Prosecutor of Muslim who Masterminded World Trade Center Attack Slams Chairman of Benghazi Select Committee

When it comes to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, there simply cannot be enough healthy skepticism. Those who optimistically assumed the appointment of Rep. Trey Gowdy as Chairman would ensure success are the ones who could use more. In addition to all of the concerns raised early on, the antennae of the man who successfully prosecuted the “Blind Sheikh” for his role in the first World Trade Center attack are now going up too.

Benghazi Chairman Gowdy criticized by seasoned prosecutor.

Benghazi Chairman Gowdy criticized by seasoned prosecutor.

Shortly after the House Select Committee on Benghazi was announced in May, reported on the red flags raised by the hiring of Philip Kiko as the Committee’s Executive Director. Such an appointment came with conflicts of interest that compromised the process. As reported, another conflict of interest could involve the appointment of Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman as chief counsel. The extent of his relationship with Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey – who had a role in the military response to Benghazi – should be thoroughly vetted.

Now, in an article at National Review Andy McCarthy provides additional cause for concern. In particular, he’s critical of Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), both for how slow the process appears to be moving as well as Gowdy’s performance at the first open hearing more than four months after the committee’s formation was announced (the next one isn’t expected until December):

It was the day’s most dramatic exchange: Representative Gowdy was questioning Secretary Starr. The chairman had expertly set the stage by adducing Starr’s agreement that diplomatic security in dangerous places is a cost-benefit analysis. That is, the degree of risk tolerated depends on the government’s calculation of the benefit derived from whatever mission requires an American presence. With his witness thus cornered, Gowdy pounced: There being no more perilous place on the planet for Americans than the jihadist hornet’s nest of Benghazi, he asked Starr,

“We know the risk of being in Benghazi. Can you tell us what our policy was in Libya that overcame those risks? In other words, why were we there?”

Starr tried to dance away, going into a speech about how such questions “have been fundamental to the Department for over thirty years,” and that there have thus been evacuations, removal of family members, reductions of personnel, etc. Gowdy, however, would have none of it — after all, none of the measures Starr listed was taken in Benghazi. So again, the chairman demanded,

“We know the risk in Benghazi. My colleagues and you and others have done a wonderful job of highlighting some of the “trip wires” — I think [that] is the diplomatic term. What policy were we pursuing in Libya that was so great that it overcame all of the trip wires?”

After some hesitation, Secretary Starr meekly replied: “Not being here at the time, sir, I cannot answer that question for you.”


Starr’s job is diplomatic security and, as he conceded, it cannot be done without knowing the administration’s policy objectives. Regardless of what his responsibilities were when the Benghazi massacre occurred, he cannot responsibly do his current job without knowing what the government’s policy was at the time. Libya has been steadily disintegrating ever since the attack — in fact, our embassy in Tripoli recently had to be evacuated just before being stormed and taken over by jihadists. It is inconceivable that Starr does not know what the Libya policy was.

But that is just half the equation. When a knowledgeable witness refuses to answer a critical question, the interrogator does not just let him off the hook. The witness gets grilled: Isn’t it a fact that the policy was X?

Gowdy did not grill Starr. And Gowdy — the chairman who has access to the intelligence the committee has been gathering for five months, the accomplished prosecutor who is not fool enough to ask a key question to which he did not know the answer — did not fill in the information gap. He abruptly ended the hearing, content to leave the policy shrouded in mystery.

Of course, the question Gowdy could have asked at that point is one similar to what Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) asked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing early last year, when Paul wanted to know if the U.S. was involved in transferring weapons out of Libya. Applying it to Gowdy, he should have said something to Starr like:

“Is it true that the policy in Benghazi was to procure and transfer weapons to Turkey and then onto Syria?”

That Gowdy did not do so is yet another red flag in the process.

While Gowdy has clearly demonstrated his bonafides as an extremely skilled and courageous prosecutor, climbing the Benghazi truth mountain is a major league test. Yes, he’s been a stellar prosecutor and if any member of Congress can climb that mountain, he’s the best choice. Unfortunately, doing so requires him to go after his own party – hard.

In particular, as has reported, the best way for Gowdy to demonstrate both non-partisanship and a sincere desire to get to the truth, he would depose the outgoing chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and the outgoing ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

For that matter, it would also require Gowdy to depose the man who appointed him as Chairman – Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). This past June, reported on a FOIA lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch that demand records of briefings about Benghazi issued to eight members of Congress, four of which were the Republicans listed above and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

True Bi-partisanship from Gowdy would involve deposing Republicans Mike Rogers and John Boehner.

True Bi-partisanship from Gowdy would involve deposing Republicans Mike Rogers and John Boehner (photo via flickr)

The eight members named in the FOIA appear to be the same eight members identified in a bombshell report by Seymour Hersh, published in April of this year. In his report, Hersh alleges that in early 2012, then CIA Director David Petraeus (someone else Gowdy should depose) ran the logistics of a weapons trafficking operation out of Benghazi. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are alleged to have provided the funding. When the Benghazi attacks happened in September, the ‘rat line’ of weapons leaving the CIA Annex in Benghazi and ultimately to Syria, stopped, which greatly angered Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Based on Hersh’s piece, the eight members of Congress were made aware of this.

As chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees respectively, Rogers and Chambliss are both resigning after their terms end this year. Is this not curious? In particular, Chambliss’s resignation is very much so. If Republicans gain the majority in the Senate, Chambliss would be poised to become chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Gowdy has successfully positioned himself as a tough congressman who places lady justice ahead of partisan politics. If he truly means that, he will be deposing Republican members of Congress.

Being non-partisan should not mean playing nice with the other side; that’s Senator John McCain’s definition. Sometimes, the best way to demonstrate bi-partisanship is to hold your own accountable as well as the other side. Doing the former first would be a great place to start because it would neutralize subsequent cries of partisanship from the other side.

To this point, Gowdy has not chosen that course.


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