Conflict & Justice

Benghazi hearing: Capitol Hill probe begins


A vehicle and buildings burn after they were set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11, 2012.



Thursday was the opening act for the Benghazi probe, a hearing wherein US intelligence officials in a closed-door hearing testify before Congress on the Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Republicans accuse President Obama of mishandling the tragedy, and some suggest the administration misinformed Congress and the public about the attack that killed US ambassador Chris Stevens and three more Americans.

The criticism centers on Susan Rice, a UN Ambassador who initially said the attack was a spontaneous outburst from a protest against an anti-Islamic film, not a planned offensive.

Reuters reports Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, acting CIA Director Michael Morell, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy testified Thursday.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus is set to testify Friday. Petraeus resigned last week because of an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The scandal, which has drawn in Gen. John Allen, the US commander in Afghanistan, among others, has put more attention on Petraeus's forthcoming testimony.

More from Global Post: The Petraeus Affair 

Though Thursday's probe was off limits to the public, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a parallel Benghazi hearing.

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement:

"The coordinated, preplanned and brazen attack against the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11th was an outrage. Also disgraceful is the sad parade of conflicting accounts of the attack that we have received from Administration officials in the weeks and months since," she said, according to Reuters.

Ros-Lehtinen added, "Successive revelations in public reports indicate that the Administration failed to adequately protect the American consulate and denied consulate requests for additional security." 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may testify before Congress in December, the BBC reports.

On Wednesday, a few of Obama's critics were conspicuously absent from a briefing on the attack.

Republican Susan Collins told Politico that Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was not at the briefing.

"Senator McCain was absent from the hearing due to a scheduling error," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers, according to Slate.

Foreign Policy notes Republican Senator Rand Paul, a Homeland Security committee member, who said, "I don't know enough of the details" about the Benghazi attack, also missed the briefing.