Benghazi, Part 1

On the CBS news program Face the Nation Sunday (Oct. 20), Trey Gowdy was asked about the credibility of The House Select Committee on Benghazi in light of two Republican colleagues and a former investigator calling the committee politically motivated.

Benghazi

“Why would all these people say that?” journalist John Dickerson asked the committee chairman.

“I guess because they don’t have any idea what the facts are,” Gowdy said. … “There are three people who don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. Two of my colleagues, the two Republican members of the conference, have never asked for an update on our committee.

“They couldn’t name three witnesses we talked to. They couldn’t tell you a single document production that we have received. … I have told my own Republican colleagues and friends, shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we have done…”

Dickerson turned to Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, for a response.

“…he’s now trying to shift back to where we should have been all along,” Cummings said. “That is looking at the Benghazi incident. And it’s clear to me. He can try to dismiss the words of Congressman McCarthy, the second highest ranking member in Congress. He can try to dismiss the words of Congressman Hanna, and of his hand-picked investigator who quit. But the fact is that he keeps saying, don’t listen to what they say, they don’t know anything.

“Well, we were on the committee, too. … He has not yet interviewed the head of the CIA. But he brought in [Clinton advisor Huma] Abedin. He has not yet interviewed the head of Joint Chiefs, the secretary of defense, none of that. …

“…most of [the witnesses] were State Department people or they were Hillary Clinton’s former aides, people that worked in her campaigns, speechwriters. So, when he talks about these 50 witnesses, we still have been zeroed in on Hillary Clinton.”

Dickerson then asked the obvious.

“If you were having an investigation and a key person in it, it turns out, had a totally different way of communicating that people didn’t know about, which is to say Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, wouldn’t that make you kind of say, hey, I would like to know about this, even to find out if it’s totally benign? Wouldn’t that take some time and some energy to go look into that, and it’s a total surprise?

“It might very well,” Cummings said. “But the fact is, is that this is the Benghazi Committee. Perhaps another committee on oversight might want to look into all that. But this is a Benghazi committee. And that’s — and we have actually strayed away from what we were supposed to be doing. And, again, I’m looking for transparency. And one of the things I’m going to be doing this week is releasing our report, the Democrats’ report of excerpts from the various unclassified transcriptions, where I can tell you that, of all the things that Mr. Gowdy and others have been accusing Hillary Clinton of over the last three years, not a witness verifies any of that.”

While I agree with some of Cummings’ points, the fact is that any and all communications regarding Benghazi need to be examined from all participants in the issue before, during and after the attacks.

Since the committee meets privately (which I personally applaud; we don’t need more political theatrics) the only facts that are released come from those working directly on or for the committee. However, this investigation is no longer about Clinton taking responsibility. The former Secretary of State has done that. This is about something more.

What began as an earnest attempt to determine the truth (if Washington is even capable of doing that anymore), the inquiry into events surrounding the Benghazi terrorist attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans including a U.S. Ambassador, has deteriorated into a swamp of rumor, speculation and innuendo.

In the political zeitgeist, Benghazi has devolved from a series of special investigations determined to answer the key questions of what happened, and how we can prevent such attacks in the future into a special House Select Committee, which, according to the ranking Democrat on that panel, has focused almost exclusively on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions or in-actions.

To get to the core truth of all this you really have to go back to Whitewater, an investigation I’ve been studying for almost eight years.

But let’s take Benghazi from the beginning.

On the evening of September 11, 2012, the anniversary of 9/11, a group of Islamic militants attacked an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. At the time, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was visiting the compound from the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Ambassador Stevens and another American Service Officer, Sean Smith, were killed in the attack. Several hours later, a second assault took place at a different compound about a mile away, killing two CIA contractors. Ten other individuals were injured. The Libyan government succeeded in removing all American workers to safety in Tripoli along with the four who died in the attacks.

What happened before and immediately after those attacks has been the focus of seven congressional committees: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs; The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; The House Committee on Foreign Affairs; The House Committee on the Judiciary; The House Committee on Armed Services; and The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

All of these groups were created to investigate the attacks within the scope of their respective specialties.

Investigation #8: The House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Republican Trey Goudy is ongoing.

Actually, there have been nine investigations thus far. Immediately after the attack, Secretary of State Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board to investigate the attack, required by law. While the report from the Board found no direct fault of Clinton, it did acknowledge the following:

“The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability appropriate for the State Department’s senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection.”

On October 5, Clinton sat for an interview on NBC’s Today Show (Oct. 5), in which she asserted:

“There have been seven investigations led mostly by Republicans in the Congress. And they were nonpartisan, and they reached conclusions that, first of all, I and nobody did anything wrong, but there were changes we could make. This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans.”

Clinton’s comments came after Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy’s statement on FOX News’ Sean Hannity (Sept. 30):

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

McCarthy’s statement seems to all but say that this latest House Committee investigating Benghazi was ordered for the specific purpose of derailing Clinton’s presidential run. I’ll come back to this later.

Returning to Clinton’s Today Show statement, PolitiFact (Oct. 12), examined Clinton’s statements.

Yes, there were, in fact, seven committees, (as noted above). Some key points PolitiFact makes:

In its report, The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs, a bipartisan group, detailed “the ‘high risk’ of a terrorist attack at the U.S. facilities in Libya. While the report criticized the State Department for not addressing the security concerns leading up to the attack, it also found ‘administration officials were inconsistent in stating publicly that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack.’ The report attributed the State Department’s security failures to intelligence problems and a failure ‘to imagine the type of attack that occurred.’ ”

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, another bipartisan group, called the Benghazi attacks “preventable.” “Among other findings,” PolitiFact writes, “the committee concluded the State Department had received ample warning about deteriorating security in Libya and failed to adequately increase security in the weeks leading up to the attack. The report also faulted intelligence officials for not relaying information on the CIA annex to the U.S. military.”

Regarding the charge that the Obama Administration deliberately misled the American people in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, “The House Intelligence Committee concluded its two-year Benghazi investigation in November 2014 when it released a report exonerating the Obama administration of wrongdoing in its response to the attack. The report found evidence of contradicting intelligence among government officials and concluded officials did not intentionally mislead the public with information in the days following the attack.”

According to PolitiFact, The House Select Committee on Benghazi was created “in May 2014 after a conservative watchdog group discovered new State Department emails about the attacks. The committee includes seven Republicans and five Democrats. The group released an interim progress report in May 2015, but the committee’s Democrats have been outspoken on the committee’s lack of progress.”

While Democrats pounced on McCarthy’s statement about the creation of the committee as absolute proof of a Republican scheme, I wasn’t so sure. Frankly, it’s not the first time Republicans or Democrats have suffered from foot-in-mouth syndrome. However, what happened next was more troubling.

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