House panel to hold closed hearing on deadly Libya attack

The House Intelligence Committee is planning to hold a closed hearing next week on the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

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The head of the CIA, David Petraeus, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olson, are expected to testify at the Nov. 15 hearing, sources tell The Hill.

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration at length for its handling of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Since Congress has been in recess, the administration has briefed the House committee’s staff on the events surrounding the Libya attack, according to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the panel’s ranking member.

Clapper has also sent to the committee a compilation of raw intelligence and analysis pertaining to an internal review that he conducted of the U.S.-generated intelligence that agencies had access to before and after the attack, as well as information about the attackers.

“The whole purpose of the hearing is to have members hear for themselves what went on and ask questions about how it occurred, why it occurred, what information came out, why we got certain initial information, and just to make sure we get to the bottom of this to make sure it won’t occur again,” said Ruppersberger in a phone interview with The Hill.

Lawmakers question whether the White House should have taken more precautions ahead of the attack, based on intelligence reports and requests for more security from within the State Department. Administration officials initially claimed the attack was not a terrorist plot, but have since confirmed that it was.

The issue posed one of the most serious threats to President Obama’s foreign policy credentials ahead of the election, with Mitt Romney taking numerous jabs at the president.

A half-dozen committees are probing the issue, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is planning to hold a closed hearing on the same day as its House counterpart is set to look at the intelligence community’s knowledge and activity leading up to the attack.

Ahead of both intelligence hearings, the committees have reviewed scores of documents, including cables and communications on how the threat to the consulate arose, what actions were taken in response and who is responsible.

The panels are also expected to probe the level of funding dedicated to intelligence-gathering operations in the region and whether they have the resources they need to defend U.S. personnel and interests.

Ruppersberger said he hopes that now that the election is over, Congress can get down to business with uncovering what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the attack.


—This article was originally posted at 4:52 p.m. and last updated at 7:10 p.m.