WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans are continuing to pepper the Obama administration with questions about last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Although an independent review board has blamed inadequate security at the compound on senior management and leadership failures at the State Department, some GOP lawmakers have suggested that the administration is trying to cover up more serious deficiencies or negligence before, during and after the attack.
On Tuesday, the issue surfaced at a White House news conference when President Barack Obama was asked about allegations that his administration is preventing whistle-blowers from testifying before Congress about the incident. Obama pleaded ignorance, but Secretary of State John Kerry and his staff denied any impropriety and vowed that all questions would be answered.
A clearly exasperated Kerry complained during a separate news conference Tuesday about “an enormous amount of misinformation out there” about the Benghazi attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We have to demythologize this issue and certainly depoliticize it,” Kerry told reporters at the State Department. “The American people deserve answers. I’m determined that this will be an accountable and open State Department as it has been in the past, and we will continue to do that, and we will provide answers.”
Kerry promised to deal with any unresolved issues and directed his chief of staff, David Wade, to work with lawmakers to that end.
Kerry has also expressed frustration with the refusal of some Republicans to accept the conclusions of the Accountability Review Board empanelled by his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Let’s get this done with, folks,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in testimony earlier this month. “Let’s figure out what it is that’s missing, if it’s legitimate or isn’t. I don’t think anybody lied to anybody. And let’s find out exactly, together, what happened, because we got a lot more important things to move on to and get done.”
On Tuesday, though, four Republican lawmakers renewed demands for more information.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., called again for the formation of a joint select committee to investigate the handling of the attack. They said the committee was needed in light of new revelations about Benghazi, including reports that some whistle-blowers are “afraid to testify.”
Rep. Darrell Issa , R-Calif., complained that he had not received responses to four letters he sent to the administration calling for whistle-blowers’ lawyers to get the security clearances needed to represent their clients.
Issa would not identify the whistleblowers.
At the State Department, spokesman Patrick Ventrell flatly denied that any employee had been threatened or told to remain silent.
“The State Department would never tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistle-blowers on any issue, including this one,” he said. “That’s an obligation we take very seriously, full stop.”
Ventrell also said that no one in the State Department was aware of any employee requesting security clearances for their private attorneys in connection with the Benghazi investigation.