Benghazi hearings provide some hope

In late January, the Democrat Members of the Select Committee on Benghazi virtually declared war on the majority members, criticizing their pace, rules and committee scope.

Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) claimed that the Select Committee was on a wild goose chase for a nonexistent “unicorn” and “nefarious conspiracy,” and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) falsely called the stand down order a “myth.”

But in what may be a turning point for the Select Committee, Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy emphasized at the 27 January hearing that “we’re gonna pick up the pace…. I have no interest in prolonging” the investigation into Benghazi.

“Letters haven’t worked. Southern politeness hasn’t worked. We’re going to ratchet it up,” he said at what members of the mainstream media, such as U.S. News and World Report, characterized as a “partisan grudge match.”

The next day Chairman Gowdy issued a statement that defied Democrats outright, arguing he “will continue to move the investigation forward in a fair and impartial manner, but… will not allow the minority’s political games and unreasonable de-mands to interfere with the investigation.” Rep. Gowdy said he will continue operating under the scope originally set by the House of Representatives.

The media preferred to coin this as political failure or “out of control” politics. “The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which began with dignity last year, spun out of control that Tuesday as Democrats complained that Republicans were abusing their authority and Republicans threatened to spray the Obama administration with subpoenas,” wrote Dana Milbank for The Washington Post. Milbank specializes in snarky columns criticizing and marginalizing conservatives, and even took aim at the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB) for a conference held on Benghazi in 2013.

Regarding the January hearing, the Associated Press in turn, remarked, “The partisan tone marked a sharp turnaround for a panel that had won praise for a bipartisan approach through its first two public hearings.”

The subject of the first two slow-rolling hearings was the current state of embassy security, a topic suggested by the committee’s Democratic members which had little to do with the administration’s response to the attack — and which conveniently glosses over the security failures of 2012 to emphasize present solutions instead of accountability.

MSNBC focused largely on political angles instead of substance. For Alex Seitz-Wald, it was all about Hillary Clinton. “Gowdy and Republicans had been hoping to preserve and grow the credibility of their inquiry, which is part of the reason for their assiduous avoidance of taking pot shots at Clinton Tuesday,” wrote Seitz-Wald. “But Democrats are seeking to undermine the credibility of the panel, in the hopes that it will be viewed as a partisan witch hunt if it ever demands testimony from Clinton.”

New bombshell reporting by The Washington Times shows that Clinton was the strong voice pushing to intervene in Libya in 2011 in the first place, which set the stage for the attacks. Ultimately, however, President Obama was the “Decider-in-Chief” and bears at least equal culpability.

Chairman Gowdy told Megyn Kelly of Fox News last May that he plans to subpoena Mrs. Clinton, and repeated that in December. We now learn that the Select Committee has requested Clinton and other top State Department officials’ emails, and that Rep. Gowdy is willing to bring Clinton before the Committee just 30 days after receiving “all the [State Department] documents,” according to CNN.

Select Committee Members would also like to interview 22 persons with firsthand knowledge of Benghazi whom Congress has never spoken to before. The Associated Press reported on 28 January, the day after the hearing, that State Department officials said they were ready to “commit” to interview dates for these persons.

But the press doesn’t seem interested in holding the administration accountable for the fact that the State Department waited from the 4 December request until 28 January to issue such a guarantee.

The State Department representative, Joel Rubin, said at the January hearing that a part of the committee’s relationship with the department is indicating priorities for requests — as if more resources could not be allocated to provide such information to the committee more swiftly.

Rubin, formerly of the Ploughshares Fund, also said at the hearing that he was a friend of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in 2012 at the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi. Rubin wrote the following for ThinkProgress that year:

“Instead of getting that support, their deaths are being used as a partisan attack on President Obama, part of a false narrative that the president failed them. What has failed them is our political system. Rather than supporting a serious, nonpartisan investigation into what took place and what went wrong, waiting to get all the facts out, conservatives are trying to affix blame for their deaths for political advantage.

This is how some conservatives use terrorist attacks against America.”

Now Rubin helps guard the gates for that same President who would like this simply dismissed as a phony scandal.

Although the media, along with the Democrats, may accuse Chairman Gowdy of partisan politics as he attempts to more aggressively investigate the Benghazi attacks and the resulting cover-up, I am cautiously optimistic about his new tone.

“The letter exchanges between Gowdy and Cummings [prior to the hearing], as well as Tuesday’s hearings, should put to rest forever the fiction that this type of investigation can be conducted in some Nirvana-zone of bipartisan comity,” Kenneth Tim-merman astutely wrote for Front Page Magazine.

With this new focus on government stonewalling the Committee brought the possibility of embarrassing the administration to the fore, and the backlash was palpable.

Accuracy in Media and the CCB have long been critical of the Mike Rogers’ House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) report, which contains a number of factual errors and glosses over the intelligence failures leading up to the attacks. Apparently the Select Committee asked to examine the HPSCI’s research in October — and had been asking the CIA for these files ever since. These files were only produced by the agency after learning that a hearing on them was scheduled.

Similarly, the State Department has produced 40,000 pages related to Benghazi, but Rubin wouldn’t answer as to whether the information provided to the Accountability Review Board was provided fully within those documents.

He also refused to say whether he thought the Select Committee was frivolous.

“If Gowdy is proceeding as a good prosecutor should, he is lining up all his ducks before he goes public with anything,” CCB member, and former CIA officer, Clare Lopez told WorldNetDaily’s Jerome Corsi in late January as part of a series of articles about the CCB’s own investigations. “I think it’s premature to jump to a condemnation of the process or the committee leadership when the truth is that we don’t know,” she said.

“Delays by Gowdy are unnecessary at this time,” CCB Member and Retired General Paul Valley told Corsi after the Times’ bombshell dropped. “Gowdy can press forward now as he does have sufficient intelligence and documents to call all witnesses and issue subpoenas as necessary.”

“Additional delays will only give the obstructionists in the Obama White House, the State Department and the Democrats in Congress time to thwart the efforts of the select committee,” Vallely said.

While the administration continues to stonewall the Select Committee whenever possible, and Democrats continue to complain that the investigation isn’t bipartisan enough, the CCB will continue to search for the truth in its own citizen-led investigation.

We have already dug up some disturbing facts in our 2014 interim report, such as:

• the administration decision to dismiss the possibility of truce talks with Moammar Qaddafi;
• helping arm al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Libya; and
• the inadequate military response that night.

“I don’t know if the decision came from the White House or from Hillary Clinton at the State Department,” Retired Rear Admiral Chuck Kubic told Corsi about those failed truce talks. However, Admiral Kubic said, “…the advice for me from AFRICOM was to basically just leave everything alone, to simply stand down.” Who, exactly, at the White House decided it was unnecessary to pursue truce talks with Qaddafi?

The CCB and Accuracy in Media are continuing the search for the truth with our own Freedom of Information Act initiative. Currently, the Department of Defense is withholding 12 pages of maps from us regarding the position of military forces during the attacks.

As we await our day in court, we will not stop digging for the truth through whatever means are available to us. I am encouraged by the possibility that the Select Committee might likewise now use all the powers at its disposal to force the administration to reveal what happened that night and in the aftermath, not only to its Congressional investigators, but to the public as well. America deserves answers, not more stonewalling.

From the AIM Syndicate, 4455 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Ste. 330, Washington, DC 20008; www.aim.org