Two groups of retired military personnel on Monday called on the House to launch a Watergate-style investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
In separate letters to House members, the groups Special Operations Speaks and Operational Security (OpSec), urged support for the resolution introduced by Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, calling for a special congressional committee of inquiry to look into the deadly attacks.
“The traditional committee [oversight] process has failed stalled out,” OpSec founder Scott W. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, told The Washington Times.
In a second letter to every member of the House signed by 700 retired military personnel, Special Operations Speaks demanded a “full accounting” of the Benghazi attack, listing lingering questions about the incident and the Obama administration’s responses.
U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods were killed when dozens of heavily armed extremists, including members of a local militia linked to al Qaeda, overran and set fire to the temporary diplomatic post and later assaulted a nearby CIA annex with mortars. The attacks took place over an eight-hour period.
Republican lawmakers have pressed what they say are unanswered questions about the events of that night, and several congressional inquiries already have been held.
Hearings by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed last year that State Department officials rejected several requests for more security from diplomats and security personnel in Libya in the months before the attacks. The security environment in Benghazi had been declining, with attacks on the U.S. post and other Western diplomatic facilities.
In addition, a State Department panel of inquiry concluded last year that four midlevel officials exercised poor leadership and mismanaged security in Libya and at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
Mr. Taylor called the investigative efforts “disjointed.”
“None of them have produced the answers we need,” he said.
The committee envisaged in Mr. Wolf’s resolution would be established by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and consist of 19 members.
The committee’s membership would be the chairmen and ranking members of the six committees with jurisdiction over some part of the issue armed services, foreign affairs, intelligence, homeland security, judiciary and government reform plus five other Republicans and two additional Democrats.
“I really have to salute Congressman Wolf’s leadership on this,” Mr. Taylor said. “He has spearheaded this campaign for a single consolidated effort.”
The resolution garnered about 20 co-sponsors when Mr. Wolf first raised the issue in January. More than 40 other House members have signed on since.
Some observers say the resolution has little chance of passage because the committee chairmen already leading investigations will not take kindly to having to share control or the limelight with others.
Mr. Wolf was unavailable for comment Monday, his office said.
Mr. Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told The Times that “the speaker has confidence in the committees of jurisdiction” and their existing efforts to get to the bottom of the issue.
Mr. Taylor, who lost a Republican primary in Virginia in 2010, said he does “understand the politics of it,” but that Monday’s letter is “just the first step in a concerted effort to really push for this special investigation.”
The calls Monday likely will refocus attention on questions that critics say remain about whether U.S. forces could have done more to rescue survivors, and whether President Obama and his senior security staff were sufficiently engaged with events in Benghazi.
OpSec is a nonpartisan nonprofit made up of former U.S. intelligence and national security personnel, and can advocate on public policy issues but not for or against any particular candidate in elections. Last year, it raised more than $1 million, which it spent to produce TV and Web advertisements and a short feature film all criticizing leaks from inside the Obama administration about its national security successes.
“We are the voice of those who can’t speak,” said Mr. Taylor, referring to active-duty military and intelligence personnel who were angered by the administration’s response to the Benghazi attack.
Special Operations Speaks is a political action committee that spent more than $1 million during last year’s general election campaign to urge the defeat of Mr. Obama.
The letter is signed, the group says, by more than 700 former military or intelligence personnel, including more than 20 general officers.
They include retired Army Lt. Gen. Dell L. Dailey, a former State Department counterterrorism coordinator; retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, a Ranger and controversial former military intelligence chief; and retired Army Maj. Gen. John K. “Jack” Singlaub, who was a founding member of the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA during World War II.