Rep. Frank Wolf: Tunisia Won't Let FBI Interview Benghazi Suspect

December 13, 2012 - 5:12 AM

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President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bow their heads during the Transfer of Remains Ceremony, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., marking the return to the United States of the remains of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to testify on Capitol Hill next week about last September’s attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a Republican lawmaker is urging her to cut aid to Tunisia over its refusal to allow the FBI to talk to the only known detained suspect in the attack.

Speaking on the U.S. House floor Wednesday, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) accused Tunisian authorities of hampering the FBI’s investigation into the attack in Libya’s second city, during which U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Since being arrested in Turkey and handed over to Tunisia more than two months ago, Tunisian-born Ali Harzi has been in custody in his native country. Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Larayedh said in late October he was “strongly suspected” of involvement in the Benghazi attack.

According to Wolf, Tunisian officials have not allowed the FBI to question him for the past five weeks.

“These unnecessary and unfounded delays are inexcusable and demonstrate that Tunisia is no friend or ally of the United States,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Clinton earlier this week.

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Part of an FBI poster seeking information from members of the public in Libya about the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. (Image: FBI)

“Since January 2011, the U.S. has given more than 320 million taxpayer dollars to Tunisia,” he said in the House Wednesday. “Why are we giving any sort of aid to a country that has proven at this time it is no friend or ally to the United States?  Why are we not doing everything in our power to investigate the events in Benghazi that killed four Americans?”

Wolf, a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for State and foreign operations, said if the U.S. does not cut off aid to Tunisia immediately, we would introduce legislation with that goal.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that Wolf’s letter had been received and a reply would be sent.

“We are working hard and well with the Tunisians on issues having to do with events in Libya, and we will continue to do so,” she said.

Also on Wednesday the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that Clinton would testify before an open hearing next Thursday, December 20, on the findings of an Accountability Review Board “and how to prevent attacks from happening again at other frontline posts.”

As required by law in instances of loss of life, serious injury or significant destruction of property at U.S. missions abroad Clinton set up the ARB in early October “to examine the facts and circumstances of the attacks and to report findings and recommendations as it deems appropriate.”

It is chaired by former ambassador Thomas Pickering, assisted by retired former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen and others.

The administration’s handling of the Sept. 11 attack, and especially its early attribution of the incident to protests over an online video clip mocking Mohammed, sparked controversy in the closing weeks of the election campaign. Attention focused on ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who was put forward by the White House to deliver that message on television the Sunday after the attack.

Some Republican senators have indicated they will not support Rice as Clinton’s successor if Obama nominates her for the post.

Late last month Clinton declined to answer reporters’ questions about why Rice had presented the administration’s case on the Sunday talk shows, rather than Clinton herself.

After praising Rice, she said she would not “answer any hypothetical questions about what could’ve happened but didn’t happen.”

“I’m looking forward to being able to discuss all of the issues pertaining to this after the conclusion of the Accountability Review Board,” Clinton continued. “We are hoping that they will be finished with their work very soon, and we intend to make the results of their investigation publicly [sic], and at that time I will be able to address all of these issues.”