DoD Boxtop says House panel’s repeated demands for information is straining resources
Rachael Bade, Politico, Apr 29 2016
Committee chairman Trey Gowdy & other members mugging for the press (Photo: AP)
The Pentagon is pushing back against the House Benghazi Committee, saying its repeated requests for documents and interviews are straining the department’s resources and, to make matters worse, many of the queries are speculative or hypothetical. Asst Sec Def S Hedger complained in a letter to the committee on Thursday about its continued demands for information, and implied that the panel is grasping to make assertions based on theory rather than facts. He wrote:
While I understand your stated intent is to conduct the most comprehensive review of the attack and response, Congress has as much of an obligation as the executive branch to use federal resources and taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently. The DoD has spent millions of dollars on Benghazi-specific Congressional compliance, including reviews by four other committees, which have diligently reviewed the military’s response in particular. (DoD interviewees) have been asked repeatedly to speculate or engage in discussing hypotheticals on the record .This type of questioning poses the risk that your final report may be based on speculation rather than a fact-based analysis of what a military officer did do or could have done given his or her knowledge at the time of the attacks…
But Thug Congress critturs waved off the letter, saying it is “further proof the Benghazi Committee is conducting a thorough, fact-centred investigation.” The critturs have been seeking audiences (sic – RB) with a number of Pentagon boxtops, including some who flew drones over Libya the night of the attack. But they’ve faced pushback from the DoD. They have threatened it with subpoenas in hopes of getting swifter answers. The Pentagon said:
We are concerned by the continuous threats from your staff to subpoena witnesses because we are not able to move quickly enough.
But the committee’s unnamed spox said:
It’s unfortunate it took the threat of subpoenas for the Pentagon to make witnesses available earlier this year. This delayed the committee from learning a tremendous amount of new information from several witnesses, and when they refer the committee to others in the department, the responsible thing to do is to interview them. What is the DoD so afraid of? Why are they supposedly unable to find their own employees?
The letter details the Pentagon’s reluctance to fill a series of new requests that officials believe are unnecessary. Officials are asking the panel for a meeting to discuss them. In one example cited by the letter, the committee is seeking an audience with a man who posted on Facebook that he was a mechanic on an air base in Europe the night of the attack. He claimed that planes could have been deployed. The panel wants to talk to him, but the Pentagon says “those claims are easily dismissed by any one of the multiple high-level military officials already interviewed.” Dems on the panel, meanwhile, note that the man used the following hash-tag in his post, suggesting to them a political motivation: “#ifyouvoteforhillaryyouarebeyondstupid.” The panel also was seeking to talk to a man known as “John from Iowa” who claimed on the radio that he was a remotely piloted aircraft camera operator, and said he saw a feed of the attack. When the DoD said they couldn’t find him, the committee asked to talk to all such operators on the ground in the area that night, the letter says. The DoD considers that unnecessary. The letter also says the panel had sought to interview four pilots who would have been deployed the night of the attack but were not, only to drop that request. the Thugs say it shows their willingness to cooperate. They dropped the requests at DoD’s insistence, after they interviewed their commander instead. The Dems, meanwhile, pounced on the letter as further proof that the committee is wasting taxpayer dollars. They said a number of DoD boxtops whom they had recently asked to interview, including General Carter Ham, former second in command of AFRICOM, have already been questioned by other congressional panels looking into the Benghazi attacks. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s ranking member, said:
The DoD has a critical job to do, which is to keep our nation safe from those who would do us harm, but the Thugs continue to squander millions of taxpayer dollars chasing right-wing conspiracy theories and forcing Pentagon boxtops to waste their time on this partisan fishing expedition.