September 11, 2013
It's Time for a Select Committee on Benghazi - Here's How to Make it Happen
On September 11, 2012, one year ago today, the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi was attacked by a heavily-armed group of 125-150 gunmen, whose trucks allegedly bore the logo of Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamic militant group. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty were killed during a series of raids, commencing at nightfall and continuing for over eight hours through the next morning. At the time of the attack, dozens of federal employees were on the ground in Benghazi. To date, most of these eyewitnesses have been kept away from investigators by the Obama Administration.
It is now a year after the terrorist attack that took four American lives at Benghazi. A year later, and after numerous part-time investigations, the American people are today faced with more questions than answers. This is partly due to successful stonewalling effort by the Administration, but half-hearted efforts by congressional leaders are aiding and abetting.
In an effort to find answers, a coalition of over one million Americans, 1,000 special forces veterans and nearly 170 members of Congress has publicly backed a move to establish a House Select Committee on Benghazi, which would be a full-time committee focused on this one issue.
Unfortunately, the bill by Rep. Frank Wolf to create the Select Committee (HR 36) co-sponsored by nearly 170 House Republicans, has been bottled up in committee by House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Dallas, who steadfastly refuses allow a floor debate or vote on the proposal. Challenged by constituents, Rep. Sessions has indicated that he doesn't personally believe a House Select Committee investigation is necessary or worthwhile, and thus feels justified in bottling up the bill and preventing a floor debate. He also claims (oddly) that Senator Harry Reid would somehow control a House committee investigation.
Many Americans, including many of his own constituents, disagree with Rep. Sessions. It's been over a year since the attacks, and the families of Stevens, Smith, Doherty and Woods deserve real answers as to why their loved ones died.
A few key questions:
1. WHAT WAS REALLY GOING ON AT BENGHAZI?
Although Ambassador Stevens was officially operating in a diplomatic capacity in Libya, the mission in Benghazi is still not fully understood at this time, and may never be known. There are credible allegations that Stevens and other operatives at the Benghazi installation were arranging the transfer of anti-aircraft weapons to Islamic militant groups fighting in Syria against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. This has not, however, been officially acknowledged.
The various investigations to date have been unable to determine with any certainty what the mission was at Benghazi, why Ansar al-Sharia found it a useful target and what assets, if any, were secured by the militants during the attack. The American people deserve answers to these questions.
2. WHY WAS BENGHAZI LEFT DEFENSELESS?
We know that in the months leading up to the September 11, 2012 attacks, Benghazi had become a hotbed of violence. At least a dozen violent events had taken place in Benghazi between April and September, 2012. According to reports, over 200 security incidents took place in Libya between June 2011 and July 2012, a quarter of which took place in and around Benghazi.
Well prior to the Benghazi attacks, State Department officials in Libya made repeated requests for additional security. These requests were denied in Washington despite ample documentation of the threat posed by violent extremist militias. As an example, on March 28, 2012, Ambassador Cretz sent a cable from Tripoli to Secretary Clinton requesting additional security assets in Libya. On April 19, 2012, the response cable from the Department of State to Embassy Tripoli, bearing Secretary Clinton’s signature, acknowledges Ambassador Cretz’s request for additional security but instead articulates a plan to scale back security assets for the U.S. Mission in Libya, including the Benghazi Mission.
On June 7, 2012, Ambassador Stevens asked the State Department to keep the two security teams the Clinton April cable ordered removed from Libya. This request is denied. On July 6, 2012, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Lamb strongly asserted that Stevens should not make a formal request for an extension of the security teams. On July 9, 2012, Ambassador Stevens responded with a cable that stressed that the security conditions in Libya had not met the requisite benchmarks established by the State Department and the U.S. Mission in Libya to warrant initiating a security drawdown. He requested that a sufficient number of security personnel be permitted to stay.
According to reports, a Benghazi security official and a battalion commander had met with U.S. diplomats three days before the attack and had warned the Americans about deteriorating security in the area. The diplomats had been advised, "The situation is frightening, it scares us." Stevens' diary entries from the time expressed his concern about the growing al-Qaeda presence in the area and his worry about being on an al-Qaeda hit list.
To date, the various investigations have been unable to determine why the repeated requests for improved security were denied and why the Benghazi installation was left virtually defenseless. The families deserve answers.
3. WHY WAS THERE NO RESCUE OR SUPPORT EFFORT?
According to reports, the attackers entered the compound around 9:40 pm under a barrage of automatic weapons fire and RPGs, backed by truck-mounted artillery and anti-aircraft machine guns. Phone calls were apparently made to the embassy in Tripoli, the Diplomatic Security Command Center in Washington and a U.S. Quick Reaction Force located at a an annex just over a mile away. Ambassador Stevens telephoned Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks in Tripoli multiple times to tell him the consulate was under attack, but his initial calls went unanswered.
Security agents informed their headquarters in Washington about the attack soon after it began. Approximately an hour later, Pentagon officials informed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the attack. Apparently, one or more surveillance drones were deployed, which arrived over the mission beginning at 11:10 pm local time (5:10 pm Eastern Time) to provide a video feed to Washington. At approximately 5:41 pm Eastern Time (11:41 local time,) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned CIA Director David Petraeus to confer on the attack. At this point, the attack on Benghazi had been underway for approximately two hours.
It is not known what Barack Obama was told during this period, what orders, if any, Obama gave, or whether his orders were carried out.
Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of the small response team at the CIA annex, approximately a mile from the compound where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team were under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they requested permission to go to the main compound, but were told to "stand down," according to sources. Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the main compound, which at that point was on fire.
Upon learning of the attack at Benghazi, another team of Americans in Tripoli, including former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, decided to travel there to respond to the attack and hopefully rescue the besieged Amercians. In order to travel to Benghazi, they commandeered a small private jet in Tripoli and paid the pilots to fly them to Benghazi. After being held up at the airport for several hours, the team arrived at the CIA annex around 5:00am. Upon arrival, Doherty began searching for his friend and former Navy SEAL Tyrone S. Woods. He found Woods on the roof of the annex manning a MK46 machine gun with two other agents. Doherty and Woods subsequently came under intense mortar fire from the terrorists. During this barrage, a mortar round hit Woods' position, fatally wounding him. A second round fell on Doherty, killing him instantly.
Despite the fact that the attacks on the main compound and annex went on for over eight hours, there was not, at any time, any official military response to the militant attack on the main compound. To date, none of the various investigations have determined who in the chain of command was giving the orders during the attack, including the alleged "stand down" orders.
Again, we still do not know, over a year later, what Obama knew about the Benghazi attack, when he knew it, what orders he gave, or whether his orders were faithfully carried out. The families deserve answers to these questions.
4. WHY DID THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DISTRIBUTE KNOWN FALSE INFORMATION ABOUT THE ATTACK?
After the attacks, the Administration perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the violence grew out of a demonstration caused by a YouTube video. The Administration consciously decided not to discuss extremist involvement or previous attacks against Western interests in Benghazi.
It is now well-known and acknowledged that the attack on Benghazi was a preplanned terrorist attack and not a spontaneous event in response to an online video. It is also well-known that there was no reason whatsoever for Barack Obama or any member of the Administration to believe, at any time after September 11, that the attack on Benghazi was some spontaneous event in response to an online video. What is not known or understood is why President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House Spokesman Jay Carney, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and others were provided talking points identifying the controversial video as the cause of the attack. None of the various investigations have determined how this false narrative came to be the official story line distributed by the Administration.
5. WHY HAS THERE BEEN NO REAL INVESTIGATION BY THE ADMINISTRATION?
The Administration's response to the attack was to announce that the FBI would conduct an investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice. A year after the attack on Benghazi, not a single arrest has been made by the FBI in connection with the attack.
The families of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty deserve answers to these questions--and so do the American people.
It's time for a House Select Committee.
If you agree, please contact Rules Chairman Pete Sessions and tell him:
Stop Blocking the Select Commitee