This week, I convened a full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing where Americans witnessed the compelling testimony of three U.S. Department of State officials with intimate knowledge of the Benghazi terror attacks that took the life of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The hearing, entitled "Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage," was the first time that those with first-hand knowledge of the events of September 11-12, 2012 have spoken publicly. We learned several new pieces of information that contradict previous statements made by Obama Administration officials. Among the new information:
State Department officials on the ground in Libya never reported a "demonstration," as the Administration later claimed. From the beginning, they reported that the Embassy was experiencing a terrorist attack.
Special operations forces in Libya were preparing to fly to Benghazi to aid and assist the Embassy under attack, but were told to stand down because they did not have the authority to board the flight.
The State Department's Accountability Review Board (ARB) report investigating the attack failed to interview key personnel with knowledge of the event and prevented officials they did interview from reviewing their own testimony. Moreover, to this day, the top U.S. Official in Libya after Ambassador Stevens' death, Greg Hicks, has not been allowed to see the classified report.
The witnesses raised several questions that are still unanswered, despite the Administration's assertions that the issue has been thoroughly investigated. Among the remaining questions:
Who denied the U.S. mission in Benghazi the increased security it requested months before the terrorist attacks?
Who gave the order for special operations forces to stand down instead of flying to Benghazi and how was that decision made?
What was the actual military capability and preparedness to respond to the mission's requests for help?
Why were the Administration's initial, accurate talking points scrubbed to remove any mention of Islamic extremism and revised to place blame with a demonstration that never occurred?
Why did the ARB investigators decline to interview key witnesses and fail to examine the role of high-level decision makers?
Has the State Department attempted to retaliate against or intimidate whistleblowers who questioned top level officials.
As long as these questions persist, so will our investigation into what really happened before, during and after the Benghazi attacks. As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, I can assure you that the Committee will continue to pursue the full truth about the tragic events of September 11, 2012 and what can be done to ensure that it never happens again.