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In our opinion: A House select committee to investigate Benghazi is necessary

Published: Friday, May 9 2014 8:18 p.m. MDT

Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., center, joined by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., left, and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., the ranking member, questions the motivations of the Republican majority as the House Rules Committee meets to work on the creation of a special select committee to investigate the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the ambassador and three other Americans, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Questioned recently about the Obama administration’s response to the terrorist September 2012 attack on the United States Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, the former spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council said, “Dude, this was, like, two years ago.”

That flippant dismissal, by former spokesman Tommy Vietor, speaks volumes about the lack of seriousness with which the Obama administration has treated questions regarding the events of Sept. 11, 2012. The terrorist attack on the embassy killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans.

Many U.S. legislators are downplaying concerns about Benghazi as a fringe obsession. “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., lamented recently. “Why aren’t we talking about something else?”

Because the Obama administration hasn’t provided answers.

Indeed, Pelosi’s question ignores the extraordinarily great lengths to which the Obama administration has gone to keep Benghazi from being a topic of conversation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said that the White House has purposely hidden Benghazi documents from congressional oversight. The White House’s attempts to thwart Benghazi investigations are part of a “very concerted effort [and] obstruction of Congress,” Chaffetz said. “It doesn't look right. It doesn’t smell right,” he recently told the Deseret News. “There is smoke there, and we're going to figure out what’s going on.”

Some legislators seem to agree with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who maintains that any further digging into Benghazi would be “a colossal waste of time” because there have been “four bipartisan investigations of this already."

Yet the nation lacks a clear understanding of what the president or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were doing before, during and after the evening of the attacks. The nub of the matter is whether the White House deliberately misrepresented facts by attributing the attack to a spontaneous demonstration — a demonstration that never took place — in response to an anti-Islamic video.

The Obama administration claims such questions are only of interest to political opportunists trying to damage the president or Clinton. Since Benghazi is now “old news,” there’s no reason to address the subject, according to this view. This is an excuse, not an answer. “It's embarrassing that the Democrats would suggest that this is merely political,” Chaffetz said.

Given that the main players in this story are the president of the United States and a likely candidate for president, it may well be impossible to get to the heart of these questions. That does not excuse the administration for being less than forthcoming. Why, for example, are the redactions in the email documentation received by an activist group under the Freedom of Information Act different from those documents received by Congress?

We welcome the newly announced creation of a select House committee to investigate the events at Benghazi, and we hope that Democrats and Republicans will join in seeking answers to these unaddressed questions.

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