have repeatedly disclaimed.

But it’s not a whitewash!