Critics to rally on Benghazi anniversary

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One year after a brazen ambush killed four Americans in Libya, the Benghazi terror attack remains a persistent source of trouble for President Obama and Speaker John Boehner.

Dozens of demonstrators are expected to descend on the Capitol on Wednesday to mark the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

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Democrats dismiss congressional investigations in the Republican-controlled House as nothing more than a witch hunt. But Republicans say the administration has yet to come clean on who was responsible for security lapses at the U.S. mission there, why U.S. forces weren’t rushed to the scene and why the event wasn’t immediately identified as a terror attack.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight panel leading the investigation into what happened, told The Hill he’d soon be scheduling another hearing on the attack.

Issa wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on the eve of the Benghazi anniversary threatening to use his subpoena powers to compel testimony from survivors if they’re not made available by Sept. 24.

“The survivors of the attacks are the only people who can give testimony to the Committee about what happened on the ground in Benghazi,” he wrote.

Anger over the administration’s response to the attack has been a key factor in the resistance Obama has faced in Congress to his proposed military strikes against Syria.

“I can’t discuss the possibility of the U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war without also talking about Benghazi,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) told Kerry at a hearing on Syria last week. He was one of three Republicans to bring up Benghazi. 

“The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people due to the unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago.”

Benghazi also continues to be a headache for Republican leaders.

Boehner (R-Ohio) in particular has come under fire for his refusal to set up a special panel to probe the administration’s actions before, during and after the attack.

A resolution to create such a select committee now has 169 co-sponsors and is continuing to gain traction among rank-and-file House Republicans.

Six more — Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) — signed on just this week.

“What people were saying is, ‘we’re willing to go through regular order but now it’s been a full year’,” resolution author Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) told The Hill.

“We’re going to get to 218. We’re at 170 and we’ll continue to keep pushing it.”

Wolf’s effort also won the support of George W. Bush’s attorney general, Michael Mukasey, and other national security experts at the Center for Security Policy this week.

The conservative think tank was founded by Frank Gaffney, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense under former President Reagan.

“As you are well aware, our country is nearing the first anniversary of the assaults on the Special Mission Compound and CIA Annex in Benghazi,” the center wrote in a letter to Boehner.

“To date, however, the five House committees that share jurisdiction have held only a small number of mostly less-than-illuminating hearings into the policies that led to, and the events that occurred during and after, the murder of four of our countrymen and the wounding of many more.”

Grassroots groups are also targeting Boehner and Republicans who don’t get on board. Special Operations Speaks, a group of special forces veterans, has erected billboards demanding “Justice for Benghazi” in the Speaker’s district.

“If 4 Members of Congress were KILLED in Benghazi would we have a Watergate-style Select Committee today?” ask the billboards, which feature photos of Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The group is also sending veterans to members’ offices this week urging them to sign off on a discharge petition that would bypass Boehner and force a vote on Wolf’s resolution.

The petition, introduced in July by Tea Party freshman Steve Stockman (R-Texas), only has two other co-sponsors: Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

Boehner says Benghazi remains a priority. He insists his committee chairmen are well equipped to uncover any wrongdoing by the administration.

“This week marks the one-year anniversary of the loss of four Americans in Benghazi,” he told the closed-door House GOP Conference meeting this morning, according to a source in the room. “These Americans haven’t been forgotten, and won’t be.

“Our committees will press forward with their investigation until we have answers and full accountability,” Boehner told his conference. “They and their families deserve nothing less.”

Issa, in his letter to Kerry, said Congress needed to hear from survivors to piece together what happened in Benghazi, and help inform lawmakers on how to avoid similar attacks.

“Details provided by the survivors will not only help the Committee determine what took place during the attack, but will also help the Committee and other interested parties determine ways to prevent future tragedies,” Issa wrote.

The attack also risks tarnishing Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of State as she weighs a presidential bid in 2016.

She has said she took “responsibility” for the security shortcomings, but came under fire after Susan Rice, the then-ambassador to the United Nations, linked the attack to a protest over a U.S.-made anti-Islam video.

Note: This post was updated to reflect that far fewer protesters than anticipated showed up for the commemoration.