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Benghazi: Witch Hunt or Valid Investigation?


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts to a question as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts to a question as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

This will not be the first time that Congress asks about the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

This is the eighth time Congress has probed the issue.

Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked on September 11, 2012. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the terrorist attack.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi says it is searching for answers to what happened that night. Was enough protection given to the Americans working in Libya? The committee’s work took a turn when it discovered that Hillary Clinton used a private server for her email when she was Secretary of State — something that is not illegal, but has been criticized as irregular.

A political cloud hangs over the hearings.

Commentators have filled the airwaves saying this could be a turning point for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. If she does well, it will help her. But if she stumbles under Republican questioning, it could damage her presidential chances.

Critics have questioned the time, money and motivation of the committee’s investigation.

Representative Adam Schiff is a Democrat from California, and serves on the committee. He told the New York Times that they have spent $4.5 million over 17 months. But, he said, they have not uncovered anything new about the Benghazi attacks.

PolitiFact found it “largely accurate” to say “there was no overt wrongdoing, just room for improvement” found by previous Congressional investigations.

The committee will ask about Ms. Clinton's emails. And whether or not she and the Obama administration did enough to protect U.S. personnel overseas.

Compared to other Congressional investigations, this is one of the longest. Longer than the Watergate investigation, that ended with President Richard Nixon resigning in 1974. Other investigations have included Iran-Contra, Black Hawk Down, and the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983.

Norman Ornstein is a long-time congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute. He says the attack on the Benghazi consulate is most like the one that killed 241 American service members in the Lebanon bombing.

“It was a disaster, a human disaster for the Reagan administration, and you didn’t get anywhere near the kind of look over and over again at what happened with the terrible human disaster that killed four Americans at Benghazi.”

Republicans have been accused of using this committee to target Ms. Clinton politically. Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed that in an interview.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee,” he said. “What are her (poll) numbers today?”

Ms. Clinton accused the committee of being partisan during the Democratic debate earlier this month:

“This committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee. It is a partisan vehicle as admitted by the House Republican Majority Leader, Mr. (Kevin) McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers, big surprise, and that is what they have attempted to do.”

Last week a Republican, who is not on the panel, said that the committee “was designed to go after” Ms. Clinton. And a former staffer said the committee was leading a political investigation. Republicans responded that he was just a disgruntled former employee.

Outgoing Speaker of the House -- Republican John Boehner -- denied the investigation is politically motivated. He said the committee is “about what happened before, during and after” the attack. He said Americans “deserve the truth about what happened, period.”

Congressman Trey Gowdy heads the committee. He told CBS News "Face the Nation" Sunday there was new information in the investigation. He said information in emails from Ambassador Chris Stevens shows that the ambassador repeatedly requested additional security from the State Department.

But Congressional expert Norman Ornstein says this is not an objective investigation. He calls it is “a political hit job.

“This is an investigation that may have begun with a legitimate goal of looking at Benghazi, and trying to find something that seven previous investigations had not found but it morphed very quickly into an attempt to do what Kevin McCarthy crowed what they had been able to do, which is to drive down Mrs. Clinton’s poll numbers.”

Mr. Ornstein warns that this could backfire against the Republicans. President Bill Clinton’s relationship with a White house intern led to an attempt to impeach him. But he survived politically. Now, he is one of Ms. Clinton’s most popular campaigners now.

I’m Anne Ball.

What's your opinion about the Benghazi hearings? Let us know in the Comments or on our Facebook page.

Anne Ball reported this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

probed --v. investigate

consulate -- n. the place or building in which a consul's duties are carried out

irregular -- adj. not even or balanced

motivation -- n. a reason to be eager to act

personnel -- n. staff, workers, employees, people who work together

poll -- n. public opinion surveys

disgruntled -- adj. unhappy

political hit job -- n. attacking someone for political reasons

morphed --v. to changed into something

crowed -- v. express pride

backfires -- v. a backward escape of energy or flames

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