The House of Representatives is moving forward with a plan to spend millions of dollars re-investigating the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, despite a raft of completed inquiries that all reached essentially the same conclusion.
Members of the House Intelligence Committee last week voted to declassify that panel’s exhaustive report on Benghazi. The Committee’s investigation took most of two years to complete, and involved interviews with dozens of witnesses, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other members of the Obama administration as well as people who were on the ground in Benghazi at the time of the attack.
The report will take its place beside other in-depth and expensive reports, including the House Armed Services Committee’s view of the attack, the report of the Accountability Review Board empaneled by the State Department immediately after the attacks, and the findings of five other Congressional committees that conducted their own hearings and/or investigations.
All told, thousands of hours have been spent looking into the attacks, and the dollars expended run to the tens of millions. The Defense Department alone, which was not even responsible for the security of a State Department facility, has spent millions responding to multiple Congressional investigations.
Nevertheless, the House of Representatives is preparing to launch yet another investigation of the attack, via the Select Committee on Benghazi, and has budgeted more than $3 million just for its activities between now and the end of the year.
This might be understandable if the completed reports had come to competing conclusions about the questions surrounding what happened at the consulate that night, because it’s obviously a serious issue.
The attack took the lives of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens. It has also been the subject of an enormous amount of politically loaded speculation over the past two years. Critics of the administration have hurled various accusations: that administration officials ordered military assets to “stand down” rather than assist the personnel under attack; that the attack was the result of a massive intelligence failure; and that the White House doctored talking points on the attack for political purposes.
However, the committees that have issued public reports have, for the most part, come to the same findings: there was no effort to prevent aid from being sent to the consulate, no intelligence failure, and no politically doctored talking points.
Nonetheless, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) this weekend reported that the Select Committee is moving forward – lining up witnesses for hearings expected to take place in the Fall.
To be fair, it’s not Gowdy’s job to disband a committee created by a vote of the full House, and the former prosecutor appears to be making a good faith effort to conduct a full and fair investigation.
“There is more work to be done, and more to be investigated,” said committee spokesperson Amanda Duvall. “The Chairman has repeatedly noted the Select Committee wants every relevant document and all relevant witnesses to ensure every relevant fact is uncovered. This is a fact-centered investigation and the committee will go where the facts lead. In addition, the Select Committee’s mandate is broader, we are looking at everything, from a broad multi-jurisdictional approach.”
In an interview with the hometown Greenville News over the weekend, Gowdy said the committee “is gaining access to witnesses who didn’t participate in previous congressional investigations into the attacks.”
But it’s hard not to ask what the point of it all is. The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee isn’t exactly a redoubt of Obama administration sympathizers. Nor is the House Armed Services Committee, which also debunked claims about Benghazi in its report. Likewise, the chairmen of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board were Tom Kean, a former Republican Governor of New Jersey, and Thomas Pickering, a career diplomat who served as President George H. W. Bush’s Ambassador to the United Nations and Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to Israel.
Gowdy’s intentions notwithstanding, many critics of the Select Committee have pointed out that the most relevant fact about its pending investigation may well be the timing of the hearings, which will bring a highly partisan subject back into the public spotlight just as the 2014 mid-term elections are heating up.
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