Pickering stands by Benghazi assessment, says Clinton not to blame

WASHINGTON (AP) - A diplomat who wrote a highly-critical report about security at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, is standing by that assessment -- but he's also absolving Hillary Rodham Clinton of blame.

Thomas Pickering tells CNN that Clinton's critics are trying to "point a finger at people more senior than where we found the decisions were made."

Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led an investigation of the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others. They did not question Clinton at length. But they concluded that the decisions about the consulate were made well below the secretary's level.

Their report did find that "systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels" of the State Department meant that security was "grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."

The top Republican on a House oversight committee says he wants to question Pickering and Mullen under oath. Darrell Issa of California says his panel wasn't given enough details of the review they conducted.

But seated next to Issa during NBC's "Meet the Press," Pickering said he had wanted to appear at a hearing last week that Issa chaired, but he was blocked from doing so. Issa responded Democrats could have called their own witnesses, including Pickering, but did not.

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