Scandals in Washington
As part of the House’s continuing efforts to determine what took place before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recently held a hearing featuring three whistleblowers, including Gregory Hicks, the second-highest diplomat in Libya at the time of the attack.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chairman of the panel’s Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, traveled to Libya as part of the congressional investigation into what took place. He said that no Democrat chose to go with him, but that the State Department sent a “minder” to keep tabs on him. Mr. Hicks testified that he was “instructed” by State Department attorneys not to cooperate with Rep. Chaffetz, and to keep Rep. Chaffetz from personally interviewing people on the ground in Libya.
Rep. Chaffetz ultimately was able to interview people, but his “minder” from the State Department – who lacked the proper security clearance to participate in the classified briefing – was excluded. Because of that, Mr. Hicks testified that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, called him, and in a tone that was unhappy, demanded a report on Rep. Chaffetz’s visit.
That the State Department appears to have been working to obstruct a Member of Congress from discovering the truth is appalling.
Another of the witnesses was Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer in Libya. Mr. Nordstrom said that he wanted to get the truth out. “What happened prior to, during, and after the attack matters,” he said in his opening remarks. “It matters to me personally and to my colleagues at State. It matters to the American people and it matters to the friends and families” of those killed in the attack.
He’s right – the truth matters.
Unfortunately getting to the truth has been difficult. The Obama administration originally began blaming a video for inciting the attack. “The YouTube video was a non event in Libya,” Mr. Hicks testified. He later said “The video was not an instigator of anything that was going on in Libya. We saw no demonstrations related to the video anywhere in Libya. The only event that transpired was the attack on our consulate on the night of Sept. 11.”
ABC News obtained documents making clear that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland requested that references to al-Qaeda and prior warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi be removed from a memo on the attacks. Ms. Nuland emailed that the description “could be abused by members (of Congress) to beat up on the State Department for not paying attention to warnings.” That memo, stripped of some very important information, is what the Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, used in her Sunday Show appearances in which she only blamed the YouTube video.
Mr. Hicks testified that Ambassador Rice didn’t consult officials in Libya to verify the information in the memo before those appearances, and I haven’t seen anything indicating that she actually knew the full story. If I were Ambassador Rice, I would be asking questions to find out if I had been set up by others in the Administration.
Everyone makes mistakes. But as I tell my children, if you make a mistake, don’t lie about it. It only makes it worse. Very serious mistakes were made, which led to the murder of four Americans. But even worse, there was a cover-up about it as well – a concerted effort to conceal the truth. Some have argued these untruths were intended to protect the President during an election, and then-Secretary Clinton for future elections.
Motivation doesn’t matter. We cannot tolerate being knowingly and willfully misled by the Administration. I don’t care if it is a Republican, Democrat, or Independent President. The truth doesn’t have a political party. The American people deserve to know the truth. We must continue seeking that truth, and determine who authorized or acquiesced in the cover-up.
Another developing scandal has to do with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) admitting to having deliberately targeted nonprofit conservative groups such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot” groups for increased scrutiny. The pro-Israel group known as Z Street reported that they also received similar negative treatment.
I am very disturbed by the purposeful targeting of any group by the IRS, whether it is conservative or liberal. I support the Committee on Ways and Means’ decision to hold a hearing on this matter. I will monitor the situation closely as it continues to unfold, and work to ensure that the IRS is held accountable for this shocking violation of the trust of the American people.