Legendary reporter, Bob Woodward, recently revealed he doesn’t think the IRS scandal rises to the height of the Watergate scandal he was key in uncovering. Rather, Woodward believes it is the circumstances surrounding the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the subsequent response from the federal government that should be closely monitored by the public. “You’re talking about government not working, but who’s in charge of the executive branch. You go to the Constitution, and the president has sole responsibility for the executive branch,” he said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “This rests on him. You were talking earlier about kind of dismissing the Benghazi issue as one that’s just political and the president recently said it’s a sideshow, but if you read through all these emails, you see that everyone in the government is saying, ‘Oh, let’s not tell the public that terrorists were involved, people connected to al-Qaida. Let’s not tell the public that there were warnings.’”
Officials in the Obama administration admit that mistakes were made but attribute it to incompetence as opposed to “malice or cover up.” One Obama administration official is quoted as saying: “We’re portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots.” The official added that, “it’s actually closer to us being idiots.”
The administration’s explanation failed to convince the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), an organization which supports the implementation of a Watergate-style investigatory committee that would oversee a fact-finding mission on the Benghazi attack. The FLEOA is the largest association of federal officers in America. Last Friday, the FLEOA sent a letter of support to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the chief architect of a bill that would establish the select committee, and to the investigatory committee itself.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, FLEOA President Jon Adler told Wolf that the organization is of the opinion that the Obama administration has been blocking efforts to uncover the truth. A Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) officer was injured in the Benghazi attack and the FLEOA represents DSS officers in cases such as this. “In light of the recent testimony of three State Department witnesses, including a DSS Special Agent, it is imperative that a bipartisan Select Committee on the Terrorist Attack in Benghazi be formed immediately,” Adler wrote.
The Benghazi select committee would have subpoena power and would be able to compel the testimony of senior administration officials. The Free Beacon reports that over 2/3 of Republican lawmakers, including several committee chairmen, are in support of establishing the committee.
As it is, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has subpoenaed the co-chairman of the Obama administration’s internal review board for the Benghazi attack. Issa announced last Friday that a subpoena had been issued to Thomas Pickering to appear at a deposition, scheduled for May 23. Pickering, who co-chaired the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) with former Joint Chiefs of Staff chief Mike Mullen, did offer to testify publicly before Issa’s committee but Issa said a closed-door meeting is in order first so that the committee can fully understand how the review board conducted its investigation. “The ARB worked behind closed doors,” Issa wrote. “It did not record its interviews. No transcripts of ARB interviews exist. Even now, months after the ARB report was released, the ARB’s investigative process has remained opaque.”
According to Fox News, Issa is uncomfortable with the many questions that arose from the review board’s report. Many of those questions remain unanswered, including the ARB’s methodology and the fact that it conducted its work in secret and appears not to have recorded or transcribed its interviews with witnesses.
A total of five separate House committees are investigating aspects of the attack and its aftermath. CNN reports that the five chairmen compared notes last week at a meeting organized by House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee is the lead panel in the investigation, but the House Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Armed Services and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are also part of the investigation.
The Judiciary seeks to find out why it took the FBI so long to get to the crime scene in Benghazi. Intelligence staffers have been meticulously going over thousands of classified cables which hold details on the security situation and terror threat in Libya in the weeks prior to the Benghazi attack. The Armed Services Committee is looking into whether there should have been or could have been military resources more readily available as the armed assault unfolded while Foreign Affairs is scrutinizing the State Department’s staffing and security practices.
Another matter that has recently surfaced involves a State Department whistle-blower of sorts. A mid-level official has come forward to accuse Hillary Clinton of using him as a scapegoat. Guy Benson reports:
Following the attack in Benghazi, senior State Department officials close to Hillary Clinton ordered the removal of a mid-level official who had no role in security decisions and has never been told the charges against him. He is now accusing Clinton’s team of scapegoating him for the failures that led to the death of four Americans last year…“The overall goal is to restore my honor,” said Maxwell, who has now filed grievances regarding his treatment with the State Department’s human resources bureau and the American Foreign Service Association, which represents the interests of foreign-service officers…“I had no involvement to any degree with decisions on security and the funding of security at our diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” he said.
Not everyone is on board with further investigation into the Benghazi situation. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer tried to discredit criticism over how the Benghazi talking points were scrubbed of references to terrorism. Instead, Pfeiffer tried to put the focus on the differences between how ABC News described one particular White House email and its actual text:
“Here’s the evidence that proves the Republicans are playing politics with this: They received these emails months ago, didn’t say a word about it, didn’t complain, confirmed the CIA director . . . right after that. And then last week, a Republican source provided to Jon Karl of ABC News a doctored version of the White House email that started this entire fury. After 25,000 pieces of paper that were provided to Congress, they have to doctor an email to make political hay, you know they’re getting desperate here.”
Jonathan Strong, writing for NRO, demonstrates where Pfeiffer went wrong:
-Point one: Republicans never “received” the emails. Here’s what really happened: On March 19, the White House briefed the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, along with staff for Speaker John Boehner and minority leader Nancy Pelosi, on the emails in question. Those at the briefing were permitted to take notes but not copy the contents of the emails. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, was not represented at this session.
-Point two: Republicans raised strenuous objections based on the information they were given at that briefing. In their interim report on Benghazi, released April 23, House Republicans alleged that “White House and senior State Department officials altered accurate talking points drafted by the Intelligence Community in order to protect the State Department.” The report described and, in one case, quoted from the emails in question.
-Point three: Nothing was “doctored.” Following the House report, Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard revealed a significant amount of new detail, followed by Jon Karl at ABC News. Both Hayes and Karl refer to summaries of the emails, meaning they presumably relied a great deal on the notes of those at the March 19 White House briefing. Karl inaccurately quotes from one email, which may have been based on faulty note-taking or some other error. While this is significant, the email in question exists and has the same core content as the email quoted by Karl — there was no wholesale fabrication.
-Point four: The differences between the two versions of the email have been overstated. At issue is the involvement of Ben Rhodes, a senior White House aide, in directing the various members of the inter-agency discussion to resolve their dispute.
Even the Washington Post gave the White House Three Pinocchios for their spin that the Benghazi emails vindicate the administration and that Republicans “doctored” emails to give a misleading impression.
A majority of Americans believe the White House is covering something up regarding Benghazi, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. And, a CNN poll has found that the majority of the country sides with Republican actions in the Benghazi matter. The poll found that 59% now say the U.S government could have prevented the attack in Benghazi–which is an increase of 11 points from last November. Only 37% believe that congressional Republicans are overreacting in pursuing the matter, with 59% saying they’ve reacted appropriately.