Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey will testify on the Benghazi attack before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday morning.
The sudden announcement of the hearing appears to be an effort to blunt Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) threat to filibuster the nomination of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel. Graham has said he’d block the nomination if Panetta didn’t give answers to Congress about Benghazi before leaving the Pentagon.
The 10 a.m. hearing takes place before the 2:30 p.m. hearing scheduled in the Senate Intelligence Committee on the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director.
Brennan’s hearing could evoke memories of the Hagel hearings if President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser doesn’t come better prepared.
Last week, a Democrat on the committee expressed frustration that Hagel came woefully unprepared to a meeting with lawmakers, despite being warned about the questions in advance.
“I was deeply disappointed today during my meeting with John Brennan,” said Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). “A few weeks ago, I had asked that he be prepared to discuss at today’s meeting the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s comprehensive study on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program. Not only was he not prepared to discuss the important findings, but he hadn’t reviewed the report at all.”
Udall said Brennan promised to take a peek at the report before his confirmation hearing.
“I intend to hold him to that promise, and I hope Mr. Brennan will be more forthcoming in his testimony next week,” the senator said. “I understand that he may not see it in his or the CIA’s interests to criticize the very agency that he hopes to lead, but I see this as an opportunity for Mr. Brennan to correct the record, institute the necessary reforms and help restore the CIA’s reputation for integrity and analytical rigor.”