News Column

Benghazi Testimony Reveals Few Answers

May 10, 2013

An investigation into a terrorist attack in Benghazi and the mishandling of security there has yet to answer key questions about who's at fault and what went wrong, security analysts said Thursday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., head of the House oversight committee, vowed that the investigation will continue. But whether it will answer Republicans' questions about the origins of the account put out by the Obama administration on the Sept. 11 attack, or why security was so lax, may not come, security analysts say.

James Carafano, who heads the foreign policy and national security program at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the hearing "devolved into a partisan thing," as Democrats complained they had been denied access to witness and documents in advance.

"You don't get a sense of who was talking to whom" in the White House, Pentagon, State Department and Tripoli, Carafano said. "It's like the story of 10 blind people trying to explain an elephant by touching its different parts."

Democrats say the probe will fail because there is nothing to investigate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the attack has already been looked at "exhaustively" and the investigation is an attempt to "politicize" the attack.

Gary Schmitt, who was staff director of President Reagan's intelligence advisory board, said the committee needs to probe the decisions made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama the night of the attack and in the days after.

"I'm still unclear why United Nations Ambassador (Susan) Rice would have been the person to go on those Sunday TV shows," Schmitt said, referring to Rice's role in saying the attacks emerged from a protest gainst an anti-Islam video.

Carafano said the investigation would benefit from a look at the 9/11 Commission Report, which he says was a comprehensive view that encompassed all government agencies.

The current investigation is disjointed, and the State Department's Accountability Review Board, appointed by Clinton to investigate the attack, focused only on the role of one agency, Carafano said.

At the oversight committee's hearing Wednesday, Gregory Hicks, former second in command at the U.S. Consulate in Libya, and Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya, testified that in the months preceding the attack, they noted a deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and made repeated requests for additional security, which the State Department denied.

Hicks said it was also clear from the start that the attack was the work of terrorists.

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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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