(R-CA), the committee chairman leading House Republicans' investigation into
the Obama administration's handling of the attack on the U.S. mission in
Benghazi, has concealed witnesses, withheld documents, publicly aired
unconfirmed allegations, and excluded Democrats from a hastily planned trip to
Libya last weekend, according to his colleagues across the aisle.
"Although Chairman Issa has claimed publicly that
‘we are pursuing this on a bipartisan basis,' the Committee's investigation
into the attack in Benghazi has been extremely partisan," reads a memo
circulated today by the Democratic staff of the committee and obtained by The Cable. "The Chairman and his staff
failed to consult with Democratic Members prior to issuing public letters with
unverified allegations, concealed witnesses and refused to make one hearing
witness available to Democratic staff, withheld documents obtained by the
Committee during the investigation, and effectively excluded Democratic
Committee Members from joining a poorly-planned congressional delegation to
On Wednesday, Issa, who heads the House Oversight
Committee, will hold his much-anticipated hearing on the administration's
actions leading up to and following the attack that cost the lives of Amb. Chris Stevens and three other
Americans. The hearing, entitled, "The
Security Failures of Benghazi," will feature
testimony from Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International
Programs Charlene Lamb, Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, who was stationed in Libya before the attacks, and
Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah
National Guardsman who was leading a security team in Libya until August.
hearing follows up on an Oct. 2 letter from Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chairman of
the national security subcommittee, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which Issa said the
committee had received information "from individuals with direct knowledge
of the events in Libya" that the Sept. 11 attack was "the latest in a
long line of attacks" on Western diplomatic assets in Benghazi.
That letter was based on testimony from Nordstrom, according to the memo, who
told the committee that the State Department had ignored two cables he send
requesting more security. Nordstrom blamed the allegedly low security staffing
in Benghazi on Lamb, whom he claims said that only three security agents were
needed because there was a "safe haven" nearby. But Issa and Chaffetz sent
their letter to Clinton less than 12 hours after interviewing Nordstrom, who
was not in Libya at the time of the attack, the memo alleges.
"[Nordstrom's] statements were not confirmed before
the letter was sent, and the State Department was not given an opportunity to
respond before the allegations were made public," the memo said.
Wood spelled out his allegations in a series of
interviews this week, including one with CBS News, in which
he alleged that the State Department had declined his request
to maintain a "Site Security Team," in Libya past August. But Issa concealed
the majority staff's conversations with Wood from the Democratic side of the
committee until Oct. 5, the same day he appeared on CBS, according to the memo.
"Chairman Issa has refused multiple requests to make
Lt. Col. Wood available to speak with Democratic Members or staff prior to the
hearing on Wednesday. In addition, although Republican staff provided an email
address for Lt. Col. Wood after he appeared on CBS Evening News, Lt. Col. Wood
has failed to respond to any inquiries from Democratic staff," the memo states.
Issa and Chaffetz also effectively excluded Democratic
committee members and staff from joining a congressional delegation to Libya
last weekend by concealing the trip until less than 24 hours before it was
scheduled to leave, the memo charges.
"Republican staff did not inform the minority until
last Thursday that a delegation would be departing the next day, Friday,
October 5, 2012, for Tripoli. Due to this inadequate notice, no Democratic
Members or staff were able to join," the memo says. "Based on a copy of the
itinerary provided to the minority staff, it also appears that this delegation
was hastily and inadequately planned. The itinerary did not identify a single
U.S. government official, Libyan official, or other individual the Committee
planned to interview during the entire delegation. In fact, the itinerary
listed as the sole Committee activity in Libya: ‘TBD.'"
The memo also criticizes Mitt Romney and several congressional Republicans for taking issue
with the statements of Obama administration officials in the immediate
aftermath of the Benghazi attack, especially the Sept. 16 statements by U.N.
Ambassador Susan Rice, in which she said that the assessment
at that time was that the attack was spontaneous and inspired by an anti-Islam
"The State Department has been cooperating fully
with the Committee's investigation. It has agreed to all requests for hearing
witnesses, it has offered additional hearing witnesses beyond those requested,
it has promptly organized transcribed interviews with Department officials, it
has been collecting documents sought by the Committee, and it has offered
additional briefings for Committee staff," the memo states, although it notes
that House Speaker John Boehner
(R-OH) excluded Oversight Committee leaders from a classified briefing on the
"Contrary to House Rules, the Chairman and his staff
refused to provide copies of documents obtained by the Committee during this
investigation and concealed witnesses, preventing the minority from questioning
these witnesses directly in order to gain a more complete understanding of
their views and to vet the accuracy of claims made by Chairman Issa," the memo states.
The memo also argues that it was the House GOP that
slashed funding for State Department security and embassy protections prior to
The House passed appropriations bills that cut $248
million from the administration's request for the Worldwide Security Protection
account in fiscal 2011 and 2012, and $211 million from the Worldwide Security
Upgrades portion of the Embassy Security, Construction and Maintenance (ESCM)
account in those years.
The final amounts given to both accounts after the Senate
weighed in were $88 million above the House levels, but still $371 million
below what the administration requested.
gaining the majority in 2011, House Republicans have voted to reduce embassy
security funding by approximately half a billion dollars below the amounts
requested by the Obama Administration," the memo states.
Last week, committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) expressed
concern that partisanship was overtaking the investigation.
"While I fully support careful, responsible, and
robust congressional oversight, I do have concerns about rushing to hold a
public hearing based on incomplete information if the purpose is to meet some
arbitrary political timetable. On such a critically important issue, I believe
we should proceed in a bipartisan and responsible manner by gathering the facts
before drawing any public conclusions," he said.
A spokesman for Issa did not immediately respond
to a request for comment.
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