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Pickering: Wasn't "Necessary" To Question Clinton In Benghazi Report

Thomas Pickering - the former UN ambassador who along with former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen prepared the Accountability Review Board report on the State Department's handling of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya - says he didn't think it was necessary to interview former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "because in fact we knew where the responsibility rested."

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Ambassador Thomas Pickering is the one who led the State Department's investigation into how those Benghazi attacks where handled. Mr. Ambassador, you and I have known one another as you had various posts in the government for many, many years. You headed this investigation. But the three state department employees who testified this week where frustrated with the report--they said it was incomplete, one of them, Greg Hicks, even told investigators his words, not mine, it let people off the hook. Is that a fair criticism?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: I don't believe so and I think that's an unfair criticism. They've tried to point a finger at people more senior than where we found the decisions were made. The decisions were made and reviewed at the level that we fixed responsibility for failures of performance. Those people were named in the report. Two of the four that we felt failed in their performance were, under our recommendation, relieved of their jobs. The State Department is now considering what further steps to take. I believe that that's correct. We interviewed under Secretary Kennedy. People have pointed to him. We believe in fact, that while he made a significant decision to keep the post open, he was not a security specialist, he was not engaged in a daily review of the decision making that took place that we felt in some cases was seriously flawed. And as a result, we don't believe it went higher. We interviewed Secretary Clinton; we interviewed Deputy Secretary Burns, and Deputy Secretary Nides. We briefed them on the report, we told them where we were, it was near the end. We had plenty of opportunity had we felt it was necessary, all five of us, to ask them questions. We didn't believe that was necessary and I don't see any reason to do so now.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But let me understand what you're saying. You had Secretary Clinton but you didn't ask her any questions? And why not?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Because in fact, we knew where the responsibility rested. She had already stated on a number of occasions, she accepted as a result of her job, the full responsibility. On the other hand, legislation setting up our board made it very clear that they didn't want a situation in which a department or agency had accepted responsibility and then nobody looked at where the decisions were made. And how and what way those decisions affected performance on security. And whether people where thus responsible for failures or performance. That's what we were asked to do and that's what we did.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think in retrospect it might have been a good idea to question her? And some of these other ranking officials?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: I think that we knew and understood because we had questioned people who had attended meetings with her. What went on at those meetings and how they were handled. What was relevant. I don't believe that it was necessary to do that. I don't think that there was anything there that we didn't know.

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