Pickering defends State Benghazi review

Pickering on CBS’s Face the Nation said criticisms that the review had let people off the hook were “unfair” and that he did not believe mistakes “went higher” than the State employees criticized in his report.

GOP lawmakers have raised questions about the White House handling of the attack, questioning if more could have been done to protect the Americans at the mission and if aides downplayed the terrorist nature of the attack in the run up to last year’s election.

On Wednesday, three current and former State Department officials testified, saying that they knew immediately that he attack was terrorism, even as the administration was describing it as a spontaneous protest.

Pickering defended the decision not to question then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that she had already accepted larger responsibility and that many of the key decisions regarding Benghazi were not made by here.

“We knew where the responsibility rested, she had already stated on a number of occasions that she accepted as matter of her job full responsibility,” said Pickering. He also added that his mandate was to find out where “the decisions were made.”

Pickering said he didn’t believe “it was necessary” to also interview Clinton. “I don’t believe there was anything there that we didn’t know.”

The former ambassador also said he did not review questions over whether the administration had altered intelligence talking points, because those were also not under his mandate. 

“It’s hard to see how the talking points issue relates to the security of the Benghazi mission,” said Pickering. “The talking points came after the fact, they made no difference for what happened at Benghazi. They related to how and what way people were explain to the Congress and the American public.”

GOP lawmakers, though, have vowed to continue their probe, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) vowing more whistleblowers would testify.