Published November 08, 2012
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled an open hearing for next Thursday on the Libya terror attack and has invited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify, Fox News has learned.
The committee joins two others planning to hold hearings, albeit closed ones, that day.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi. A local Libyan extremist group is suspected of carrying out the attack, but the Obama administration has been criticized for its confusing explanation for the strike and for security warnings that apparently weren't heeded.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold its closed hearing on the attack on Nov. 15, Fox News has learned. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus and Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, are expected to testify.
The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to meet the same day to discuss the Libya attack -- that hearing will also be closed to the public.
Olsen was the first member of the Obama administration to publicly describe the Libya assault explicitly as a "terrorist attack," at a hearing more than a week after the attack, though Obama had spoken earlier more generally about the U.S. response to "acts of terror."
Republicans, who control the House, have accused Obama officials of downplaying the attack's terrorist nature to maintain an administration narrative that Al Qaeda is on the run. Officials initially suggested an anti-Islam video produced in the United States had motivated the attack, which U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said five days later appeared to be "spontaneous" violence after a protest escalated.
But further investigation revealed no protest outside the consulate on the night of the attack, and the attackers are thought to be members of Ansar al-Sharia, a group that isn't directly affiliated with Al Qaeda but sympathizes with its anti-Western goals. It remains unclear how long the attackers had been planning their strike and whether they were motivated by outrage over the video.
The Obama administration also has faced questions about why it didn't do more to protect the consulate and the ambassador, especially in light of evidence that requests earlier this year for security improvements either were denied or never followed up on.
Other evidence suggests U.S. officials were aware in the days before the attack that extremists were a growing threat in Libya and that the consulate could not withstand a coordinated attack.
Obama has vowed that his administration will do whatever it takes to bring the attackers to justice, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility for any security failures, though she also has cautioned that a full investigation of the attack remains under way.
The FBI only last week was granted access by Tunisia to one of the suspected attackers, who is being held in the country after his arrest at an airport in Turkey shortly after the Libya attack.
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.