The House Committee tasked with uncovering what really happened when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were murdered at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi held its first hearing today, reigniting the firestorm surrounding the State Department’s alleged mishandling of diplomatic security in the region.

Via ABC News:

Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina vowed to pursue the facts wherever the lead him. Opening his committee’s first public hearing since its establishment four months ago, he stressed the thoroughness of the task ahead, not the need to reach immediate conclusions.

“Given the gravity of the issues at hand, I am willing to risk answering the same question twice rather than risk not answering it once,” said Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor leading Congress’ eighth investigation of the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack in eastern Libya.

Congress is still seeking documents from the Obama administration related to the attack, he said. More witnesses are being interviewed and individuals who’ve participated in congressional investigations will be questioned again. The special investigation was created to “find all of the facts, and I intend to do so fully,” Gowdy said.

Highlighted at today’s hearing was the testimony of Todd Keil, who raised concerns about out-of-date security protocols governing diplomatic security. Keil, who is a member of the Independent Panel on Best Practices, ripped into the State Department for ignoring the Panel’s advice and continuing on with ineffective methods of protecting diplomats overseas:

The Independent Panel on Best Practices made 40 recommendations last year, and the department has accepted all but two of them. But Keil said they were “disappointed” that the department did not accept the first and “most important” recommendation, to create an under secretary for diplomatic security. And he claimed the department was relying on “pre-Benghazi processes” to implement other recommendations.

He said cursory actions would “ring hollow” without truly implementing the recommendations.

The testimony was a reminder of lingering concerns about the state of security at State Department embassies and consulates around the world in high-risk areas.

Pundits drew a sharp contrast between the tone of today’s hearings, and past hearings on Benghazi led by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA). Even reliable liberal Dana Milbank of the Post was forced to admit that Gowdy and his allies handled what has become a controversial situation—both in topic and with regards to the Committee itself—fairly:

There was no discussion of talking points or stand-down orders, and only one of the seven Republicans on the panel — Jim Jordan of Ohio — even mentioned Clinton. Instead, Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee’s Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.

This is exactly what congressional oversight should be: a bipartisan effort by legislators to make sure executive-branch officials don’t repeat past mistakes. The resulting bonhomie was unprecedented in the two years of Benghazi bickering.

Members of the Committee expect their investigations to last well into the 2016 Presidential cycle, raising concerns for some that it could affect the rumored candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Gowdy, in typical Gowdy fashion, hasn’t even allowed this concern on his radar:

“So to those who believe it is time to move on, that there is nothing left to discover, that all questions have been asked and answered, that we have learned the lessons to be learned — we have heard that before. And yet the attacks and the tragedies keep coming,” said Gowdy in his opening statement.

You can read the full opening statements from today’s hearing here.


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