WASHINGTON — A high-level State Department investigative panel turned over a secret report Monday assessing blame for the deadly terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, setting the stage for a clash on the issue this week between the Obama administration and Republican critics.
The five-member Accountability Review Board delivered the report to the State Department two days before congressional panels are to hear testimony from its leading members, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, in closed session.
The board was established to examine the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Key Republican lawmakers believe that during the presidential campaign, the administration played down security shortcomings that enabled Islamic militants to successfully attack the lightly defended compound. They have vowed to press hard to get a full picture of the events.
The 1968 legislation authorizing such boards directs them to assign specific responsibility for any security shortcomings.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee will take public testimony Thursday from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's two deputies.
Clinton was expected to testify this week, but asked, over the weekend, to be excused because of a minor concussion she suffered early last week. The secretary, battling a stomach virus, fainted and struck her head, aides disclosed Saturday.