House Armed Service chair denied access to Benghazi files

posted at 10:01 am on May 9, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

One question left mainly unaddressed by yesterday’s hearing on Benghazi — and by others, as well — is the lack of preparation by the Obama administration and the US military for the potential for attack in Benghazi.  After all, terrorist attacks had been increasing steadily since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in 2011.  Other Western nations had already withdrawn from Benghazi due to the security risks in the region, specifically from the radical Islamist terror networks able to operate freely in eastern Libya because of the removal of Qaddafi. Our own State Department personnel in Libya repeatedly warned Washington about the threat.

Put all of that together with the approach of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and lights should have been flashing red across the board regarding our outpost in Benghazi.  Instead, the White House, State Department, and Pentagon have repeatedly claimed for months that the US had no assets in place to respond quickly to an attack, even though anyone with a calendar could have pointed out the risk.  One might wonder why the Pentagon didn’t connect those dots on its own, and that seems like a good question for the two Congressional committees overseeing the Department of Defense.

House Armed Services Chair Buck McKeon agrees.  The Pentagon apparently does not, not even to the limited extent of its response to the actual attack:

Pentagon officials have denied a request from a House Republican chairman for access to documents on last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi.

“I am deeply disappointed in the Department’s response and am committed to continuing the Armed Services Committee’s oversight into the tragedy at Benghazi,” House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement Wednesday.

In April, McKeon asked for all classified information that went into the Department of Defense (DOD) assessment of its response to the attack, which resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

“The department has made every effort to provide the committee a comprehensive understanding of [its] actions” in Benghazi, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Elizabeth King said in a May 1 letter to McKeon and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Let’s not put too fine a point on context or even the event itself.  Congress oversees executive-branch agencies.  The House Armed Services Committee is not just entitled to that information, they are required to provide oversight of DoD operations.  The DoD is not required to produce just “a comprehensive understanding” of their actions, but the actual information, especially in the aftermath of such a spectacular failure.

This comes very close to obstruction.  Hopefully McKeon and HASC follows up with subpoenas and hearings of their own to find out why the Pentagon is refusing to cooperate with Congressional oversight.  And hopefully, McKeon expands that context to probing why the US military was so unprepared to protect such an obvious target on such an obvious date.


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