Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has a piece of advice for House Democrats, as does former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell. If they’re thinking about boycotting the select committee on Benghazi, they shouldn’t. Both Panetta and Morell expressed confidence at a press conference that a full investigation would show that the intelligence community didn’t politicize the Benghazi analysis, but agree with Republicans that a full and unified probe into what happened is legitimate for the House (via Jim Geraghty):
Panetta and Morell, noting the attack has been subject to many investigations already, said they welcome the latest one in the House.
“If you look at the polling numbers a not insignificant percentage of the American people still have questions,” Morell said.
Morell, who said he already has testified four times about Benghazi, said he is 100 percent confident the upcoming investigation will show that allegations “the intelligence community politicized its analysis” are false.
Panetta, a former Central Coast congressman and Democratic Party stalwart, said there needs to be an investigation to lay out the full story to the public. “The problem has been sometimes bits and pieces of information keep coming out” that raise more questions, he said.
“Obviously there is a concern whether it’s going to be a political effort to target an issue for a campaign,” Panetta said. “I hope Democrats participate, and it really is a legitimate effort.”
Morell expanded on those comments, as Josh Gerstein reported:
“A lot of people have looked at this, but the polls show that the American people still have questions. I want to make sure that all of those questions are cleared up. There are still some questions about the role of the agency. And there are still questions about my own personal role and I want to clear that up,” Morell said during a panel discussion at the Panetta Institute in Monterey, Calif. “It might be surprising for you to hear me say this, but I am a supporter of the creation of this committee because I want all the facts to come together in one place and be presented as one—by one entity as one thing, so the American people can see all of this.”
“I am hopeful that at least getting the facts on the table will be helpful.”
Neither of the men are disinterested observers on this question. Morell, as he noted, played a key role in the analysis of the intelligence both during the attack and for the period prior to it. Panetta was CIA Director when the US and NATO started the bombing campaign that decapitated the Libyan dictatorship, and then was Defense Secretary from June 2011 through the time of the attack, retiring in February 2013. The lack of preparedness for the anniversary of 9/11 would fall on his shoulders, which makes Panetta’s support for the new and unified probe a little surprising. After all, he has plenty of fellow Democrats denouncing the whole idea as unnecessary.
That makes a refusal to cooperate even more untenable than before. If two of the probe’s potential targets have endorsed the select committee, why would House Democrats balk at participating? Perhaps they’re more concerned that the facts will tend to exonerate Panetta and Morell and put the blame directly on State and the White House. With these two endorsing a new investigation, though, merely sitting out won’t be enough to protect either State or the White House. Expect Democrats to name their members soon — before Republicans get a chance to hit the ground running.