Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing to use Google Plus's Hangout feature

The subpanel's hearing will examine al Qaeda's growing presence in northern Mali and how the United States is handling the terrorist group's expansion into the region. Mahmoud will tell lawmakers about his experience on the ground and how his family was displaced by al Qaeda's move into the northern part of the country.

Lawmakers will be able to see and interact with Mahmoud via a giant monitor set up in front of a dais in the hearing room. There will be a second monitor set up that's facing the audience in the hearing room, which will livestream Mahmoud's testimony.

"We need to speak with people who are there [in Africa] and given the technology we have, there's no reason not to speak to those people anymore," said Ian Koski, a spokesman for Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who chairs the subcommittee. "There's technology we can use to communicate with people all over the world." 

Koski said he believes this the first time Google's Hangout platform will be used during a congressional hearing. 

President Obama answered questions from the public using the feature in January. During the 2012 campaign, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) also hosted video chats via the Google platform.

Koski said the subcommittee looked at several video chat offerings but settled on Google Hangout because it offered livestreaming and screen sharing features. The image quality was also better on the platform when the subcommittee tested it out, Koski said.