Afternoon at the Benghazi Hearing

I’m not sure what kind of advice Chair Trey Gowdy got over the lunch break but he had promised to return with lots more about Sid Blumenthal, and yet it was pretty weak tea. Based on his line of questioning (as well as Rep. Pompeo’s), here’s the best I can do with what their point is in bringing him up: Blumenthal had access to SoS Clinton and Ambassador Stevens had to go to the State Department’s security officials for requests on how to improve security at the Benghazi compound.

Clinton’s response to this has been to say over and over again that the process of having professionals review requests about security is preferable, given their level of knowledge and expertise. Under questioning from Pompeo, she did affirm that it has typically been her call on whether or not to close an embassy or facility due to the level of threat, but she didn’t make the decision about things like the number of security officers or the height of barricades necessary for security.

The other line of questioning – coming mostly from Rep. Susan Brooks – seems to be focused on how the decision was made to maintain the Benghazi compound once the new Libyan government relocated to Tripoli. I’m not sure what the insinuation was here – perhaps that if the Benghazi compound had been closed, the attack could have been prevented.

Clinton indicated that there was a long discussion about this that included staff in the State Department and the CIA. There seems to be clear evidence that Ambassador Chris Stevens advocated strongly for the U.S. to stay in Libya and keep the compound open in Benghazi.

Prompted by Rep. Linda Sanchez, the discussion returned to the ongoing and difficult balancing act of weighing security vs national interests – not simply in Benghazi, but also in places like Pakistan and Yemen where attacks on American facilities are not uncommon.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.