Benghazi panel finds, interviews ‘John from Iowa’ drone operator

Benghazi panel finds, interviews ‘John from Iowa’ drone operator
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The House Select Committee on Benghazi has identified and interviewed a man who claims to be a drone-camera operator with information about the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

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The man, who called in to Sean Hannity’s radio show three years ago, was identified only as “John from Iowa.”

Democrats and critics of the GOP-led Benghazi committee mocked the claim, and the Pentagon singled him out as “unnecessary” to interview, complaining that it had “expended significant resources to locate” the man “to no avail.”

But his name was included in a list of drone personnel active on the night of the 2012 attacks that the Pentagon handed over in late May, the Benghazi panel said on Thursday.

And years after his initial radio show interview in May 2013, he has provided testimony for the committee.

Republicans on the special committee had asked for information about the man after a broader initial request to interview drone pilots and operators and the GOP on Thursday bashed the Defense Department for failing to locate him earlier. 

“It now appears [the Defense Department] had knowledge well in advance of who and where John was,” the committee said. “They claimed ‘significant resources’ had been spent attempting to find him, but given the facts, it’s hard to imagine just how much incompetence would be required for that to be true.”

The interview of “John from Iowa” is a significant boost for Republican leaders of the committee, who have struggled to assert its legitimacy since a wave of Republican friendly fire last year. 

“Thorough, fact-centered investigations corroborate information with individuals who actually have specific knowledge and expertise,” Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOur sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower GOP takes aim at Comey, Brennan House Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report MORE (R-S.C.) said. “That means talking to enlisted service members with firsthand information is just as important as talking to the generals and admirals who command them.”

Democrats have long dismissed the panel as a political machine created to attack presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Trump jokes he'd get 'electric chair' if he deleted even one 'love note' email to Melania MORE, and comments from leading Republicans over the course of the past year have bolstered the assertion.

The request to locate a caller to a radio talk show was mocked as a particularly inane demand, which critics pointed to as proof of the panel’s desperation as it reached its final stages. Gowdy has said the committee’s final report is due out this month, more than two years after the panel was convened.

Still, Democrats on the committee insisted he provided “virtually no substantive information we didn’t already have.”

“To the contrary, he referred us back to the same videos the Pentagon made available to the select committee more than a year ago,” said Paul Bell, a spokesman for the committee’s leading Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

According to the Benghazi panel, “John from Iowa” is still on active duty with the Air Force, though it remains unclear whether the Defense Department is aware that his name was included on the list it handed over on May 20. The committee said Republicans had uncovered information about his identity on their own and that the Pentagon knew who he was all along.