US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday set up a team to implement the findings of an inquiry into a deadly attack on a US mission in Benghazi, as lawmakers were sent a secret report.
Clinton has entrusted Deputy Secretary Tom Nides with heading up the implementation team which met for the first time Tuesday, a State Department internal notice said, with the results of the inquiry yet to be made public.
It will meet “regularly to ensure execution of the board’s recommendations as well as other actions directed by the secretary,” the notice said.
The classified findings of a State Department investigation into the September 11 militant assault on the US mission in the Libyan city were Tuesday being sent to members of two House and Senate committees.
The report’s unclassified section will be publicly available by Wednesday morning at the latest, added State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, without revealing any of the contents of the keenly-awaited report.
The attack — in which the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans died — has become fiercely politicized, with Republicans alleging security failings as well as a possible cover-up over Al-Qaeda’s role.
It is likely Republicans will seek to use the report’s findings to skewer the administration of President Barack Obama.
The chairman of the Accountability Review Board (ARB), diplomat Thomas Pickering, and team member Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will brief lawmakers on Wednesday behind closed doors.
“The classified version of the ARB report is going to go up to the Hill later this afternoon so that members and staff of relevant committees will have a chance to look at it in advance of the classified briefings,” Nuland said.
It will be accompanied by a letter from Clinton, who had been due to testify to Congress this week, but has been told to rest at home by doctors after suffering a stomach bug and a concussion.
Nuland categorically denied suggestions from some observers that Clinton may be faking her illness in a bid to avoid testifying on the Benghazi inquiry.
Such claims were “completely untrue,” Nuland said.
“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that she had a stomach virus, an ugly stomach virus. She got very dehydrated. She fainted. It was later discovered she had sustained a concussion.”
She accused critics of “wild speculations based on no information,” adding Clinton was working from home and was in email and phone contact with staff.
The Benghazi report was sent by courier to Clinton at home on Monday, and she has read the highly-anticipated findings.
But Nuland refused to give any further details, until the unclassified part of the report has been made public.