When it comes to settling disputes, there's nothing like subpoena power. On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) claimed victory in his two-week standoff with retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering over how to proceed with the GOP-led investigation into last year's assault in Benghazi, Libya.
"Today, Ambassador Pickering reached an agreement with the Oversight Committee to voluntarily appear for a transcribed interview and answer all questions posed by Committee investigators," Issa said in a release. "As such, I have lifted his legal obligation to appear tomorrow for a deposition."
Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen co-chaired the Accountability Review Board, an investigation into the United States government's response to the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans. The report found "systematic failures and leadership management deficiencies" at the State Department prior to the attack. But Issa wants to know why the ARB didn't hold higher-ranking State Department officials accountable.
Pickering had resisted Issa's efforts to question him in a private interview setting, preferring a public hearing. "Depositions are usually reserved for fact witnesses and people under investigation," he told The Cable last week. "We are not fact witnesses to Benghazi and we are not under investigation."
But on Friday, Issa rejected Pickering's offer for a one-off public hearing and issued a subpoena in a move that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MA), ranking member of the committee, called a "stark example of extreme Republican overreach."
Issa defended the decision, calling a transcribed interview between Pickering and House investigators a necessary precursor to a public hearing. "A fully informed hearing, in which the Committee begins with a factual understanding of how the Board reached its conclusions, is critical to engaging in a public discussion with you about criticisms career State Department officials levied at the ARB's efforts and recommendations," Issa said.
Pickering's attendance at a pre-hearing interview will allow Issa to better control the narrative of the public hearing and run it more efficiently. Pickering says Issa is running a "political circus," and the time for closed-door interviews is over. "Now that the circus has been launched, we want to make our case in front of the public," Pickering told The Cable. Now it appears Pickering will have to wait. The date of the pre-hearing interview has not yet been scheduled.
Secretary of State John Kerry's goal of bringing the Syrian rebels and the Assad regime to the negotiating table next month has hit a major snag. In a letter obtained by The Cable, Gen. Salim Idris, the commander of the rebels' Supreme Military Council, says that the United States must establish "strategic military balance" between the rebels and Assad as a precondition to any peace talks.
The letter does not detail specifics, but Dan Layman, media relations director at the Syrian Support Group, a licensed U.S. advocacy group with extensive contacts to the Free Syrian Army, said the demand requires anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry such as 90 mm rockets, recoilless rifles, and ideally man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
"He's looking for game-changing weapons," said Layman. "I think he knows he's not going to get MANPADS, but weaponry that can take on regime armor in addition to small arms is a must."
The Obama administration does not currently support shipping U.S.-purchased weapons to rebels, however, and there's no sign this will happen before next month's U.S.-Russian proposed peace talks in Geneva. (Though the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted yesterday to arm some Syrian rebel groups, there's no indication when the bill will move to the Senate floor.) In recent days, U.S. officials have called the proposed Geneva conference "the most serious effort in the last two years to get the Syrian government to sit down and negotiate with the Syrian opposition."
In the letter, Idris says the Free Syrian Army will only be willing to negotiate if the U.S. provides weapons first. "For the negotiations to be of any substance, we must reach a strategic military balance, without which the regime will feel empowered to dictate ... while fully sustained logistically and militarily by Russia and Iran," reads the letter, sent to Kerry over the weekend. "Such untenable situation requires that the Unites States, as the leader of the free world, provide the Free Syrian Army forces under the Supreme Military Council with the requisite advanced weapons to sustain defensive military capabilities in the face of the Assad forces."
When it was suggested to Layman that any deal to arm the rebels was highly unlikely to take place before the talks, he agreed. "That's my impression too." Layman said the expectation is for the talks to fail, which would give cover to the Obama administration to finally arm the rebels. "Geneva is a legitimate attempt at a negotiation ... but it's the last gasp for a political solution," he said.
He pointed to Kerry's remarks today at a press conference in Amman, Jordan. "If Assad refuses to negotiate on the proposals of the Geneva conference that calls for a transitional government in Syria, we will increase our support for the rebels," Kerry said.
