WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is pledging a full and open inquiry into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, amid demands from Congress for speedy answers to questions about the security of the mission and concerns that the FBI investigation into the incident has been delayed.
An independent five-member board appointed by Clinton will begin this week looking at whether security at the consulate was adequate and whether proper procedures were followed before, during and immediately after the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
"The men and women who serve this country as diplomats deserve no less than a full and accurate accounting wherever that leads and I am committed to seeking that for them," Clinton told reporters at the State Department on Wednesday.
Republican lawmakers claim security at the consulate was inadequate. Two House leaders have asserted that the Obama administration denied repeated requests from U.S. diplomats in Libya to enhance security at the mission.
Clinton promised "a process that is as transparent as possible" although she stressed that "it will take time."
Previous inquiries into attacks on diplomatic missions have taken months to complete.
But faced with Republicans in Congress impatient for full details of any possible negligence before November's presidential election, Clinton pledged that the State Department would share information as appropriate with lawmakers as soon as possible.
At the same time, she cautioned that the Accountability Review Board led by former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, should not be rushed to judgment.
"I am asking the board to move as quickly as possible without sacrificing accuracy," she told reporters. "In the interim, we will provide as much accurate information to the Congress and the public."
"Over the course of this review, there will be naturally be a number of statements made, some of which will be borne out and some of which will not," Clinton warned. "I caution everyone against seizing on any single statement or piece of information to draw a final conclusion."