More than six months since the deadly attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, Republican lawmakers say they are still looking for answers and are frustrated that the White House is blocking access to an unknown number of survivors.
The Washington Times learned Friday that the State Department has failed to respond to a letter written nearly three weeks ago by two House Republicans seeking answers about the survivors, as many as seven of whom are believed to still be at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center recovering from injuries sustained in Benghazi.
As news trickled out this month that newly confirmed Secretary of State John F. Kerry had made a secret visit to one of the injured survivors at the hospital in Bethesda, frustration mounted in the office of Rep. Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, who co-wrote the March 1 letter to Mr. Kerry with Rep. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania.
“If somebody’s still being treated six months after the attack, I think the American people need to have the truth,” said Mr. Wolf, who voiced his frustration Friday that Mr. Kerry could have made such a trip to Walter Reed while ignoring a letter from Congress seeking answers about the survivors.
In the letter, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Gerlach told Mr. Kerry that an unnamed reliable source had informed them that “as many as 30 Americans (including State Department and CIA personnel and government contractors) may have been injured in the attack.”
“This source indicated that as many as seven Americans have been or are currently being treated at the hospital,” the congressmen wrote. “We would like to visit with the individuals presently at Walter Reed as they have endured much for their country and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”
“Furthermore, having served in Benghazi, the perspective of these individuals would provide invaluable insight to a dark day in American history — a day which is still shrouded in much mystery.”
Mr. Wolf told The Times on Friday that while Mr. Kerry’s office had called him saying there would be a response to the letter last week, no such response ever arrived. Mr. Gerlach’s office did not immediately responded with a comment.
In recent weeks, however, others on Capitol Hill have complained that Obama administration officials have dropped the ball when it comes to getting information from the survivors, or allowing Congress to access them.
“We want [to] talk to the survivors — they won’t do that,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, said during a March 6 interview with Fox News, which was first to report that Mr. Kerry had visited with one of the survivors at Walter Reed.
The network was also first to report on claims that three diplomatic security agents, as well as a State Department contractor, were among the Americans injured during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed.
Mr. Chaffetz, who has been among the most vocal critics of the attack narrative created during the past six months by the Obama administration, complained to Fox News that President Obama had “the gall” to go on television after the attacks and “say ‘Oh, we’re providing all the access.’”
“Baloney. Bullcrap. That is not happening,” Mr. Chaffetz said.
Outside of the administration’s inner intelligence circles, questions about those who survived the attacks — along with how many individuals were stationed at what administration officials have described as the “CIA annex” in Benghazi — have remained a hot topic of speculation among foreign policy and national specialists.
According to official accounts by the State Department, the CIA facility came under mortar attack hours after a group of armed militants had stormed the diplomatic post. What remains unclear is whether an official review of the incident conducted by the State Department and the White House-appointed director of national intelligence made any effort to interview survivors.
Known as an accountability review board, the panel that conducted the official review had broad powers of subpoena. It’s investigation, however, was shrouded in secrecy and the release of its findings to Congress came as two separate sections — one classified and one unclassified.
Foreign policy insiders have speculated that the classified version may included details from interviews with survivors.
The unclassified version, released to the public in December, offered no indication the panel sought such interviews. It did, however, make reference to two U.S. personnel and three Libyan contract security guards who were “severely wounded” in the attacks.
The unclassified findings stated that mortar attacks on the CIA annex, which killed Woods and Doherty, also “severely injured” an assistant regional security officer of the State Department along with an annex “security team member.”
The wounded were evacuated from the annex and taken “to a local hospital, in exemplary coordination that helped save the lives of the two severely injured Americans,” the findings say.
A day later, on Sept. 12, the “Benghazi personnel, and those wounded in the attacks” were flown to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany “with military doctors and nurses aboard providing en route medical care to the injured,” the findings said.
While the classified version of the findings may provide more detail, Mr. Wolf said Friday that he has not been given access to it.
“We need to talk to anybody that was involved that wants to come forward and tell what happened,” said Mr. Wolf, who has for months called for Congress to create an independent, bipartisan and multijurisdictional committee to probe more deeply into what transpired in Benghazi.
“I’m not satisfied,” he said. “I don’t think the American people are satisfied.”