Clearly, from the rebel perspective, they're hoping "support" means advanced weaponry. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read Idris's full letter below:
In advance of Barack Obama's anticipated counterterrorism speech on Thursday, a string of lawmakers are calling on the president to back up his pledge to close the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
On Tuesday, Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, implored the president to "re-engage with Congress" in an open letter to the White House. "Until that facility is closed, it will continue to symbolize an unjust attempt to avoid the rule of law and to undermine the United States' moral standing," he writes.
The letter calls for substantive action including appointing a senior official (either in the State Department or White House) to find a home for detainees cleared for transfer by the Guantanamo Detainee Review Task force; waiving the U.S. ban on transfers to Yemen; and immediately prosecuting detainees who can be tried in U.S. federal courts or military commissions.
Smith's letter does not appear to be organized in conjunction with Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) who sent a similar letter last week urging the president to appoint someone "who wakes up every day with the mandate to complete the expeditious transfer of detainees cleared of all charges to other countries." McGovern's letter also demanded a review of the "practices and procedures for forced feeding used at Guantanamo" in light of the ongoing food strike at the facility. Two weeks ago, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) sent a similar letter to the president -- ditto for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a few weeks before that.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) is currently circulating a letter for signatures in the House demanding the closure of Guantánamo. His spokeswoman Anne Hughes says it has already garnered the signatures of Reps. McGovern, Betty McCollum (D-MN), John Conyers (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).
The surge of interest in closing the facility comes ahead of the president's address at the National Defense University at Washington's Fort McNair. According to the Washington Post, "He will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones. And he will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay."
The president has repeatedly blamed Congress for hamstringing his ability to close the facility. And while it did restrict the use of funds to transfer detainees to the continental United States for trial, there are a number of measures he could implement to hasten Guantánamo's closure, as Human Rights Watch's Laura Pitter pointed out earlier this month. (In particular, transferring the 86 detainees already designated for release to their home or third countries.)
Still, top Republican lawmakers maintain the prison serves an important function. "Whatever image problems that linger around Guantánamo Bay pale in comparison to the risk of not having a prison," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "The options are getting limited for our Special Forces. Without a jail, they are pushed to kill people that would they would otherwise like to capture."
You can read the letters below:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
As you noted in a recent press conference, "the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried - that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop." We agree, and believe you can take concrete steps to significantly reduce the inmate population at Guantanamo Bay.
In particular, we encourage your Administration to:
· Use the certification and waiver provisions in the fiscal year (FY) 2013 National Defense Authorization Act to transfer detainees from Guantanamo, beginning with the reported 86 detainees that have already been cleared for transfer; and
· End your administration's self-imposed ban on transfers to Yemen and work with the government of Yemen to put in place appropriate security and rehabilitation measures.
As you very well know, facing the possibility of indefinite detention without a fair trial, the majority of Guantanamo's inmate population is now on hunger strike. Instead of resolving their legal status, your Administration has chosen to forcibly feed some of the detainees, a process that requires a lubricated plastic tube to be inserted down a detainee's nose and into his stomach while he is being restrained. The American Medical Association has long held the position that physician participation in force-feeding violates the core ethical values of the medical profession.
While we recognize that Congress will need to play a role in assisting the effort to close Guantanamo, we believe that current law provides the Administration sufficient authority to take the above steps and to make significant progress toward reducing the number of detainees in Guantanamo.
Thank you for your consideration of this letter. The situation at Guantanamo has become a crisis, and it is urgent that your Administration renew its efforts, and fulfill its promise, to close the facility. We stand ready to work with you in this endeavor.
James P. Moran
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I write to express my strong support for your April 30th statement renewing your commitment to close the detention center at the Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba. I recognize the challenges facing you in closing Guantánamo, but it is necessary in order to restore America's standing as a nation that respects and adheres to the rule of law, including U.S. and international human rights and humanitarian law.
