Editors Note: 2nd Clue: The person below got a rushed response. 3rd Clue: The Drone.
Pentagon accused of dragging feet on Benghazi probe
By Julian Hattem – 05/19/16 09:08 AM EDT
The Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Thursday accused the Pentagon of dragging its feet in the latest episode of friction between the panel and the Obama administration.
While assembling purportedly final interviews as part of their investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attack in the Libyan city, Republicans on the committee in February asked the Department of Defense (DOD) to find the names of all drone pilots and operators in the area at the time.
The Pentagon has said the request is “unnecessary” and has already resulted in “a time-intensive search.”
And months later, the Defense Department still has not provided the names of drone pilots and operators working on the second day of the attack, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a statement Thursday.
“The committee needs all of the names so the relevant witnesses can be interviewed and the investigation completed,” Gowdy said.
“Surely DOD can complete the simple task of finding the people within the chain of command in less than three months.”
Gowdy has been forced on his heels in recent days, following an unusually blunt allegation from the Pentagon that the Benghazi committee was wasting its time with vague, evolving and needless requests.
In a letter in late April, the Pentagon’s top congressional liaison, Stephen Hedger, included the committee’s demand for drone pilots as part of a list of grievances about “multiple and changing requests” in recent months, roughly two years after the panel was created.
The request this year appeared to be linked to a 2013 caller to Sean Hannity’s radio show, who identified himself as “John in Iowa” and suggested “individuals were remiss in their duties” during the violence, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The Pentagon claimed to have expended “significant resources” to locate the man in particular, but came up empty-handed.
Timelines, however, differ on the request. The Pentagon claimed the committee followed up the “John from Iowa” request with an inquiry about all pilots and operators, but Gowdy has asserted that his committee asked for the names of all operators first and then homed in on the radio show caller.
The committee has already had access to drone video from the night of the 2012 terror attack, Hedger noted.
“[I]t remains unclear what additional information could be gained from these interviews, especially the pilots,” he told the committee last month.
Gowdy and other Republicans have claimed that their job is to follow any and all leads that may develop.
“The families of those killed and injured in Benghazi and the American people deserve to hear from any witness who can potentially provide relevant, probative evidence,” Gowdy said.
Members of the Benghazi committee have broken into new infighting in recent days, as the panel appears to be closing in on a summer release of its report about the Benghazi attack. Democrats have long dismissed the committee’s work as a taxpayer-funded partisan hit job against Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Critics of the committee were given new ammunition in May, when Democrats released comments from the former chief GOP counsel suggesting that the committee has been on a two-year goose chase.
“Nothing could have affected what occurred in Benghazi,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman said during a closed-door interview earlier this year.
Democrats did not provide full context for Chipman’s quote, and the full transcript remains secret. He has since stated that he supports the committee’s work.
“The committee has an obligation to the American people to determine what can and cannot be substantiated, so if an individual makes public allegations about Benghazi, the committee should interview that person,” he said in a statement after the Democratic release.
— This report was updated at 10:51 a.m.