By Jonathan Easley and Julian Pecquet - 05/01/13 03:50 PM EDT
Eyewitnesses with potentially damaging information on the Obama administration’s handling of last year's terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi will testify at a hearing next week, Republicans said.
The House oversight committee is holding a hearing next week that will “expose new facts and details that the Obama administration has tried to suppress,” oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Wednesday.
Two of Issa's lieutenants said the witnesses at the hearing would include federal employees with direct knowledge of the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.
“I think you will see — again I can’t release any names to you yet, but next Wednesday I think those of us who are concerned about this issue … we’re finally going to get some answers,” Chaffetz told Fox News on Wednesday.
And Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a member of Chaffetz's subpanel, told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren late Tuesday that the eyewitnesses would “expose new facts and details that the Obama administration has tried to suppress.”
“You know that hearsay evidence is not so interesting. Firsthand accounts by eyewitnesses are much more compelling,” he said. “I am not at liberty to disclose the identity of the witnesses, but I will just say … it is going to be a very informational and instructive hearing,
“I would encourage you to follow it. Benghazi is warming up. It is not going away despite the efforts of this administration.”
The hearing comes as more than half the Republican Conference has signed a resolution from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) calling for the creation of a select committee to probe security lapses before the attack and the administration's response. House leaders and committee chairmen, including Issa, say they're well-equipped to handle the investigation and don't need a special panel.
At least four federal employees — three from the State Department and one from the CIA — are believed to have sought legal counsel in order to be able to speak out about the attack without fear of retribution. Issa has accused the State Department of impeding their ability to testify before Congress by preventing their lawyers from getting security clearances they need to review classified memos and other information.
The State Department has denied any knowledge of potential whistleblowers and says it protects its employees' rights.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday accused critics of spreading “an enormous amount of misinformation” about the attack. President Obama said at his press conference that same day that he was "not familiar" with allegations that State is blocking whistleblowers from testifying.
“We're not aware of any employees who have requested clearance for private attorneys, security clearances for private attorneys in connection with Benghazi,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Tuesday. “In the event of such request, the department has a security clearance process in place, under which clearances can be provided to private attorneys who are representing individual employees of this building.”
Chaffetz questioned the department's assurances that it will protect whistleblowers' rights.
“We have a number of people who have stepped forward who just want truth to prevail and they feel stymied along the way,” he said. “We want to make sure they’ve got all the protections in place, we need to do that. Also, I have an attorney that will help them go through that process too. We’re just trying to get to the truth.”
This story was last updated at 12:47 p.m.