The House Select Committee on Benghazi says it will finally interview a European-based F-16 crew chief, who posted on Facebook that his unit’s jets were ready to respond to the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on American personnel and facilities at Benghazi, Libya.
Matt Wolking, the select committee’s press secretary, says the Pentagon’s relentless stalling did not stop the committee from releasing its proposed report Tuesday.
“The committee will not allow the Defense Department’s needless delays to stop it from interviewing a witness it sought to speak with several months ago. The committee’s proposed report can be updated with any new testimony when it is marked up and voted on,” he said. “Chairman Gowdy intends to release this and other witness interview transcripts once the administration clears them for public release.” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R.-S.C.) has led the committee, since it was established May 8, 2014.
The witness posted on his Facebook page: “I was an F-16 crewchief stationed [in Europe] when the attack happened. I was called into work, and we scrambled jets, armed and prepared them for an alert launch and then, we did nothing. … [W]e never got the order and did nothing.”
In February, the committee requested the Pentagon facilitate an interview with the airman, but DoD refused to cooperate. In fact, the Pentagon sent a letter to Gowdy dismissing the request as unnecessary because the committee had already spoken to his senior officers.
In a May 6 letter from Gowdy to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Gowdy dressed down the secretary for the Pentagon standing down from an effort to meet the committee’s requests for documents and witnesses.
In one case, cited by Gowdy in the letter, the committee requested in February to speak to the operators of the drones overwatching the Benghazi attacks. In March, after hearing no response from the Pentagon, the committee began to prepare subpoenas, which prompted the Pentagon to promise to fill the request. But, the drone operators did not meet with the committee until the last week of May.
The letter also called out to Carter the efforts of Stephen C. Hedger, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs. Hedger, a long-time aide for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.) and other Democrats. The former Army armor officer oversees all of the Pentagon’s relationship with Congress, including all Senate confirmations.
Gowdy wrote that Hedger’s cooperation with the Democrats on the Benghazi committee was “unbeftting the Department of Defense and the chief reason for the committee’s inability to complete its tasks quickly. “I, too, would have liked this investigation completed months ago. Yet, constant obstacles and barriers created by the executive branch—including the Department of Defense—have made that impossible.”