Closing the detention center at Guantánamo, once and for all, will require legislative, administrative, judicial, diplomatic and other measures to prosecute, with full respect for the right to due process, the individuals being held in detention, or to provide for their immediate release or transfer to a third country. I regret that Congress has been part of the problem, not part of the solution, in resolving these matters in an efficient, judicious and secure manner. There are, however, a number of actions that you and the executive branch can take to advance your commitment to close the detention facility, and I encourage you to do so. These include:
- Appointing someone at the White House to serve as your personal designee and "point person" on Guantánamo, who wakes up every day with the mandate to complete the expeditious transfer of detainees cleared of all charges to other countries, bring to trial those detainees who have been charged with crimes against the United States, and close the detention facility.
- Transferring the 86 detainees who have been cleared by the U.S. government of all charges and determined not to be a threat to U.S. security to their countries of origin and/or third party countries so that they may be reunited with their families and restored to civilian life.
- Demanding and ensuring that the practices and procedures for forced feeding used at Guantánamo detention facilities are the same as those used by the federal Bureau of U.S. Prisons, so that they comply with the highest standards of medical ethics and do not constitute any violation regarding the use of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
- Initiating prosecutions in U.S. federal courts against those detainees charged with crimes against the security of the United States and whose cases are most ready for prosecution and trial, so that examples of rule of law and due process may be established for these detainees in our civilian courts.
I do not make these suggestions lightly; I know that some may be more difficult than others to undertake, including from a political point of view. But they are all doable, and they can all be initiated immediately and completed expeditiously. Some, such as completing the transfer of the 86 detainees cleared of all charges, may require lifting current self-imposed bans on transfers to Yemen; others, such as bringing cases ready for trial to U.S. federal civilian courts may require the use of a national security waiver. These actions are well within the capacity of your office and the offices of the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of State.
I further recommend that attention be given to basic humanitarian issues related to long-term indefinite detention without charge that have disturbed, and sometimes inflamed, U.S. and international opinion about Guantánamo. I strongly encourage you to determine how best the U.S. might provide appropriate reparations and psycho-social support to those 86 detainees in particular who have been cleared of all charges against the United States, and yet were held for more than a decade, isolated from their families and culture, and in a constant state of uncertainty about their future. We have an opportunity not only to set the record straight, but an obligation to establish a high standard for their humane reinsertion back into civilian life and to mitigate any potential negative outcomes related to their release and return to their homelands or third party countries. I have great faith that our U.S. agencies, in consultation and partnership with the countries receiving these detainees, can determine appropriate reparations and reinsertion support, but I would also strongly encourage you to consult directly with the appropriate OAS, U.N., ICRC and non-governmental (NGO) experts on establishing these mechanisms.
Once again, Mr. President, I thank you for your renewed commitment to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Naval Base. If I can be of any help or service in achieving this goal, please do not hesitate to call upon me.
James P. McGovern
Member of Congress
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blasted members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, which voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition in a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "This is an important moment," Paul said, addressing his Senate colleagues. "You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It's an irony you cannot overcome."
The legislation, which would authorize the shipment of arms and military training to rebels "that have gone through a thorough vetting process," passed in a bipartisan 15-3 vote. Paul offered an amendment that would strike the bill's weapons provision, but it was rejected along with another Paul amendment ruling out the authorization of the use of military force in Syria. (Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy was the only senator to join Paul in support of the weapons amendment.)
Paul's two amendments constituted his first legislative act to soften the Menendez-Corker bill, which earned the support of powerful lawmakers from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) to Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to Marco Rubio (R-FL) -- all of whom rejected Paul's allegations. "I don't think any member of this committee would vote for anything we thought was going to arm al Qaeda," said Rubio. "Al Qaeda, unfortunately, is well-armed," added Menendez. "That is the present reality in Syria."
The dispute centers on the issue of whether the United States could properly vet Syrian rebels so that weapons and body armor would not fall into the hands of extremist groups, such as the al Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra Front. The Pentagon's top brass has vacillated about whether it's logistically possible to keep track of weapons as they enter a conflict involving a complex mix of opposition groups, as the new bill would require.
