Want to know why State Department whistleblower Eric Nordstrom called the Accountability Review Board a whitewash designed to protect the highest ranks at Foggy Bottom? Take a listen to the man who ran the ARB. CBS News’ Bob Schieffer asked Thomas Pickering why the supposedly independent panel didn’t bother to depose the Secretary of State who was personally briefed about the attack on the Benghazi consulate by the second-ranking member of her mission in Libya while it unfolded. Pickering replied that they’d already decided who was responsible for the failures in Benghazi and they saw no need to talk with the person in charge (via NRO):
“The decisions were made and reviewed at the level that we fixed responsibility for failures of performance,” Pickering told CBS’ Bob Schieffer, adding, ”I believe that that’s correct.” According to Pickering, he and his colleagues had ample opportunity to interview Secretary Clinton, but concluded that conducting an interview with her was not necessary. “We knew where the responsibility rested,” he said.
Pickering isn’t too impressed with the whistleblowers, apparently:
Appearing Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Pickering defended the report, which he co-authored with former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, against criticisms from three former and current State Department officials who testified last week before the House Oversight Committee. Greg Hicks – the No. 2 official in Libya at the time of the strike that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans – told the committee he believed the report “let people off the hook.”
“They’ve tried to point a finger at people more senior than where we found the decisions were made,” Pickering said, citing specifically Clinton and Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. Mark Thompson, the deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau, told the House committee last week that Clinton attempted to cut out the bureau from communications about the attack.
Well, it’s difficult to find decision-making where one refuses to look. Recall what Nordstrom told Congress last week:
Nordstrom suggested the board’s report attempted to protect higher-ranking officials, and specifically faulted it for not looking at the key role played by Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy in failing to deliver the request for more security to Clinton.
He said a similar failure occurred in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, which killed 19 Americans.
“[The ARB] has decided to fix responsibility on the assistant secretary level and below,” said Nordstrom. “And the message to my colleagues is that if you’re above a certain level, no matter what your decision is no one’s going to question it.
“I look back and I see the last time we had a major attack was East Africa. Who was in that same position, when the unheeded messengers … were raising those concerns? It just so happens it was the same person. The under secretary for management was in that same role before.
“There’s something apparently wrong with the process of how those security recommendations are raised to the secretary.”
It’s also difficult to see the pattern when you’re deliberately fixed on the anything but the big picture.