Benghazi One Year Later: WH Still Pledging to Bring Attackers to Justice

Patrick Goodenough | September 11, 2013 | 4:30am EDT
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U.S. Special Envoy to Libya Chris Stevens photographed in Benghazi in April 2011. He took up the post of American ambassador in June 2012, three months before he was killed in the September 11 terror attack. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

( –  Amid fresh calls for House Speaker John Boehner to set up a select committee to fully investigate the events surrounding the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi one year ago, the White House on Tuesday night pledged – again – to bring those responsible to justice.

The commitment was contained in a statement by press secretary Jay Carney, announcing that national security officials were “taking measures” to prevent attacks linked to the 12th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 assault on the U.S. homeland “and to ensure the protection of U.S. persons and facilities abroad.”

“September 11th has been a day of remembrance for 12 years for Americans and others around the world,” Carney said. “The events of last year, losing four brave Americans – Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – brought home the reality of the challenges we face in the world.”

“We remain committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Benghazi attacks to justice and to ensuring the safety of our brave personnel serving overseas,” he said.

One year after Ambassador Stevens, foreign service officer Smith and security personnel Woods and Doherty were killed when terrorists attacked the mission in Libya’s second city, no suspect has appeared in court in the U.S. or Libya in connection with their deaths.

Last month, the Justice Department filed sealed charges against an undisclosed number of suspects including – according to administration leaks – Ahmed Abu Khattalah, commander of the Ansar al-Sharia militia.

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was asked on Fox News Sunday how it was that journalists have managed to find and interview Khattalah (who denies involvement) yet he has not been arrested.

“Look, we’ve been very clear that we will hold those people who carried out this dastardly, heinous attack against our people to account,” he replied.

Pressed by interviewer Chris Wallace, McDonough said President Obama has demonstrated that “we track every lead until we find and can accomplish what we say we will do” – apparently a reference to Osama bin Laden.

“The United States government does what it says,” he added. “And we will do what we say in this instance.”

Many Republican lawmakers and others remain deeply troubled by the Benghazi affair, including security decisions taken in the run-up to the attack and the administration’s response afterwards.

Administration officials, notably then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, were accused of misleading Americans by saying that, according to the best information currently available, the attack was a “spontaneous reaction” to a demonstration at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo hours earlier by Muslims purportedly enraged by an online video clip denigrating Mohammed.

Critics charge that the talking points were designed to highlight the “offensive video” angle because attributing the attack to terrorists would clash with the election campaign narrative of a diminishing terror threat. Administration officials have consistently denied this.

‘Perception of a cover-up’

On Tuesday a group of national security leaders including retired senior military officers sent a letter to Boehner (R-Ohio), urging him to set up a select committee on Benghazi.

The letter, organized by the Center for Security Policy  (CSP), said that the five House committees sharing jurisdiction have held “mostly less-than-illuminating hearings” into the affair, and many “crucial” questions remain unanswered.

A select committee would be able to draw on the five committees’ existing resources and results – without imposing undue costs or further delay – and could complete a comprehensive inquiry, “if possible by year’s end,” it said.

The signatories expressed concern about “the American people’s apparently serious loss of confidence in the institutions of their government” and warned about “the perception of a cover-up – or at least a serious dereliction of duty.”

“We must not allow the jihadists who have thus far paid no price for killing Ambassador Stevens, murdering three of his comrades and afflicting the lives of so many others to do violence as well to our people’s confidence in their constitutional form of government,” they wrote.

Signatories included former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Admiral James “Ace” Lyons, former Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Frederick Kroesen, former deputy undersecretary of defense (Intelligence) Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, former Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Harry Edward Soyster, former Defense Nuclear Agency director Vice Adm. Robert Monroe and former Strategic Defense Initiative director Ambassador Henry Cooper.

CSP president and CEO Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. said the American people had a need to know the answers to key questions: “What policies contributed to this debacle? Who was responsible for the lack of response during the attacks that spanned seven hours? And why has none of those who perpetrated these murderous acts of jihad and those who attempted to mislead us about them been held accountable?”

Early this year, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) introduced a bill calling for the creation of a special committee to investigate Benghazi. It won the backing of 169 co-sponsors – including six who signed up on Monday – but remains before the House Rules Committee, where it has been since January 18.

In late July, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) filed a petition to have the measure discharged from the committee and advanced to the floor for a vote. The petition requires 218 signatures for further action.

Several groups including Patriots4America and Conservative Party USA are planning a “Justice for Benghazi” rally near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

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