Corker added that not arming rebel groups such as the more moderate Free Syrian Army would ensure the dominance of the better-equipped al-Nusra Front. Paul responded, saying, "It's impossible to know who our friends are ... I know everyone here wants to do the right thing, but I think it's a rush to war."
To get a sense of how adamant the committee is to authorize more aggressive intervention in Syria, an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) to limit the types of weapons delivered to rebels was forcefully rejected as well. "The senator from New Mexico wants to use shotguns against SCUD missiles," McCain said dismissively.
The bill now includes an amendment by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), that would "require the administration to impose sanctions on entities that provide surface-to-surface or surface-to-air missiles, like the SA20s or S300s, to the Assad regime," according to a press release -- a clear reference to Russia, which has vowed in recent weeks to proceed with sales of advanced missiles that would extend the range and sophistication of the Syrian regime's anti-aircraft systems.
The Menendez-Corker bill next moves to the Senate floor, but an aide to Menendez said it was uncertain when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, will take up the legislation.
Observers say the bill's chances of passing in its current form are slim, but it does increase the pressure on the administration to intervene more aggressively. As Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted earlier this month, "If you want to pressure the president into acting, it's a pretty good bill ...The last time the Hill moved on Syria was sanctions on Syrian oil in the summer of 2011. That pressured the president to move, and this could too."
You could almost hear the geopolitical tectonic plates shifting as the 200-odd guests clinked their glasses of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Meiomi Pinot Noir in honor of Thein Sein, the reformist president of Burma and the toast of Washington this week.
Sein -- the first Burmese leader to visit the U.S. capital in 47 years -- was speaking at a swank U.S. Chamber of Commerce gala dinner put on in cooperation with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and sponsored by a raft of American companies, including GE, Ford, P&G, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, MasterCard, ExxonMobil, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
U.S. officials Robert Hormats, the undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment, and Derek Mitchell, the U.S. ambassador to Burma, credited Sein with shepherding what Hormats called "remarkable progress over the course of a couple years" in bringing one of the world's most isolated countries into the international system.
"They are tremendous partners," Mitchell said of the Burmese government.
Mitchell -- who like Hormats referred to the country by its official name, Myanmar-- noted that Sein had used his free time in Washington to visit Mt. Vernon, implicitly comparing the Burmese leader to George Washington and subtly prodding him to follow the American founding father's example by solidifying the principle of civilian control of the military.
The State Department is working assiduously to promote U.S. investment in what is currently one of the hottest growth stories in the world -- a gold rush to which Mitchell aluded, joking to the crowd, "I feel like I've hosted every single one of you over the past several months."
A GE official, James Suciu, announced at the dinner that GE is opening two offices in the next two weeks: One in Yangon and one in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital. The company expects to be doing as much as half a billion dollars in annual revenue in Burma in the next few years.
Several oil companies, including event co-sponsor Chevron, have been battling with human rights groups over a forthcoming State Department rule governing investment in Burma, a resource-rich country that was once one of the most heavily sanctioned in the world.
Sein himself said little of interest, hitting all the right buzzwords: accountability, transparency, market economy, "arbitration systems in line with international standards," and so on -- though he did surprise his audience by speaking in reasonably fluid, albeit heavily accented English.
"We want to lay the foundation for a robust middle class," he said. "We would like to invite U.S. businesses to come and invest in Myanmar."
Sein met earlier in the day with U.S. President Barack Obama, who told him, "we want you to know that the United States will make every effort to assist you on what I know is a long, and sometimes difficult, but ultimately correct path to follow."
The Democratic Party's chief watchdog on Republican statements about Jews and Israel was appointed as the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism on Monday:
Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that Ira Forman will serve as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Ira Forman, a graduate of both Harvard and Stanford Universities, previously served as Director of Congressional Relations for the Office of Personnel Management during the Clinton administration. He led the National Jewish Democratic Council for fifteen years.
The position, designed to strengthen ties between Jews and practitioners of other faiths and creeds regardless of party affiliation, spent much of his career at the National Jewish Democratic Council lambasting Republicans for everything from unfortunate gaffes to egregiously taboo remarks.
