On April 26, 2013, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), introduced legislation to increase the independence and transparency of future Accountability Review Boards (ARB), the temporary investigative bodies that are convened to review security-related incidents that result in “serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at, or related to, a United States Government mission abroad, and in any case of a serious breach of security involving intelligence activities of a foreign government directed at a United States Government mission abroad.”
According to Mr. Royce’s website the “Accountability Review Board Reform Act of 2013” (H.R. 1768) will increase the independence of future ARBs from the State Department, limiting the Secretary of State’s role.
Here is part of Mr. Royce’s reasoning: “When then-Secretary of State Clinton testified about the Benghazi attack in January, she repeatedly referred to the ARB findings, calling it an ‘independent’ investigative body. But the fact is, Secretary Clinton convened the ARB and hand-picked four of its five members. This ARB failed to assess the roles of so-called “seventh floor” State Department officials in the decisions that led to the Benghazi mission’s severely compromised security posture, despite strong evidence suggesting these senior officials were involved. This legislation will ensure that future ARBs are, in fact, independent of State Department leadership.”
The text of the proposed legislation has not been posted yet. But according to Mr. Royce’s website, The Accountability Review Board Reform Act addresses the following:
- increases the five-member ARB’s independence from the State Department. Under current law, the Secretary of State appoints four of an ARB’s five members. Under this legislation, the Secretary will appoint only two of the five members, with the Chair of the Council of Inspectors General of Integrity and Efficiency (the chief U.S. inspector general) appointing two members, and the Director of National Intelligence appointing the fifth member.
- improves the staffing model of future ARBs. Currently, an ARB relies on State Department employees to assist with the investigation of other State Department employees. Under this legislation, ARB staff would be drawn from the Office of Inspector General.
- eliminates potential conflicts of interest by banning individuals from serving as an ARB member or an ARB staffer if they have a personal or professional relationship with someone expected to be investigated.
- enhances transparency and allows greater oversight of the ARB process. Current law requires that the Secretary disclose only the names of the five ARB members. This legislation requires the Secretary to disclose the names of any senior State Department employees tasked with assisting an ARB.
- allows greater oversight. Current law requires that the ARB submit a final report to the Secretary. This legislation requires that the ARB also submit the final report to Congress.
According to data in congress.gov, H.R.1768 was introduced by Rep Royce, Edward R. [CA-39] on 4/26/2013. It currently has 16 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
We’ll post comments after we’ve seen the full text of H.R. 1768.