‘Primary Player’ in Benghazi Was Not Interviewed By State Dept Review Board

May 8, 2013 - 5:49 PM

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Mark Thompson, the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counterterrorism. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counterterrorism Mark Thompson, a Benghazi whistleblower and “primary player” at the State Department was not interviewed by their Accountability Review Board (ARB) regarding the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, it was revealed during a House hearing on Wednesday.

Thompson, who on the night of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi said he requested a Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) to intervene, noted that he was never interviewed by the ARB, despite his request to be interviewed.

“We have a responsibility under law to review these situations and to go to people who actually had firsthand knowledge,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), referencing the ARB report, during a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Mica then began to probe whether Thompson was interviewed by the ARB,  and their exchange occurred as follows:

Rep. Mica: “Now Mr. Thompson, you have a very important position, the title is Bureau of Counterterrorism Leader for an Emergency Support Team at the U.S. Department of State, right?”

Thompson: “Correct.”

Mica: “Did you participate, were you interviewed by the ARB?”

Thompson: “I was not.”

Mica: “You were not interviewed, okay.  And you were on the job during this period?”

Thompson: “I was at my desk that night until 2 o’clock in the morning.”

Mica: “And you were not allowed to convey information to the board?”

Thompson: “On the 17th [of September] I conveyed my request to be interviewed before the board.”

Mica: “And so they did interview you after that?”

Thompson: “No.”

Mica: “Have you ever been interviewed?”

Thompson: “I have not.”

Mica: “You have not.  So you’re one of the primary players, but yet the board failed to interview you, would you say that’s correct?”

Thompson: “That is a correct statement.”

Mica: “Mr. Hicks , is Mr. Thompson an important player in this?  Mr. Nordstrom?”

Eric Nordstrom, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Officer: “I would say yes.  Certainly in the aftermath of the attack.”

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Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, who took over when Amb. Chris Stevens was killed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. (AP)

Benghazi whistleblower Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, said he was interviewed by the ARB but found it “incomplete.”

“The interview took about two hours and it was, in my mind, incomplete,” Hicks said.  “A few days later I had a separate meeting briefly with the executive secretary to amplify on some issues that had been discussed at the initial interview.”

Nordstrom, who was interviewed by the ARB, said the panel “stopped short of interviewing people that I personally know were involved in key decisions that led to how those events unfolded.”

“Specifically, how those buildings were staffed and constructed and in variance with existing standards,” he said.  “Those were all critical.”

Thompson testified Wednesday that he requested military support during the attack.  "When I heard that the situation had evolved to them going to a safe haven and then the fact that we could not find the ambassador, I alerted my leadership indicating that we needed to go forward and consider the deployment of the foreign emergency support team," he said.

The ARB panel is currently under investigation by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General for failing to interview key witnesses of the Benghazi attack.

The ARB report, released on Dec. 18, blamed "systemic failures” and senior leadership deficiencies within the State Department for “grossly inadequate” security to deal with the terrorist attack.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also not interviewed for her own department’s review.