The State Department's Accountability Review Board (ARB), meant to review the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, met for the first time at the State Department Thursday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed the names of the five board members in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Oct. 2. In addition to former Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, who will lead the board, the other members will be former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen (ret.), Catherine Bertini, Hugh Turner, and Richard Shinnick.
At Thursday's briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the team was in the building and getting down to business.
"The ARB has its first meeting -- or is having its first meeting today. They are all here in the building meeting with some of our folks, beginning to get some of the documents that they will need to study, etc.," she said.
The ARB won't be a full-time job for the board members, and the details of exactly how they will go about getting to the bottom of the Benghazi attack haven't been worked out. They won't hold public hearings, but they will have access to State Department officials and relevant documents, Nuland said.
"I think one of the things that they are talking about among themselves today is how the work schedule will go," Nuland said. "They'll obviously have a lot of papers to read through. Then they'll have to come back together periodically to compare notes about where they are. How they choose to do that, whether it's always on site or whether it's a mix of things, I think we'll have to see going forward."
The ARB is charged with determining the extent to which the incident was security-related, whether the security systems and procedures at that mission were adequate and were properly implemented, the impact of intelligence and information availability, and any other facts and circumstances that might be relevant to the appropriate security management of the United States missions abroad.
Nuland also said there have been no Americans at the site in Benghazi, but as Foreign Policy's E-Ring reported today, Pentagon Spokesman George Little revealed that U.S. military personnel had assisted the FBI in getting to the site today and then assisted getting them out.
"At the request of the FBI, the department provided logistic and security support to the investigation team in order to conduct work onsite in Benghazi. DOD personnel completed that support earlier today and have departed Benghazi, along with the investigation team," Little said.
Asked why it took so long, Little referred reporters to
the State Department.
"The U.S. military has been willing to consider requests at various points," he said. "This is really, I think, a question I think best directed to the State Department, FBI. I know that both the State Department and FBI have been anxious to move this process along, to move the investigation forward, and we stand ready to support them in whatever way possible."