- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Members of the House Select Committee tasked with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has met recently behind closed doors with the State and Justice departments but still plans to hold public hearings, the committee’s chairman said Wednesday.

“The Department of State provided new information to the committee and answered questions raised by committee members,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and the committee’s chairman, said in a statement. “The committee is continuing its probe into all aspects of Benghazi and is currently focused on ensuring access to all first-hand accounts from those on the ground that night. This process will be ongoing and in some respects must remain classified.”

The committee also met behind closed doors with the Justice Department regarding document production and potential witnesses, Mr. Gowdy said. The select committee has held two public hearings and Mr. Gowdy said that there would be more, though most of the work would have to be done in classified settings.

As part of a rules package passed last week, the GOP-controlled House reauthorized the committee, a move Democrats on the panel protested, saying that it remains unclear what new questions the committee seeks to answer.

“Since our members were denied the ability to meaningfully debate or amend the resolution, we now look to the committee to quickly adopt rules that ensure that our Democratic members are able to participate fully in the investigation,” the five Democrats on the committee said in a statement.

A report from the House Intelligence Committee released last year largely cleared the CIA of wrongdoing in the run-up to the attack, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, though it said the agency should have more quickly changed its talking points on the impetus for the attack.

In his opening statement at the select committee’s second public hearing, held shortly afterward in December, Mr. Gowdy said he was “keenly aware” that there were people on both sides of the aisle who have concluded all questions have been answered.

But, citing a lack of complete understanding on issues like the security environment, pledged to keep asking questions, saying he would rather ask a question twice than risk not answering it at all.

The 2012 attack has been a major political sticking point between President Obama’s administration and congressional Republicans, who secured the creation of the special panel last May.

Many Republicans, including potential presidential contenders in 2016, have criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the State Department’s response to the attack, and the issue figures to play a role in the race for the White House if Mrs. Clinton ultimately decides to run.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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