Benghazi panel to have broad powers, access to classified intel

If you're going to do it, do it right. That's what the Republicans have done in constituting the 12 member select committee on Benghazi.

Roll Call:

The special House panel tasked with investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, will operate as an investigative super committee of sorts with access to classified material, subpoena power and unlimited funding and time to carry out its work, according to legislative text released Tuesday night.

The House Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, as it will be known, combines the Intelligence Committee’s access to classified material with subpoena power wielded only by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Both committees had been investigating the attack on a consulate that left four Americans, including an ambassador, dead. But Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said he thinks the White House has been stonewalling Congressional investigators, so the special panel, which will be headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is necessary.

“It is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but when four Americans are killed by terrorists in a well-coordinated assault, the American people will not tolerate the evasion we have seen from the White House,” he said. “And given the administration’s history of slow-walking information, Chairman Gowdy and this panel will be provided as much time as needed to bring forth answers, accountability, and justice.”

The panel will be able to access information from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Intelligence Program, none of which is available to panels other than the Intelligence Committee.

It also will have more Republicans than Democrats, a setback for Democrats who had called for party parity.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had been calling for an equal distribution of Republicans and Democrats on the committee, but Republicans decided to provide seven slots for the GOP and five slots for Democrats on the 12-member panel.

A Boehner spokesman reminded reporters earlier in the day that prior special committees, such as one dealing with global warming, had more slots for the majority party.

Two takeaways here: By making the committee's tenure unlimited, it will discourage foot dragging on the release of information. It won't end it, but there will be no incentive for the White House to "run out the clock" on the committee.

Secondly, access to intel files is vital in order to get to the bottom of what happened. No word yet on whether all members will have access to all the intel - sometimes it's just the chair and ranking minority member who get to see the real sensitive stuff - but my guess is that all members will be privy to all the files.

Authorization for the committee will be voted on later this week.


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