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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pounds her fist while testifying at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Benghazi in January.
Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pounds her fist while testifying at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Benghazi in January.

Why a select committee on Benghazi matters

Benghazi Attack

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., believes we need a congressional select committee to get to the bottom of the Benghazi scandal. That’s why he’s introduced H.R. 36. So far, Wolf has 154 co-sponsors of the bill, but he’s also facing resistance. Some lawmakers in the GOP leadership are dragging their heels.

That’s a mistake. It’s also a mistake when campaign committees run attack ads on the Benghazi issue. This shouldn’t be a partisan attack. There is too much at stake here.

We need to ensure that America will not find itself in greater danger in the world because of what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Libya. There are a number of people who work in government who need to come forward with their testimony, and they need the protection a select committee can offer them.

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With his recommendation, Wolf shows why one committee—the Government Operations Committee, ably chaired by Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.)—does not have the scope to handle the important investigative task. We need witnesses from the Department of Defense and the military, including our SEAL teams (Armed Services Committee), from the State Department (Foreign Affairs), from the FBI (Judiciary), and from the CIA (Intelligence).

Select committees draw their members from both parties and from that wide range of expertise represented by the regular congressional committees listed above.

Columnist George Will and former Sen. Fred Thompson have joined the call for a select committee, as have, most significantly, some of the grieving parents of the Americans killed on Sept. 11, 2012. Those witnesses deserve a cloak of protection and those parents deserve straight answers as to how and why their sons died.

Our all-voluntary military also needs the truth. It appears we left men on the field to be murdered by jihadists in Libya. The tangled web of the talking points—with the recent “data dump” of inter-agency emails—gives every impression of bureaucrats covering their tails. It does not appear that protecting Americans in peril was their first priority.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won kudos from the press corps for her dramatic pushback during Senate hearings on Benghazi earlier this year. “What difference does it make, senator,” she roared back.

Well, it makes all the difference in the world. There’s not an airline that crashes or a train that wrecks, where American lives are lost, where we do not have a thorough investigation. The difference it makes is this: We don’t want this ever to happen again.

If the secretary of state is inundated with 1.46 million messages a week,” or whatever the wildly inflated number is, then obviously she, or he, needs to devise a better system.

Every military communications officer knows the difference between routine, priority, and flash. Surely, our State Department has devised or can devise some system to alert the secretary when an urgent situation is developing in a turbulent world.

At minimum, the secretary of state must be directly informed when Americans are under enemy attack. No underling should make life-or-death decisions in such a crisis. The world cannot wait, Americans cannot wait, until this disorganized and disengaged administration finds its way.

A Benghazi select committee can separate fact from fiction and answer lingering questions. The internet is awash, for example, with claims that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was working with the Turkish ambassador to Libya to arrange an arms shipment to the rebels in Syria. Is that true? If it is true, is that why Stevens was killed by jihadists on that fiery night?

In Watergate and during the Iran-Contra scandal, Congress formed select committees that brought out the truth. We need to check the spread of infectious cynicism with the antidote of openness. As Justice Louis Brandeis famously put it: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Now is the time for all of us to call our members of Congress and urge them to join Rep. Wolf and form a select committee today.

Ken Blackwell
Ken Blackwell

Ken, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. Follow Ken on Twitter @kenblackwell.

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