Senate Intelligence panel schedules hearing on Benghazi

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announced Thursday that it will hold a hearing next month on the consulate attack in Libya. 

The Intelligence committee will be the first Democrat-controlled congressional panel to hold a hearing on the attack, which has created political problems for President Obama in his reelection campaign. The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi resulted in the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others. 

The first closed oversight hearing will take place Nov. 15, with more to follow, the panel said in a statement. The hearings aim to “help improve intelligence capabilities, the U.S. response to events on the ground, and the security of U.S. facilities in the region.”

The hearing has long been in the works, according to the top Republican on the panel. 

Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ga.) told Fox News on Wednesday that he'd had “a couple conversations” with chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks MORE (D-Calif.) about holding hearings.

“I told her, I said I think we need to have an open hearing — which is unusual for us, most of ours are classified — but we need to have an open hearing, we need to get the intelligence officials in and just let them lay it out there,” Chambliss said. “This thing is getting more and more traction, more and more legs, and it’s getting uglier every day. And I think the thing we need to do is be honest with the American people — and say, here’s what we knew, here’s when we knew it, here’s what the president knew and when the president knew it.”

Obama has come under criticism from Republicans for a shifting story on the attack. The administration initially said the attack came out of a protest in Benghazi against an anti-Islam film, but eventually concluded it was the work of terrorists. 

Republicans argue the administration emphasized the role of the film for political reasons since a successful attack could have harmed Obama's political standing in the war on terrorism. 

The GOP has also raised questions about security in Benghazi, arguing the administration did not pay enough attention to concerns on the ground that more security was needed in Benghazi. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is probing the matter. 

In the second presidential debate, President Obama said he described the attack as a terrorist act the day after in occurred. Administration officials say descriptions of what happened in Benghazi changed as intelligence was gathered, and they have noted that Republicans pushed to cut embassy security funding. 

Here is the full announcement: 

Washington — The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today announced hearings into the circumstances — including the intelligence and security situation — surrounding the recent terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the intelligence and security situation in other Arab Spring countries.

            The committee will hold a closed oversight hearing on Thursday, November 15, with additional hearings to follow.

            To facilitate this review, the committee has already received initial briefings and is examining relevant information and documents. In order to fully understand the events surrounding the September 11 attack and to help improve intelligence capabilities, the U.S. response to events on the ground, and the security of U.S. facilities in the region, the committee’s review is focused on:

·         The intelligence collection and threat reporting relating to Libya and other Middle East countries prior to the September 11 attack, how and when that information was disseminated, and what actions were taken in response;

·         What is now known about the events of September 11, who was responsible for the attack, and what efforts are being made to find and hold those responsible to account;

·         The Intelligence Community’s collection capabilities in the Middle East and North Africa, to include the levels of funding and availability of intelligence personnel with language and other skills necessary to operate in that part of the world; and

·         The level and adequacy of security at the State Department and other U.S. government facilities in the Middle East and North Africa, and whether current arrangements for providing security at these facilities are appropriate.