As if to underscore that they intended to revive the debate for a second term, three House Republicans – Ed Royce and Darrell Issa of California, and Jason Chaffetz of Utah – wrote to the State Department on Monday demanding to see all Benghazi-related emails, cables and memoranda Clinton received.
The representatives also wanted explanations for an independent review board’s decision against interviewing Clinton and top deputies, and about “the decision to maintain an isolated outpost in Benghazi even with evidence of increasing violence,” according to a joint statement from the congressmen. Considering that Clinton’s last day as secretary is Friday, it’ll most likely be Kerry making sure those requests are considered.
During the confirmation hearing, both Republicans and Democrats sought pledges from Kerry that he’d continue implementing the recommendations of the review board, which found systemic managerial problems in the State Department offices that handled the Benghazi crisis.
Four managers were placed on administrative leave; one of them resigned. Kerry will be in charge of rebuilding those offices, keeping apace with the review board’s dozens of recommendations and conducting periodic security assessments on U.S. posts in all high-risk locations.
On top of the internal fallout from Benghazi, one of the most pressing matters Kerry will face is the blood-soaked Syrian uprising turned civil war. On Tuesday, the administration announced a $155 million bump in humanitarian aid, putting the total U.S. aid to Syria at $365 million.
However, as Kerry reiterated at the hearing last week, there was no imminent shift in the longstanding U.S. policy of refusing to provide arms directly to the Syrian rebels. The administration’s assistance is strictly “nonlethal,” such as communications equipment, food and medicine, and winter kits to keep warm the millions of displaced Syrians.
Kerry said it would be difficult to weigh a drastic policy shift now that extremists groups such as the al Qaida-backed Nusra Front are the most formidable rebel forces. Even so, he acknowledged that the current policy is costing the United States allies among members of the Syrian opposition, many of whom accuse the Obama administration of abandoning their fight as it nears the two-year mark.