On October 11, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform returned to Washington from their districts around the country (they are on recess) to participate in a hearing on "The Security Failures of Benghazi."
They and their staffs clearly had been burning the midnight oil preparing statements, obtaining records and researching in preparation for what was a lengthy and incredibly suspenseful and fact-ferreting four-hour hearing.
I've been to a lot of hearings on Capitol Hill and rarely one that was as heated and well attended as this one was, particularly considering that the Washington Nationals were in a playoff game at the same time, less than a mile away.
The reason I attended, and listened intently, was that I was concerned about the apparent misleading by Obama administration officials about the incidences that led up to the attack, the cause of the attack and the lack of adequate security provided at the Benghazi post. I wanted to see and hear for myself. Being there live is far better than watching on television.
Many of my concerns were highlighted during questioning by committee members and some of the testimony. As a result of the hearing, I remain convinced that there was deliberate misinformation provided by Ambassador Rice and that the inadequate security at the post contributed to the level of destruction sustained.
Despite the claims that "the entire reason this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan," by Obama campaign official Stephanie Cutter, this hearing was beyond politics. Facts unearthed during the hearing and as a result of the investigations are critical to the analysis of what happened and how it can be prevented in the future. These 10 reasons alone justify the hearing, election year or not:
1. Despite two explosions and dozens of other security threats, U.S. officials in Washington turned down repeated pleas from American diplomats in Libya to increase security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
2. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice suggested the attack was a spontaneous protest, sparked by an anti-Islam video on the web. However, State Department officials monitored the Benghazi situation, beginning soon after the initial attack, in "real-time," as reported by Charlene Lamb at the hearing.
3. The State Department declined to answer questions about whether extra security was sought by officials in Benghazi ahead of the attack. Testimony at the hearing, by all four panelists, confirmed that extra security was requested.
4. The extra security requested was denied, as confirmed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb at the October 10 hearing, despite two explosions and dozens of other "security threats" in Benghazi.
5. Before September 11, State Department had already concluded that there was a high risk of violence in Benghazi.
6. In an interview on October 8 on CBS, Lt. Col Andrew Wood, former Site Security Team Commander, said that State Department officials told staff on the ground in Libya to stop requesting more security for Benghazi.
7. At the hearing, Wood, stated that additional security had been needed at the installation for some time and had been denied, and that additional security could have changed the outcome of the attack. Hesaid that he anticipated an incident and "it was instantly recognizable to me as a terrorist attack."
8. Career professionals at the hearing said that Al Qaeda is in Libya and have a clear presence. The Al Qaeda "presence grows every day. They are certainly more established than we are," said Lt. Col Wood at the hearing.
9. For seven days, the White House claimed that the attack was not organized, AlQaeda was not behind it and it was not a terrorist attack but a protest over a video, yet they knew that was not the case.
10. In an interview after the committee hearing with Gretta Van Susteren of Fox News, Chairman Issare viewed the facts, strongly emphasizing the concern for lack of resources and the high number of violent attacks that preceded the September 11 attacks.
What does this mean?
The Committee has more work to do to get to the bottom of why the truth about this attack was covered up and Ambassador Rice knowingly misled the world in claiming that it was motivated by a video. Whether it was misstated in ignorance or intentionally is not the issue. Rather, confirming what actually happened and preventing such devastation by human error from happening again is critical.
Secretary Clinton has formed a panel to investigate the attack, as well. Their findings will be critical in decisions going forward at U.S. posts needs to be reviewed and tightened and the appropriate agencies have much work to do to make that happen. Likely, there will be more attention paid to requests by senior security officials for additional security at diplomatic posts in the future.
With the passing of the one-month anniversary of the attacks, more questions than solid answers have been presented. Congratulations to Chairman Issa and his committee for pursuing the truth.
Several news organizations provided excellent coverage. They include: