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First order for Benghazi committee members: drawing up attack timeline

Members of the Republican-led Benghazi select committee are getting down to work, with the first order of business a detailed timeline of the attack.

But it already is apparent to some committee members that previous investigations, including the State Department review known as the Accountability Review Board, were not as exhaustive as the administration claimed.

"If you go look at the other reports that were done, whether it be the Accountability Review Board or the Senate case (last January’s intelligence committee report), there are places where they have enough details but many, many gaps in the fact pattern," Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a West Point graduate who sits on the Benghazi select committee, told Fox News.

"We still don't have all of the facts that surrounded the events of that night. Did the Department of Defense speak to the State Department? Did the State Department have good contacts with our intelligence operations folks?Where was the White House and its National Security staff, that entire team that's responsible?"

A detailed timeline breaks down into three phases, including the well- documented, severe threat environment before the attack as well as the security requests from U.S. personnel in Libya that were denied by the State Department.

"We're going to start from the events that led up to the enormous security failure, and the run-up to September 11, 2012 and then we'll look at the events of that evening, the deaths of four Americans and what could have been done to potentially rescue or at least make an effort as America always has done,” Pompeo said.

“And then the aftermath, what it is that this administration did in the aftermath that didn't provide the American people the real knowledge about the actions that took place in the run-up to the deaths of four Americans."

Pompeo, who also is a member of the House intelligence committee, indicated further investigation was warranted into the administration's flawed explanation immediately after the attack, blaming it on a protest gone awry over an obscure anti-Islam video.

In addition, he alluded to the role of presidential adviser Ben Rhodes, whose September 14, 2012 email stated a goal for then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s talks show appearances should be “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”

The Rhodes email was obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch through a federal lawsuit.

"We know that intelligence analysts on the ground knew instantaneously that this was Al Qaeda and its affiliates who had led this attack,” Pompeo said. “And yet it took an awfully long time, indeed today it's still not clear, (that) this administration has acknowledged the depth and the risks associated with what it means to have anAl Qaeda affiliate actually take down an American (consulate)."

Pompeo said the Republican committee members had met a handful of times, but not yet with the five Democrats recently appointed to the committee by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. One of the Democrats also sits on the House intelligence committee.

"I know Congressman (Adam) Schiff (D-Calif.) pretty well, he is a decent, hard-working man. I am hopeful that he will work just as hard as I do to get to the facts," Pompeo said.

"We have an obligation, not to grandstand, not to create a circus, but to do a thorough investigation and they have a completely matching obligation on their side. This isn't about going after any one person.This isn't about attacking any administration, this is about getting answers for the American people."

Separately, the group Special Operations Speaks, an organization of retired military special operations professionals, has written to the Benghazi select committee chairman, Rep.Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., urging him to further investigate the lack of a significant military response.

"When we as a nation put our people in harm's way, we must do so with the clear knowledge that we have done our very best to provide the support essential to their survival when the chips are down," the group wrote in a May 28 letter.

"This is an American value. That essential trust and confidence was breached in Benghazi and broadcast a very dangerous message to future diplomats, warriors, and citizens."

 

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.