Terror, Security, and Hillary 2016: Making Sense of the Benghazi Hearings
To Republicans, the deadly September 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was a huge, conscience-shocking security scandal, one that Democrats are shamelessly trying to cover up. To Democrats, the attack was the sort of tragedy that inevitably comes from practicing diplomacy in a dangerous world, one that Republicans are shamelessly exploiting for political gain. Those two views came no closer to agreement during a Wednesday House hearing on the subject.
The hearing by the Republican-led House Government Oversight & Reform Committee was not the first on the events surrounding the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. Hillary Clinton, who was running the State Department at the time of the attack, testified for hours back in January. But the story was given fresh dramatic life and new narrative details through the testimony of two self-described whistle blowers who had not previously spoken in public: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy of mission in Libya. Joining them was Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya, who had previously testified on the issue.
Virtually no one disputes the basic facts of that violent night, in which a group of militants stormed the compound and battled the Americans for hours. But the sharply different interpretations of why the attacks happened, and how the Obama administration responded, have left many people understandably confused. So has the way “Benghazi” has come to describe several different arguments related to the incident. Here’s a breakdown by TIME’s Washington staff of the key plot lines, and what we know about them: