The House special committee that is examining the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the lives of the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans is holding a closed-door briefing from former CIA Director David Petraeus today in Washington DC. The former army general is the first former Obama administration official to appear among three other officials scheduled over the next week. On January 8, the committee – which is captained by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) – will interview former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
The committee is entering into its third year of investigation into the events that have been marked by condemnations from military involved in the incident and relatives of the slain. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton appeared before Congress months after the incident to explain her role in what has widely been regarded as a bungled response to the 2012 coordinated attack on the CIA annex in Benghazi where Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other Americans meet their fates.
In 2015, the Benghazi committee interviewed 53 people that had never been interviewed by any Congressional committee investigating the incident. The committee has interviewed 64 witnesses in all, and reviewed 100,000 pages of documents. The fatal incident has been subjected to seven congressional investigations and an independent panel chaired by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen. In 2015, Clinton was able to bat away questions posed by the Benghazi committee, which was unable to pin her down as to her specific role in the Benghazi affair. The committee plans to release a report sometime this year, according to reports. In testimony before the committee in 2015, Clinton was able to evade taking responsibility.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee's senior Democrat, called the Benghazi investigation "hyperpartisan and ineffective." Democrats say that the investigation into the attack has spent $5 million and has lasted longer than the 9/11 inquiry. Republicans counter with charges that the State Department has been tardy in surrendering documents and communications demanded by the committee. The fact that Clinton used a private email server whilst serving as America’s top diplomat has also brought into question.
On Capitol Hill, Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge noted that despite the Obama administrations initial claims in 2013 that the Benghazi attack was a protest that got out of hand, the facts on the ground indicate planning and coordination. Characterizing their deaths as a “hit,” Herridge noted that during the Benghazi attack two mortar rounds landed strategically on the building and killed two U.S. service members who were fighting off the terrorists. A military source said that placing mortars with such accuracy is akin to dunking a basketball from the opposite end of a court.
The investigation has political ramifications for Clinton while she continues to lead in the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination. Republicans may focus on her actions, and the president’s actions, in the wake of the attack. A new Hollywood movie ’13 Hours’ is giving the deadly incident a cinematic treatment that may be persuasive among undecided voters.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.