Pickering: New Benghazi review unnecessary

Former ambassador led independent audit of 2012 attack

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WASHINGTON — A former U.S. ambassador who led an independent audit of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, for the State Department says he doesn’t see the need for the House to reopen the investigation.

Thomas Pickering also downplayed assertions that a recently disclosed White House memo on messaging about the Benghazi assault that claimed the lives of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans is a smoking gun.

“I’m in a search for, is there a ‘there’ there,” Pickering said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “And I haven’t seen any ‘there’ there.”

The Accountability Review Board led by Pickering faulted State Department officials for inadequate security at the Benghazi compound in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The review also found no evidence that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved any of the security decisions there.

After many hearings, House Republican leaders pointing to new questions have voted to create a special committee on the Benghazi attack.

Democrats say this is aimed at undercutting a possible presidential bid by Clinton in 2016 and boosting Republican fundraising.

Pickering said it likely would not have affected his report on Benghazi if he’d had access to a memo by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes on managing the administration’s messaging about the attack that was only recently disclosed by the White House.

Some Republican critics have described Rhodes’ memo as a smoking gun.

The remarks by Pickering, who served as U.S. ambassador to six nations and the United Nations under Republican and Democratic presidents, underscore questions about whether Republicans’ creation of a House select committee on Benghazi may backfire if it is seen as overtly political in nature.

“We were not there to look at talking points,” Pickering said. “We were not there to look at what I would call post-event political hand-wrestling.”