NEW YORK – The military commanders on the Citizens’ Committee on Benghazi reacted with skepticism to the announcement Thursday afternoon that the House Select Committee on Benghazi has scheduled a hearing, contending the congressional panel led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is not uncovering the truth behind the deadly episode that resulted in the death of an American ambassador.
The hearing will be held next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Capitol on a topic vaguely listed as “Subject Matter: Status Review of Outstanding Requests,” with no list of witnesses.
The skepticism intensified after Sharyl Attkisson, now an independent journalist after parting ways with CBS News, reported the subject of the hearing will be complaints that some federal agencies continue to stonewall the House Select Committee’s investigation by denying access to all relevant documents and witnesses.
Retired U.S Navy Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, a founding member of the citizens’ commission – which WND reported has been conducting its own investigation for the past year and a half to ensure Congress uncovers the truth – said the “idea that government agency stonewalling continuing now for over two years is the reason Gowdy’s committee can’t make progress is pure nonsense.”
Lyons, a former four-star admiral who served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said he was speaking for himself, not on behalf of the commission.
“Let’s say it clearly,” he told WND. “This is a continued cover-up. You have to take the wraps off and you have to go for the jugular. Is Gowdy so incapable and ineffective that he can’t boss these agency heads to comply with Congress’ mandate? Is he that ineffective?”
The 17-member Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, or CCB, includes former military commanders and Special Forces operatives, former CIA and intelligence officers, as well as well-known experts in international terrorism and in media and government affairs.
Another member, Clare Lopez, a former career operations officer with the CIA who now is vice president for research at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
“We have the general subject matter for what the select committee hearing next week is going to cover, but we really don’t know how it will play out,” Lopez said. “We also don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors in the select committee hearings. If Gowdy is proceeding as a good prosecutor should, he is lining up all his ducks before he goes public with anything.”
Lyons, meanwhile, compared the situation to a subordinate military commander coming to him during a military engagement with the enemy and complaining that an important objective could not be taken because enemy resistance was too stiff.
“I’d tell that subordinate commander to make sure the door didn’t hit him in the rear on the way out,” Lyons said. “The conclusion I’d come to is that I’d say, ‘You’re relieved,’ and I would find somebody that could break through.”
He said that if Gowdy “isn’t the man for the job because he’s being thwarted by some government bureaucrat that stonewalls Congress, then maybe we were wrong to be enthusiastic about Gowdy in the first place.”
WND reported Tuesday commission members believe the Obama administration “changed sides in the war on terror” in 2011 by facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qaida-dominated rebel militias in Libya attempting to oust Moammar Gadhafi.
‘Why not subpoena Hillary?’
Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Jones, another citizens’ commission member, attributed Gowdy’s scheduling to a series of WND articles on the CCB in which various members, speaking independently, have expressed concerns that the Republican leadership in Congress may be seeking to bridle the House investigation.
“I think the WND articles prompted Gowdy to announce today that a public hearing will be held next week,” Jones said. “The WND articles, quoting CCB members, have focused on the ‘inside the beltway’ information our investigation and others have uncovered in a way the American people can grasp, realizing the cover-up is still going on.”
Jones said anybody who has been watching realizes government stonewalling has been a key reason that government investigations have failed so far. He pointed out the CCB initially urged Congress to set up a select committee investigation to provide the tools, including expanded subpoena powers, the CCB believes would be necessary to ferret out the truth about Benghazi.
Roger Aronoff, editor of Accuracy in Media and another CCB founding member, expressed similar concerns.
“Gowdy has subpoena powers,” Aronoff noted. “So, why doesn’t Gowdy subpoena Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice to testify before the select committee in person? I guess it’s a positive sign that we learn Gowdy and the select committee staff have been meeting with State Department recently, but if nothing comes of it, then it’s obviously for naught.
“Gowdy needs to be aggressive and the select committee needs to get this job done,” he said.
Aronoff said that if the Benghazi scandal had taken place under a Republican administration, establishment media would have been tireless in demanding a full and complete congressional investigation.
“With a Republican in the White House, we’d be hearing demands from the mainstream media for the president to come clean,” Aronoff said. “But here the mainstream media is largely ignoring the Gowdy investigation. The mainstream media wants to go along with the Obama administration narrative that there is no scandal here and the American people should move on.”
Aronoff said establishment media wanted to end the Benghazi investigation with the report on Benghazi issued in November by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., as chairman of the Republican-led House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The report “found no evidence” to support allegations the Obama administration blocked attempts to send rescue operations to Benghazi during the assault or sought to mislead the public afterwards.
As WND reported, several CCB members were critical of the Rogers report, noting Rogers’ wife had ties to Aegis Defense Services, a British-based security contractor many CCB members believe was tied to the subcontract with the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which didn’t protect the U.S. compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
‘Premature’ to judge
Center for Security Policy’s Lopez stressed that she assumed Gowdy and the select committee were issuing subpoenas and taking testimony under oath behind closed doors in complete secrecy from key Obama administration officials.
“I’m not willing to condemn Gowdy simply because he’s doing what a good prosecutor should do,” she said.
Lopez commented that she will be watching the hearing next week with great interest.
“I’m going to be watching to see what transpires, but I’m not going to be making any condemnations ahead of time when I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors,” she said.
“I hope building a case with depositions taken under oath in complete secrecy is what Gowdy and the select committee are doing. I think it’s premature to jump to a condemnation of the process or the committee leadership when the truth is that we don’t know.”