The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said that the State Department doesn’t want her to hold an open hearing this week on Benghazi.
The Thursday hearing is accompanied by two closed-door sessions to review the attack at the Senate and House Intelligence committees.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said she saw it as “only fitting and fair” to invite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify, as it was one of her consulates that was attacked. The State Department declined, citing her Australia trip.
“This was part of the State Department operations — bring her up and testify in an open public hearing about what happened, why it happened, so that we can prevent another Benghazi from taking place again,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
“Now, what has been the State Department’s response? First utter silence, and then the secretary goes off to a trip to Australia to coordinate their defense cuts, which is of utmost importance to the United States for some reason. And so she’s not being made available to our committee, nor will she send anyone in her place.”
The only federal official testifying in the open before the committee will be Michael Courts, acting director of International Affairs and Trade at the Government Accountability Office. Three other witnesses are think-tank analysts.
“In their place, they’re going to give us yet another classified briefing,” the chairwoman said. “I have two classified briefings scheduled for this week, but they want me to not have this open hearing. I’m going to have it anyway.”
Ros-Lehtinen said she expects Thursday’s witnesses to testify “about the lack of security throughout the State Department embassies and consulates and why the State Department wants to make sure that we appear that everything is fine: We’re no longer under a terrorist threat, al-Qaeda is on the run, there’s no problem with the Taliban, stand down, nobody needs further protection.”
“We want answers, and we’re going to see if we can cooperate with the State Department and have Hillary Clinton finally show up, perhaps by the end of this month, in an open public hearing. We’re fine with the classified briefing, but that is no substitute for the answers that the public demands,” she said.
“Since September 12th, we have been asking for cables. We’ve been asking for hearings. We’ve been asking Ambassador Rice to show up. We’ve been asking for the assistant to the secretary of state to show up. We would take anyone, but they always come in a classified briefing, and that’s what we will get again this week.”