While the Obama administration is seeking to bury the Benghazi controversy by calling it a “phony scandal,” new disclosures about the attack on American diplomatic personnel last September are keeping it very much alive.
At least five CIA employees have been forced to sign new nondisclosure agreements aimed at discouraging them from leaking their stories to the media, even though they had signed such agreements prior to the attacks, according to Fox News.
CNN is also reporting that dozens of Americans were in Benghazi on the night of the attacks and are “being intimidated into staying silent.”
A source told CNN that the number was 35, with perhaps as many as seven wounded, but it is not known how many Americans in the city were working for the CIA. Only losses suffered by the State Department have been reported to Congress.
Some in Congress have speculated that U.S. agencies in Benghazi were secretly helping to move missiles out of Libya through Turkey and into the hands of Syrian rebels. The State Department has claimed it was only helping the Libyan government destroy old or damaged weapons.
Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic on Thursday: “To be clear, it isn’t at all certain that the CIA was secretly funneling Libyan weapons to Syria, long before Congress ‘lifted its hurdles’ on arming Syrian rebels. But if CNN’s report is correct, the CIA is at minimum trying to hide something huge from Congress, something that CIA agents might otherwise want to reveal — itself a reason for Congress to press hard for information.”
Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, whose district includes CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., is disturbed by the lack of information and the pressure to silence CIA operatives. “I think it is a form of cover-up,” he said.
He has gone to the floor of the House several times to ask for the establishment of a select committee to probe the Benghazi affair.
In another action, Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman said on Thursday that he plans to force a vote in Congress on creating an investigative body.
And House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has issued two subpoenas to the State Department for documents related to the deadly assault in Benghazi.
He said in a statement on Thursday that he wants all documents the department gave to an independent review board headed by former diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, and all documents related to interviews conducted by the board.
Some lawmakers are concerned that while the government is making efforts to keep Benghazi personnel silent, not enough progress has been made in tracking down those responsible for the attacks, Fox also reported.
They cited a report earlier this week that Ahmed Abu Khattala, leader of Ansar al-Sharia, a militant group in the region, said no one from the U.S. government has contacted him. Legislators have written a letter this week to FBI Director James Comey asking him to aggressively pursue the suspects, calling the delay in identifying them “simply unacceptable.”