WASHINGTON (Gannett Washington Bureau/Mary Troyan) – The special House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi will hold its first public hearing in September about changes the State Department has made to better protect diplomats, Rep. Trey Gowdy said Wednesday.
Gowdy, the committee’s Republican chairman, also said the panel is gaining access to witnesses that didn’t participate in previous congressional investigations into the attacks.
“I know I’m biased, but one of the good parts about running an investigation in a way that appears to be serious-minded is that witnesses who were previously unavailable or not interested in cooperating are now interested in cooperating,” Gowdy said. “The universe of witnesses is expanding.”
U.S. House lawmakers created the committee in May to review the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed four Americans in eastern Libya, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Several previous congressional investigations have looked at security lapses and intelligence failures related to the attacks, along with the military’s response and whether President Barack Obama’s administration initially downplayed the incident for political reasons.
Gowdy, in an interview Tuesday, said the panel is not scheduled to meet during the August congressional recess, but committee lawyers and investigators will be working.
In a notable departure from other House committees that battled with the administration over Benghazi investigations, Gowdy said he is “encouraged” by responses to his panel’s requests for additional documents.
“There is no substitute for sitting down and me sharing my expectations and them telling me their concerns or what their frustrations in the past have been,” Gowdy said. “I’m not looking for the fight or the story. I just want the documents. It’s been easy so far.”
The September hearing will focus on about 24 recommendations issued in December 2012 by the independent Accountability Review Board, which investigated the State Department’s actions before, during and after the attacks. The board was led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Their report blamed “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department” for “grossly inadequate” security.
Gowdy, a former prosecutor, is famously pit-bullish when he’s not getting the information he seeks. Let’s hope he’s just as unrelenting when these Benghazi hearings start. The family members of the four victims of the Benghazi murders have been invited to attend, and they deserve answers.