Ex-diplomat is asked to answer Benghazi questions

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Former US Ambassador Thomas Pickering (AP Photo)

Former US Ambassador Thomas Pickering (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee chairman on Wednesday asked a retired diplomat who helped lead an independent review of the attack against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, if he will agree to be interviewed by committee investigators.

The former ambassador, Thomas Pickering, already has told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he is willing to answer lawmakers’ questions at a public hearing.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the committee chairman, wants Pickering first to respond to questions from committee staff before any hearing.

“I appreciate your willingness to testify publicly. However, your response failed to indicate your willingness to appear for a transcribed interview,” Issa, R-Calif., wrote Pickering.

Pickering and a retired admiral, Mike Mullen, led the Accountability Review Board report of the Sept. 11 attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans.

Republicans have criticized the report and said the leaders should have conducted a full-scale interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, House Speaker John Boehner renewed his call for the Obama administration to release emails that had been shown to lawmakers in February and March. The emails focus on concerns raised by various government agencies, including the State Department, about the talking points used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice when she appeared on television news shows five days after the attack.

Emails disclosed Friday showed that State Department and other senior administration officials pushed for references to prior warnings and to al-Qaida to be deleted from those talking points. One email suggested that Congress could use those issues as ammunition against the State Department.

“The administration could make this a lot easier for all Americans by coming forward with emails that they’ve shown us in some cases, but have not turned over to us,” said Boehner, R-Ohio. “And I don’t want to prolong this any more than anyone else. What I want is the truth.”

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