A not-atypical headline for one of Forman's writings as a Huffington Post blogger may include "Republicans Spout Typical Drivel to Demonize Obama as Anti-Israel" or "The Shamelessness of the Republican Jewish Coalition" or "Are Jewish Republicans Serious?"
After Mitt Romney announced his decision to hold his presidential announcement at the Ford Museum on February 13, Forman told the Associated Press he was "deeply troubled."
"Romney has been traveling the country talking about inclusiveness and understanding of people from all walks of life," Forman said. "Yet he chooses to kick (off) his presidential campaign on the former estate of a well-known and outspoken anti-Semite and xenophobe." (Forman was referring to automaker Henry Ford, who was indeed a raging anti-Semite and was the only American mentioned in Hitler's Mein Kampf.)
One imagines Forman's new post will take a less partisan overtone. The release notes that Secretary Kerry made the announcement in conjunction with the new 2012 International Religious Freedom Report. You can read the full item here. The State Department did not immediately respond to a question for comment.
On Monday morning, the White House released a vague agenda for this afternoon's historic bilateral meeting between President Barack Obama and Thein Sein, the first president of Burma, also known as Myanmar, to visit Washington in almost 50 years. While its release ticks off the major issues -- including democratic reform, "ethnic tensions," and economic development -- sources tell The Cable that a contract to operate Burma's Yangon airport will likely be brought up.
The contract, which involves the renovation and operation of the former Burmese capital's airport, is worth $1 billion over 30 years and has attracted bids from some of the most powerful corporations in the world. More importantly, from a geostrategic standpoint, it also pits a U.S. consortium including giants Boeing and McKinsey against a joint venture involving the massive Chinese-owned company China Harbour Engineering and Pioneer Aerodrome Service, a firm connected to Burma's former military regime.
As with most things in the historically secretive Burmese system, the decision-making process is opaque, but Burma watchers are observing the airport project closely as a sign of which way the political winds are blowing.
In preparation for Monday's meeting, a source familiar with the bid tells The Cable that last week officials with the Department of Commerce and National Security Council prepared to brief senior White House officials on the bid by the American consortium, the New York-based ACO Investment Group. Another source with ties to the administration said that senior State Department officials also raised the issue with the White House. "It's very much on the White House radar ... it's likely to come up," said the source.
The surge in economic interest in Burma comes as Sein opens up the country to foreign investment in an effort to modernize its infrastructure and develop its financial sector ahead of the 2015 elections. Last July, the United States lifted a raft of economic sanctions against Burma after Sein kickstarted a gradual reform process, which resulted in the election of human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament after years under house arrest.
Still, Obama is expected to walk a "fine line," as Reuters put it, between fostering ties with the quasi-military government and defending human rights. (Sein earned a bit of good will on Friday after pardoning 20 political prisoners. However, human rights groups were quick to allege that 160 political activists remain in imprisoned and others note that sectarian violence in the western state of Rakhine has worsened since the United States.dropped sanctions last year.)
ACO is bullish on Burma, planning to invest $700 million in the country, including $200 million in the Yangon International Airport should it win the contract. "Many Western institutional investors and companies are taking a wait-and-see approach as Myanmar comes out of reform," Hari Achuthan, managing director at ACO, told The Cable. "Someone like ACO however, will only help attract more foreign investment into the country. The U.S. government advocating for ACO on its projects would provide a lot of confidence both for investors and the Government of Myanmar."
National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on specific investments to be discussed with President Sein, but told The Cable, "We expect the President to have a constructive and substantive discussion with President Thein Sein about the status of his reform efforts and the challenges the Burmese government is facing in the ongoing transition." A White House release adds that Obama looks forward to discussing how to "bring economic opportunity to the people of [Myanmar], and to exploring how the United States can help." The State Department declined to comment on any specific investments, but an official speaking on background with The Cable said, "In general, we encourage U.S. business to invest in Burma and to do so responsibly. Responsible investment is essential to the success of the reform process in Burma, bringing prosperity to the people of Burma and creating job opportunities for Americans."
