Gowdy Opening Statement at Benghazi Select Committee Hearing 2
In September of 2012, four of our fellow Americans were killed and others were injured in an attack on our facility in Benghazi, Libya. Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, and Ambassador Chris Stevens died under circumstances most of us cannot fathom. Fire, violence, terror and the weaponry of war.
I want to read something and ask my colleagues to listen not just to the words but to imagine having to live through, or die through, the experience:
On September 11, 2012, at 9:45 p.m., twenty or more armed men assembled outside the U.S. Mission in Benghazi and breached the Mission gate. Several Ansar Al Sharia members have been identified among this group. The initial attackers were armed with AK-47-type rifles, handguns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. During this initial attack, buildings within the Mission were set on fire. The fires set during the attack led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith. The remaining State Department personnel escaped to a nearby U.S. facility, known as the Annex. It also came under attack, which continued throughout the early morning hours of September 12th, culminating in a mortar attack that killed Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
What I just read is the now official position of our government, filed in US District Court by the Department of Justice in a motion to detain the one defendant who has been captured and will stand trial.
20 or more men. The weapons of war. Arson. Sustained attacks. Precision mortars. Terrorist groups.
It is interesting to note the word – “terrorist” – so rarely used by those in positions of responsibility in the days and weeks after Benghazi is now the very word used in the very statute charging the very defendant accused of killing our four fellow Americans. “Conspiracy to Provide Material Support and Resources to Terrorists Resulting in Death”—that is the charge now. But in the days after the attack in Benghazi the word “terrorist” was edited out and changed. Now, the administration uses the word “attack”. But in the days after the attack in Benghazi the administration edited out and changed the word “attack”. Its one thing to get it wrong and then eventually get it right. It was right initially. It was right the first time. Then it was edited and changed to be wrong.
I remain keenly aware there are those on both sides of the aisle who have concluded all questions have been answered. There is nothing left to do. No more witnesses to talk to. No more documents to review. It is worth noting some of those very same folks who now tell us to move on did not believe we should have investigated Benghazi in the first place.
But we should not move on until there is a complete understanding of how the security environment described by our own government in court documents was allowed to exist. Why were we told special precautions had been taken prior to the anniversary of 9-11? Where? What precautions? Why were we told the Benghazi facility was secure? We should not move on until there is a complete understanding of why requests for additional security were denied, by whom they were denied, and why an Ambassador trusted to represent us in a dangerous country was not trusted when he asked for more security.
It has been two years. We know the requests for additional equipment and personnel were denied but we still do not have a full understanding of why those requests were denied. And we should not move on until there is a complete understanding of why the official position of our government is so different today than it was in the days and weeks after Benghazi. The facts have not changed. The evidence has not changed. But the explanations offered by our government certainly did.
This hearing will continue our committee’s efforts to ensure the recommendations made after the attacks in Benghazi are actually implemented. Again, we pledge a process worthy of the memory of those who died and worthy of the respect of our fellow Americans. But I also pledge we are going to keep asking questions. We will have a hearings in January, February, March and until there is a full understanding of what happened in Benghazi. That means access all documents and all witnesses. We are going to answer the questions surrounding the attacks in Benghazi. We may answer some more than once. I would rather answer a question twice than risk not answering it at all. That would seem a rather small investment compared to what others have done and are doing in service to our country.