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Topics: House of Representatives

House panel to hear from eyewitnesses on Benghazi attack

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,House of Representatives,Benghazi

House Republicans scheduled a new hearing on the Benghazi terrorist attacks and suggested it would include new testimony from eyewitnesses to the deadly Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate who will provide firsthand reports about what happened that day.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., scheduled a May 8 hearing entitled "Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage." It will be the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to demonstrate that the Obama administration misled the public about the true nature of an attack that killed four people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Issa did not disclose the witness list but promised the hearing "will expose new facts and details that the Obama administration has tried to suppress."

A top committee member, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., went further, telling Fox News that the testimony will be "explosive."

"Firsthand accounts by eyewitnesses [are] much more compelling, much more persuasive," Gowdy said of the hearing.

Republicans have for months been clamoring for additional information from the Obama administration about the attacks on the mission in Benghazi that left Ambassador Chris Stevens dead.

"Benghazi is warming up," Gowdy told Fox. "It is not going away, despite the efforts of this administration."

While many congressional Democrats appear satisfied with the Obama administration's handling of the attacks and the aftermath, Republicans believe the State Department did not provide adequate security for American diplomats at the consulate and charge that the administration hasn't been forthcoming about what its investigation of the attack found because it is trying to conceal its own negligence.

A lawyer and former Republican operative said State Department officials are preventing "whistleblower" witnesses to the attack from revealing what they saw.

When President Obama was asked about Benghazi whistleblowers in a Tuesday press conference, he said he was "not familiar" with anyone being prevented from talking.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, when pressed again on the matter Wednesday, suggested Republicans are politicizing an old issue.

"Benghazi happened a long time ago," Carney said. "We are unaware of any agency blocking an employee who would like to appear before Congress to provide information related to Benghazi."

The FBI on Wednesday released photos of "three individuals who were on the grounds" of the Benghazi consulate when it was attacked.

The photos, which were posted online by Foreign Policy magazine, are accompanied by an FBI request for information about the attack "from Libyans and people around the world."

Issa, meanwhile, wrote to the CIA, State Department and Defense Department requesting security clearances for lawyers representing the whistleblowers so lawmakers can gather information about the attack.

"The department's unwillingness to make the process for clearing an attorney more transparent appears to be an effort to interfere with the rights of employees to furnish information to Congress," Issa told the State Department in an April 25 letter.

Congress has conducted a number of hearings on Benghazi but some Republicans have called for a select committee to examine the matter. The House GOP issued a report last month that concluded former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on a memo rejecting increased security in Benghazi. An independent review board, however, did not fault Clinton and she denies ever seeing the security request.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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