OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House ramps up Benghazi probe

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who convened Wednesday’s hearing, sees it differently, as his panel released a report that said the review board had conflicts of interest and suffered from State Department meddling.

Thursday’s Oversight hearing occurred as House Republicans vowed to pick back up their investigation after last week’s anniversary of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Libya that left four dead.

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On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing where Republicans accused the State Department of failing to hold anyone accountable for Benghazi because no one was fired. The House Armed Services Committee also held a hearing on Thursday to examine the military’s posture in the lead-up to the attack.

At the Oversight hearing, Republicans pressed Pickering to explain why former secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasn’t interviewed in the review, one of the most frequent criticisms of the report.

Pickering said that the board concluded there was “no evidence she made any of the decisions” related to security at the Benghazi facility.

Radios failed during Navy Yard attack, responders say: Radios for federal firefighters and police officers failed during Monday’s mass shooting at the Navy Yard, The Hill’s Kevin Bogardus reports.

Union representatives for first responders said that police and firefighters had to use their cellphones and radios from D.C. emergency responders in order to communicate during the attack.

The equipment stopped functioning as police officers who were first on the scene went deeper into the building.

Anthony Meely, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Naval District Washington Labor Committee, said problems with the radios have been “a known issue” on the base, with radio batteries failing to hold a charge and unable to receive signals inside buildings.

“I think it's disgusting, unnecessary and sad, but what could they do if the radios weren't working? But that was the only way for them to call and get them some help,” Meely said. 

Read the full story here.

Ayotte seeking details on Navy Yard shooter: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wants answers from the Navy on why former sailor and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was honorably discharged from the service, despite a history of misconduct that included arrests on weapons charges. 

On Monday, Alexis shot and killed 12 people during a shooting spree at the Navy's Washington, D.C., headquarters before being killed by law enforcement during the daylong stand off. 

"I am concerned that the Navy may have missed opportunities to prevent this tragedy well before it happened," Ayotte wrote in a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Thursday. 

Alexis, who was honorably discharged from the Navy as a petty officer 3rd class, gained access to the Navy Yard facility due to his status as a civilian contractor. 

Defense officials say Alexis obtained a security clearance while he was in the Navy and was not subjected to a second background check when he became a contractor after leaving the service in 2011.

Part of the Pentagon's decision not to re-investigate Alexis's security clearance might have stemmed from his honorable discharge from the Navy, according to Ayotte. 

"Had Alexis received a general discharge, future employers would have been more likely to give his background extra scrutiny," Ayotte wrote. 

"This additional scrutiny may have helped potential employers identify Alexis’ reported arrests in three states and better informed their hiring decisions," she added. 

Kerry demands action on Syria: Secretary of State John Kerry demanded Thursday that Russia and other members of the U.N. Security Council force Syria to turn over its chemical weapons when it meets next week.

He said it was past time for Russia to stop arguing that the Syrian opposition was behind the attack and get behind U.N. action. 

“Please. This isn't complicated,” Kerry told reporters in Washington. “When we said we know what is true, we meant it.”

Moscow has repeatedly claimed chemical attacks launched in August was the work of Syrian rebels, not forces loyal to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

"It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforceable action to rid the world of Syria's chemical weapons," Kerry said Thursday. 

President Obama is under pressure to ensure that any U.N. resolution contains strong safeguards after calling off military action against Syria, after Russia offered to get Assad to turn over his chemical weapons to the international community.

Russia's last-minute disarmament deal for Syria indefinitely delays planned U.S. military strikes against Assad's forces in the country. 

The planned strikes are in retaliation for the August chemical attacks, which crossed a so-called "red line" set by the White House on the use of those weapons, triggering an armed American response. 

— Julian Pecquet contributed.


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