Republicans pursue probe of Benghazi attacks, name witnesses for hearing

Witnesses at a May 8 hearing 'have critical information' about terrorist attack that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, last year, says Rep. Darrell Issa. He says others might testify if they can overcome fear of retaliation by superiors.

By , Staff writer

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    House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington in October 2012. On Saturday, Issa named three witnesses who will appear at a May 8 hearing on the US response to the terrorist threat that cost four Americans their lives in Benghazi, Libya.
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The chairman of a House investigative committee has named three witnesses who will appear at a May 8 hearing on the US response to the terrorist threat that cost four Americans their lives in Benghazi, Libya.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California said the hearing promises to highlight discrepancies between Obama administration officials and others with knowledge about US actions before, during, and after the Benghazi attack.

The Obama administration has been seeking to put such scrutiny to rest, and the president has denied that any whistle-blowers are being discouraged from coming forward.

Recommended: How much do you know about terrorism? Take the quiz.

The witnesses at the May 8 hearing will include Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism at the State Department; Gregory Hicks, the department’s former deputy chief of mission in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, a State Department security officer.

“I applaud these individuals for answering our call to testify in front of the Committee,” Mr. Issa said in a statement released Saturday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “They have critical information about what occurred before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks that differs on key points from what Administration officials – including those on the Accountability Review Board – have portrayed.”

Mr. Nordstrom, in a previous hearing in October, has described requesting 12 more security agents in Libya, and being told by a superior that he was "asking for the sun, moon and the stars."

The committee has been contacted by “numerous other individuals who have direct knowledge of the Benghazi terrorist attack, but are not yet prepared to testify,” often because of concern about retaliation by their employers, Issa said.

The questions about the Benghazi attack were politically important last year, as President Obama was seeking reelection. And they are relevant today, not least because the secretary of State at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is viewed by pundits as a hard-to-beat contender for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president.

US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens and three other Americans died in an attack on US facilities in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Coming also in the final weeks of an intense presidential race, the attack quickly became an issue of partisan politics. Mr. Obama didn’t call it a terrorist attack at first, and initial administration statements conveyed the impression that the deaths occurred because of spontaneous protests of an anti-Muslim video that an American had posted on YouTube.com.

Obama later had to back away from that view, based on evidence that it was a coordinated terrorist attack.

An April report by Issa and other House Republicans claims that the White House presented a “deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative,” when it had immediate information pointing to terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Obama said in a press conference this week that his priority since the attack has been to find out what happened, to bring perpetrators to justice, and to safeguard diplomats around the world.

“I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody’s been blocked from testifying,” he said.

In a briefing for reporters Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed that same point, adding that “Benghazi happened a long time ago” and that “everyone who had something to say was welcome to provide information” to a State Department Accountability Review Board.

The FBI said Wednesday it is seeking information about three people who were on the grounds of the diplomatic mission in Benghazi when it was attacked. The bureau posted photographs of the three people and asked anyone with information to e-mail BenghaziTips@ic.fbi.gov or to submit information confidentially at https://forms.fbi.gov/benghazi-en.

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