WASHINGTON -- Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican tasked with probing the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, has in recent days offered several questions he pledges to explore. At least three have, in large part, already been answered.
1. Why was security lacking during the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.?
2. Why weren't military units moving to support consulate personnel?
3. Why were references to "terrorist" and "attacks" edited out of the Obama administration's talking points?
Gowdy has promised to bring a no-nonsense, "prosecutor's zeal" to finding the answers and in examining the Obama administration's handling of the attack. He has insisted he's not interested in rehashing previous investigations by Congress or in "whether the appropriate questions were asked in the past."
But the questions he's asking now were asked in the past. And answered, too.
The congressman likely disagrees with those answers. But in his recent interviews, he hasn't acknowledged that they exist. Take, for instance, his concern with the security on the night of the attack, which he noted on Fox News.
The Senate Intelligence Committee actually conducted an investigation that addressed this issue. The unclassified report, released in January, concluded that the attack was "likely preventable” if the State Department had heeded repeated requests for increased security in what was later determined to have been a “deteriorating" situation. It also faulted the State Department for ignoring incidents that should have served as red flags.
The report further noted that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack, twice rejected offers for military protection a month earlier.
Gowdy also takes issue with the whereabouts of support personnel on the night of the attack.
This line of questioning is popular with critics on the right, who claim the Obama administration tried to execute a massive cover-up. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) speculated at one point that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to give a "stand down" order to military support units on the night of the attack.
However, that speculation was debunked by Republicans, the military, and the Senate Intelligence Committee report, which found no military assets were in place to respond in time.
Gowdy took to CNN on Wednesday to ask why the CIA edited out references to terrorism in the much-ballyhooed talking points that Susan Rice delivered after the attack.
The former CIA acting deputy director, Michael Morell, previously testified that the change was recommended by CIA operations officers and was made before a senior analyst sent the talking points to the office of congressional affairs.
Morell also noted that "one of the things that we've learned on this process is that the words we use internal to the CIA aren't always the words that people outside of the CIA understands. So, to us, the word extremist was a synonym for the word terrorist. Not only for the analyst, but also our operators."
Appearing on CNN Wednesday, Morell chimed in once more.
"In editing the talking points, I never changed 'terrorist' to 'extremist' and I never changed 'attack' to 'demonstration,'" he said.
In forming the select committee, House GOP leaders pledged to bring fresh eyes to the oft-investigated Benghazi attack. And, as recent revelations have shown, there are documents from the White House that haven't been revealed and that provide political fodder for the opposition and new lines of inquiry from Republicans. But on a substantive level, the administration, the intelligence community, and others have already sought to answer what Gowdy is asking.