Just fourteen months ago – on September 11, 2012 – a heavily armed band of over 100 Libyan militiamen stormed the United States Consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya. Our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other brave Americans were brutally and savagely murdered.
That is what we know for certain.
Unfortunately, that is all we know for certain.
Despite the investigative work of four standing House Committees – Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary and Oversight – today more Americans – 62% according to a recent poll -- believe there is a cover-up than have believed it at any time in the year since the attacks occurred.
Several weeks ago in a bombshell report, CNN uncovered information that these four House committees failed to unearth: the CIA had three dozen personnel on the ground at Benghazi that night; at least seven were seriously injured; CIA personnel were secretly evacuated in the dark of the night; and they have been kept hidden from Congressional investigators since through the unprecedented use of monthly polygraph examinations to ensure that they do not talk to House staff or members of the media.
CNN described it “as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.”
One insider wrote to CNN, "You don't jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well." Another said, "You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation."
And why can CNN uncover this -- and four standing committees of the House of Representatives armed with hundreds of staff and subpoena power -- cannot?
There are more questions today than ever before.
Why has not one person who was in Benghazi the night of the attack been subpoenaed to testify publicly before Congress?
Why has the Congress not asked, or subpoenaed, these individuals to testify before House committees that have been investigating over the past year?
How many Benghazi survivors, including federal employees, military personnel or contractors, have been asked to sign additional Non-Disclosure Agreements by the different agencies relating to what happened in Benghazi?
In the face of any cover-up, speculation runs rampant.
Some wonder if the Obama administration was using Benghazi as a hub to transfer weapons through Turkey to Syrian rebels; others suspect the CIA outpost in Benghazi was a rendition site where “enhanced interrogations” were taking place and these militants were storming the compound to free their comrades.
It is clear that the current multi-headed Congressional probe is failing – and the administration’s strong-armed stonewall approach is still working.
Mr. Speaker, up until now we have agreed with your conservative, steady leadership and faith in the “regular order” of the House to uncover the truth.
However, in light of these recent revelations, we now believe the only way to break this logjam and get to the bottom of this issue is for you to appoint a House Select Committee on Benghazi.
In the face of an administration determined not to cooperate, it is now time to unite all the House committees and investigative staff into one bipartisan Select Committee with cross-jurisdictional subpoena authority.
Historically, a Select Committee is appropriate when investigations of this magnitude are warranted i.e. Watergate, Iran-Contra, the JFK assassination. If you do this you will have the support of the majority of the House.
You also have the support of more than half of the committees of jurisdiction already investigating Benghazi, including a majority of the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary and Oversight.
The families of the Benghazi victims also want a Select Committee. So does the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents the Diplomatic Security agents on the ground in Benghazi, and the retired Special Operations community in a letter signed by hundreds of former Special Ops members.
According to a new McLaughlin-Caddell poll, two thirds of Americans want a select committee. That includes 83 percent of Republicans as well as 58 percent of independents who “believe it is important for a special committee to get the truth about Benghazi.”
Nearly half of Democrats don’t believe the Obama administration has been “honest and forthcoming with the public” about the Benghazi attacks; 50% of Democratic women favor the creation of this committee. A majority of moderate voters also support a special committee to investigate Benghazi.
For those who raise questions of budget, staff and available office space, a Select Committee on Benghazi would build on the work done by standing committees by bringing together their documents and the best investigators from each for 90 days. This Select Committee would use existing House personnel, office space and resources thus there would be no additional cost.
Unlike current committees, this Select Committee would have full subpoena authority and ability to call any witness for hearing or deposition.
Mr. Speaker, it is our hope that a bipartisan Select Committee would help remove politics from this issue and provide for a comprehensive, exhaustive and complete process including public hearings with survivors.
We do not urge the creation of this Select Committee for any partisan purpose. Future elections and potential candidacies must not be a factor here.
The historical role of the House of Representatives as a check and balance on the executive mandates that this investigation reach a conclusion about what went on during that horrible, dark night a year ago.
Jim Courter was a member of the House of Representatives (R-N.J.) from 1979-1991 and was the Chairman of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Dick Schulze was a member of the House of Representatives (R-Penn.) from 1975-1993 and was a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Gary Lee was a member of the House of Representatives (R-N.Y.) from 1979-1983 and was a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. John LeBoutillier was a Member of the House of Representatives (R-N.Y.) from 1981-1983 and a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.