WASHINGTON — A high-level State Department investigative panel turned over a secret report Monday assessing blame for the deadly terrorist attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, setting the stage for a clash on the issue this week between the Obama administration and Republican critics.
The five-member Accountability Review Board delivered the report to the State Department two days before congressional panels are to hear testimony from its leading members, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael G. Mullen, in closed session.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee will take public testimony Thursday from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's two deputies, William J. Burns and Thomas Nides, for the administration's response to the report and its suggestions on how to strengthen security in the region.
Key Republican lawmakers believe that during the presidential campaign, the administration played down security shortcomings that enabled Islamic militants to successfully attack the lightly defended compound. They have vowed to press hard to get a full picture of the events.