Since the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack that killed four Americans -- including Ambassador Chris Stevens -- at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Obama administration has covered up the essential facts about what happened before, during and after that terrible night. House Speaker John Boehner's decision to go forward with a select committee to investigate Benghazi is both welcome and long overdue.
Some of the relevant facts were established by the Jan. 15 report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. From that report, for example, a partial timeline was constructed concerning the roles of the intelligence community and the military prior to and during the attack. It was clear that Stevens repeatedly asked for additional security forces in Benghazi, but not only were his requests denied, the mission's defenses were reduced. In addition, it was learned that no military forces were on standby to aid the facility before it was attacked, and no request for such aid came from the State Department during the assault.
What is not known -- and what the Obama administration has done everything possible to conceal -- is how and when decisions were made and by whom regarding the source of the attack, the appropriate responses and what the American people were to be told during and afterwards. The cover-up became obvious last week with publication by Judicial Watch of then-Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes's Sept. 14, 2012, email to a dozen key Obama advisers.
In describing preparations for UN Ambassador Susan Rice's news interviews the following day, Rhodes included this sentence that captured the heart of the Obama administration's Benghazi explanation: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” From then until President Obama's Sept. 25 United Nations address, he and his administration insisted the Benghazi attack was caused by an internet video.
From documents released thus far detailing discussions among officials at the White House, the State Department, CIA and other agencies, there was no mention of the internet video in the hours immediately before or during the attack. Yet even as the attack climaxed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released an official statement saying, “some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”
One of the first things the select committee should do is to ask Clinton to explain the basis for that statement. The select committee should also ask Rhodes why he referred to the internet video in his email.
It appears the select committee is to be chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former prosecuting attorney. During the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's probe of Benghazi, Gowdy was a forceful advocate of doing whatever is necessary to get to the truth. He clearly is not to be trifled with, and Boehner deserves credit for handing him this gavel.