The consortium was co-founded by Achuthan and former United Airlines president Ronojoy Dutta. It includes the Asia Group, a Washington and Singapore-based investment and consulting firm founded by Kurt Campbell, the recently departed assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Campbell was the architect of a range of policy initiatives in Obama's first term, most notably, the opening up of Burma and Washington's subsequent rapprochement with the country. When asked if his revolving-door involvement in Myanmar created a conflict of interest, Asia Group COO Nirav Patel told The Cable that Campbell's activities in the country have been "extremely consistent" over the years. "This is intrinsically about supporting reform," he said. "You can't get to supporting reform without people taking [investment] risks. That's something we're very passionate about."
The U.S. government, meanwhile, may have multiple reasons for supporting the consortium. For one, it's rarely shy about promoting American businesses in its goal of increasing U.S. exports and trade. For another, the U.S. Treasury makes no bones about how it feels about one of ACO's leading competitors on the bid: Asia World, Myanmar's biggest and most diversified conglomerate. Both of its founders, Steven Law and his father Lo Hsing Han, are still on the U.S. sanctions list. Treasury even has its own flow chart of the two founders' involvement in "illicit activities," which include the Burmese junta and drug trafficking stretching back to the ‘70s. Law has repeatedly denied U.S. claims of his and his father's involvement in the region's drug trade.
It remains to be seen which consortium Burma will ultimately choose. Airport operators in Japan, Singapore and South Korea are also competing in the final stage of bidding, and the Burmese government is expected to announce the winner by June 25.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is done asking nicely, and on Friday, issued a subpoena for retired Amb. Thomas Pickering, co-chair of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) on Benghazi, to appear for a deposition on last year's attack.
"While I am very much committed to having you testify publicly and appreciate your newfound willingness to do so, I was disappointed that you are attempting to limit the Committee's understanding of the Accountability Review Board by refusing to participate in a voluntary transcribed interview prior to testifying publicly," Issa wrote in a letter to Pickering. "In light of your continuing refusal to appear voluntarily for a transcribed interview, however, I have found it necessary to issue a subpoena to compel your appearance at a deposition."
All week, Issa's office had been publishing open letters to Pickering requesting his participation in a private, transcribed interview, and all week Pickering declined, saying he was willing to testify publicly about his review of the State Department's response to the attack, but insisting that a private deposition was inappropriate.
"Depositions are usually reserved for fact witnesses and people under investigation," he told The Cable. "We are not fact witnesses to Benghazi and we are not under investigation."
Shortly after Issa's announcement, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MA), ranking member of the Oversight Committee, issued a press release condemning the subpoena as emblematic of "extreme Republican overreach."
"Today's subpoena is a stark example of extreme Republican overreach and the shameful politicization of this tragedy," Cummings said. "Both Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering have made clear that they stand ready and willing to testify at a public hearing to respond directly to these reckless accusations, but Chairman Issa is now imposing new conditions to keep them behind closed doors. The Chairman should reverse his decision, conduct a responsible and bipartisan investigation, and allow the American people to hear directly from these officials."
Issa insists a private deposition is a necessary precursor to a public hearing.
"A fully informed hearing, in which the Committee begins with a factual understanding of how the Board reached its conclusions, is critical to engaging in a public discussion with you about criticisms career State Department officials levied at the ARB's efforts and recommendations," Issa wrote.
As The Cable noted last week, the dispute can best be described as a battle over the American public's perception of what happened in Benghazi. Issa knows that a transcribed interview with Pickering will better allow him to control the narrative of the next Benghazi hearing, and certainly, it helps for running a hearing more efficiently. Pickering thinks Issa is running a "political circus," and as he told The Cable on Wednesday, "now that the circus has been launched, we want to make our case in front of the public," not in a private setting.
Interestingly, Admiral Mullen, the other co-chair of the ARB, has been given a pass. When The Cable asked Issa's office if he too had been served a subpoena, Issa spokeswoman Becca Watkins said "he was not."
The subpoena requires Pickering to show up for a deposition on Thursday, May 23, at 10 a.m. Pickering did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.