State Department: Investigation process review not tied to Benghazi probe

An ongoing review of the State Department's internal investigation process wasn't sparked by the controversial probe into last year's attack in Benghazi and won't be limited to just that investigation, a department spokesman said Friday.

The State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) confirmed Thursday that it is conducting a “special review” of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) process, which Republicans on Capitol Hill say was misused to shield former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from blame. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, however, said Friday the OIG will be examining the process used in all 18 ARB reviews conducted since Congress created the process in 1986.

“The State Department OIG is not investigating the independent Benghazi accountability review board ... nor was the OIG's review specifically spurred by the Benghazi ARB,” Ventrell said. “Rather, the OIG is conducting a review of the ARB process itself, going back two decades looking at how boards are convened, their standards and how we're doing on implementing ARB recommendations.”

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The OIG's office notified the State Department on March 28 that it will be conducting a “special review”  of the ARB process for the first time in its history. Republicans have criticized the ARB's review of the Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans because it did not interview Clinton.

The board issued a report in December that identified “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies.” It did not recommend anybody be fired, however, because it “did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty.”

The review will examine “the effectiveness and accountability of the process and the resulting implementation of the recommendations,” OIG spokesman Doug Welty told The Hill on Thursday. He couldn't specify a time frame, but said the results would be made public: “It will take the time it needs to take to do a reliable job.”