It’s also worth noting that ARB member Richard J. Shinnick served from January 2008 until April 2009 as the acting director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. During that time, he reported to the State Department’s under secretary for management — Patrick Kennedy.
“I believe this was an independent investigation,” Kennedy told the Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday. “It is hard for me to accept the fact that the board could be stacked as a State Department–favorable board when they rendered the very, very critical opinions that they did.”
Pickering also said that he spoke to Cheryl Mills, Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff, whom he “filled in by telephone on the progress of the ARB about two weeks in, and maybe then two weeks before we completed the [report].” The vice chairman of the ARB, Admiral Mike Mullen, told Issa’s committee he had called Mills to give her a “heads up” that the testimony of Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary for international programs, “could be a very difficult appearance for the State Department,” in his words.
There are also questions about the accuracy or thoroughness of Kennedy’s testimony to the ARB, which interviewed Kennedy for two sessions, each longer than an hour.
Pickering told Issa’s committee that the first he heard that Kennedy required “a daily report of who was in country . . . and . . . that he made the decision as to who came to Tripoli and Benghazi or who didn’t” was in Hicks’s testimony on May 8, long after the ARB had released its final report.
Mullen later told Issa’s committee, “I didn’t see his involvement from a security standpoint, per se, in any significant way. . . . We did not see any direct line of what I would call accountable responsibility for Under Secretary Kennedy.”
Pickering said he “concluded that [Kennedy] had performed his functions in a satisfactory way.”
Benghazi isn’t the only scandal that has brought Kennedy’s name into the headlines. In June, CBS News’s John Miller reported that an internal State Department inspector general’s memo stated that several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The most notorious case involved an ambassador who “routinely ditched . . . his protective security detail”; and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.” Sources told CBS News that after the allegations surfaced, the ambassador was called to Washington, D.C., to meet with Kennedy, but was permitted to return to his post.
In response to the report, Kennedy issued a statement: “I have always acted to honor the brave men and women I serve, while also holding accountable anyone guilty of wrongdoing. In my current position, it is my responsibility to make sure the Department and all of our employees — no matter their rank — are held to the highest standard, and I have never once interfered, nor would I condone interfering, in any investigation.”
Yesterday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing continued the frustrating status quo on Benghazi, with Kennedy insisting that the ARB report was thorough and exhaustive, and expressing surprise that anyone could suggest it was insufficiently tough on the State Department’s senior management, because it was “quite critical” of the department as a whole. Republicans alternated between asking tough questions that received vague answers and offering YouTube-ready fuming for the camera; Democrats largely insisted Republicans were wasting time on a witch hunt.
The fact remains that in the aftermath of Benghazi, not a single State Department employee has ever missed a paycheck. Those most responsible for the attacks — the perpetrators — remain at large.