By Helle Deal/Heritage Foundation
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted, 232-186, to establish an investigative Select Committee on Benghazi. The committee, which will consist of seven Republicans and five Democrats, is a welcome if overdue step toward getting to the truth about the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The committee was established with bipartisan support—seven Democrats crossed party lines to vote for it. And hopefully, the committee will be a bipartisan effort. It should concern all Americans, regardless of their politics, that Americans died in Benghazi and their government failed to protect them.
It is not surprising Americans overwhelmingly believe Congress needs to stay on the case. We already know the State Department under Hillary Clinton failed to provide the level of security our diplomats in Libya continuously asked for as Benghazi became increasingly dangerous in the spring and summer of 2012. State then failed to request military assistance when the terrorists launched their attack on the diplomatic facility, even as Ambassador Stevens and his staff were begging for help via radio and cell phones. In the aftermath, the administration concocted a phony story about the attack—one that contradicted facts already known at State, the Department of Defense and the CIA. Finally, the administration stonewalled congressional investigations to the point of intimidating whistleblowers who wanted to come forward with their stories.
House Speaker John Boehner has appointed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a former prosecutor, as chairman of the Select Committee, a choice that suggest seriousness of purpose. As a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Gowdy has been one of the toughest questioners on Benghazi, though constrained like everyone else by the five minutes members are allotted to question witnesses during most congressional hearings. Depending on its governing rules, a select committee will allow for probing more lines of questioning and have greater subpoena powers.
Predictably, Obama spokesmen and surrogates have had nothing but disparagement for the decision to go forward with a select committee. But the administration has only itself to blame for the continued outrage over Benghazi.