Benghazi report review board agrees to testify before House committee

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Thomas Pickering speaks at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, Friday, Sept. 7, 2001.
AP Photo/MICHAEL C. YORK

Former UN Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of the two-member team that prepared the Accountability Review Board's report on the State Department's handling of the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, has agreed to testify at a public hearing in regards to the ARB's investigation, CBS News has learned.

In a letter dated Tuesday to Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pickering wrote that he and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, welcome the opportunity to testify at the hearing and answer any questions brought forth by the committee.

Pickering addressed the criticisms leveled at the ARB report, particularly by Republicans, who questioned the authors' decision not to interview some top State Department officials like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their report. On Sunday, Pickering appeared on "Face the Nation" and said it wasn't "necessary" to question Clinton about the attack on because her position was "more senior than where we found the decisions were made."

"At the May 9 public hearing and in subsequent media appearances, some have called into question the integrity of the Board and its work," Pickering wrote in the letter to Issa. "We believe that such criticisms are unfounded and, if left unaddressed, undermine the essential work that the Board has done as well as the purpose of the congressionally-mandated accountability review board process. It is therefore important that we be afforded the opportunity to appear at a public hearing before the Committee and answer directly questions regarding the Board's procedures, findings and recommendations.

"In sum, the Board fulfilled its role in identifying the lessons that must be learned and acted upon from Benghazi," he continued. "We stand behind the Board's report and look forward to discussing it in a public hearing."

In testimonybefore the House Oversight Committee on May 8, three U.S. officials who were stationed in Libya during the September 11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi delivered emotional accounts of the events that unfolded on the incident and its aftermath. They also criticized the United States for issuing stand-down orders to special forces to assist in the response there, arguing that such forces could have mitigated the attack's damage had they been promptly deployed."

The Sept. 11 attack on the consulate left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

No date for the hearing has been chosen as of yet.