More than three years after our nation learned about the tragedy at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, there are still unanswered questions about what happened there and what could have prevented the murder of four Americans on the twelfth anniversary of September 11. Since that terrible day that claimed the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, we have sought to find out the truth about Benghazi. No matter how much time has passed, we owe it to the families of those lost to find out exactly what happened and who should be held accountable for any wrongdoing or failure to take appropriate actions before and during the attack.
While Obama Administration officials claimed that the tragedy stemmed from a spontaneous protest in response to an anti-Muslim YouTube video, evidence later pointed to a planned terrorist attack by Ansar al-Sharia—a group directly connected to Islamic terrorists. Even though the State Department almost immediately knew about this connection, the Obama Administration chose to misinform and mislead the American people by blaming the video days and weeks after the fact. Because this transpired weeks ahead of the 2012 presidential election, it rightly caused strong suspicion of political cover-up and has led to several investigations.
In May 2014, Speaker John Boehner recommended and the House passed legislation to establish the Select Committee on Benghazi to further investigate the events surrounding the attack on our consulate. Before formation of the select committee, five House committees held jurisdiction over various areas related to the investigation. The establishment of the select committee streamlined the process by providing subpoena power over all relevant information and key witnesses. Unlike previous investigations, the select committee has considered emails from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Christopher Stevens, relevant documents from the White House, Department of Defense, Department of Justice and Central Intelligence Agency as well as accounts from several eyewitnesses.
Chaired by former prosecutor Trey Gowdy, the select committee has lost no time in getting to the bottom of the situation and demanding answers. Unfortunately, the select committee’s work has been stalled along the way due to slow and limited cooperation from the Obama Administration in turning over the relevant documents and emails related to Benghazi, including those emails sent by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, the select committee still awaits receipt of all the documents it has requested from the State Department.
In recent news related to the work of the select committee, Secretary Clinton testified during a public hearing and discussed her role during Benghazi, answered questions about her emails and explained what she knew in the hours, days and weeks after the attack. Out of the most disturbing takeaways from the daylong hearing was the documented evidence that Clinton knew she was untruthful to the American people about the cause of the attack. In an email to her daughter on the night of the attack in Benghazi, she made no mention of a video and instead said she believed “an al Qaeda-like group” had attacked the consulate. This contradicted her public statement from the State Department made just about hour before that email was sent. And the very next day, while visiting with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, Clinton was recorded in a State Department memo as saying “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest.” So despite her knowledge of what actually happened, she still deliberately chose to deceive—something we suspected all along and now unfortunately have hard evidence to support.
As Ambassador Stevens and consulate staff watched a worsening security situation in the days and months leading up to the attack, the select committee hearing last week revealed that the State Department had received more than 600 requests for additional security at the Benghazi consulate. Clinton admitted during the hearing that none of those requests had even reached her desk. Considering that we had individuals stationed in such a dangerous region leading up to the especially high-risk day of September 11, it raises questions about the ability of Clinton and her staff at the State Department to assess risk and adequately protect American lives, property and assets.
As Chairman Gowdy said on behalf of committee members at the start of last week’s hearing, “We signed up because we wanted to honor the service and sacrifice of four people sent to a foreign land to represent us –who were killed—and do everything we can to prevent it from happening to others.” In the days ahead, as the committee continues to find answers and determine who should be held accountable, I am hopeful that we can ensure this sort of attack never happens again. I am also hopeful that never again will any Americans representing us abroad feel that they lack adequate security or that they are denied additional security or reinforcements when they sense it is needed.