By Samuel Burke, CNN
Congressional hearings Wednesday on the September 11, 2012 Benghazi, Libya attacks were missing a key player in the affair.
Thomas Pickering, former ambassador and a top State Department official, is the author of the after-action report on the attack, which left four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, dead.
The chairman of the House committee overseeing the hearing, Congressman Darrell Issa, said Pickering had refused to attend.
Pickering called Issa’s statement “colossally misinformed,” in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
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Pickering said that he had made it clear to Issa, via the White House, that he was “ready to come at any time.” But according to him, Congressman Issa didn’t invite him, but rather informed Pickering that he might want to take up his offer sometime in the future.
Gregory Hicks, the number two in charge in Libya at the time of the attack, delivered a harsh condemnation of how his government responded to the attacks.
Pickering said he admires Hicks greatly, and heard much of the testimony before, but said he does not recall some of the specifics that Hicks mentioned about the unavailability of aircraft to respond. Pickering said he went back to check the record again, and did not find a specific mention of that issue.
Pickering’s report found that there was not enough security around the Benghazi mission, and that changes in personnel led to a lack of continuity at the mission, which in turn led to lack of security.
He also found that some of the State Department employees there that weren’t sufficiently versed in the type of skills needed at a mission as important as the one in Libya.
The issue has become highly politicized in Washington, according to Pickering.
“I think that the political Indian hand wrestling that is going on around this is a real distraction to the central question – implementation of the recommendations," Pickering said. "It needs time and effort. It needs congressional cooperation – the kind of thing that seems absent in Washington.”
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