President Obama survived the election without having to answer many key questions about the September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, but getting through the lame-duck session of Congress that opens Tuesday could be even tougher — especially with one key senator already talking about the possibility of subpoenas.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are demanding to know who was responsible for the decisions involved in the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya’s second-largest city, and want to know why military assistance didn’t arrive until well after four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were dead.
“Clearly, the White House believed that if they held information on Benghazi through the election, Congress and the public would lose interest and stop asking questions. That just isn’t going to happen, because the public has a right to know,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican and one of the lawmakers awaiting replies to information requests. “Rather, their silence has probably made matters worse. Instead of asking ‘What happened?’ members return to Washington asking, ‘What are you hiding?’”
On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, even raised the possibility of issuing a subpoena to get a look at a CIA trip report from former agency Director David H. Petraeus, whose resignation last week has become tangled up with the investigation into Benghazi.
Even as many issues divide the two parties on Capitol Hill, Benghazi is one area where they appear ready to work together to get answers.
Part of that is pent-up demand. As information trickled out over the past two months, Congress was in recess, holding only pro-forma sessions while lawmakers hit the campaign trail.
Now, as they return, they are comparing notes, demanding answers to questions and generally nonplussed with what the administration has given them.
Mrs. Feinstein said that given what she knows now, she considers Benghazi a failure of U.S. intelligence — particularly because it took analysts 10 days to conclude that the attack was a terrorist assault, not part of a spate of mob protests against a YouTube video that maligned Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
“I don’t know what took them 10 days to figure that out, candidly. And that’s a problem,” she said.
Her committee is one of three that has hearings on Benghazi scheduled for this week. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Foreign Affairs Committee also have hearings — though the two intelligence panels’ proceedings are closed.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also has a closed-door briefing on the situation.
Lawmakers across the board also have outstanding information requests that they say the administration will have to comply with. That includes Mrs. Feinstein’s demand for the trip report from Mr. Petraeus.
With the hearings looming, the administration began to divulge more details late last week.
On Friday, the Pentagon gave reporters a timeline showing the Defense Department’s response, including posting a drone over the consulate about 90 minutes after the attack began. The Associated Press said the timeline showed it took 14 hours for the first U.S. military units to arrive on the scene.View Entire Story
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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