A group of 700 former special operations troops has called on Congress to create a special committee to investigate the Obama administration’s handling of the terrorist attack on diplomatic and intelligence posts in Benghazi.
The commandos specifically want a House Select Committee created to find out why the U.S. military did not come to the rescue of Americans who were attacked. Four Americans were killed and many others wounded in the attack by an al Qaeda-linked group called Ansar al-Sharia.
"It is essential that a full accounting of the events of Sept. 11, 2012, be provided and that the American public be fully informed regarding this egregious terrorist attack on U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities," the commandos said in a letter to Congress organized by retired Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a former Delta Force commander and Pentagon special operations policymaker during the George W. Bush administration.
"We owe that truth to the American people and the families of the fallen."
The commandos stated that Benghazi was "the most severe attack on American diplomatic facilities and personnel since the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998."
"Thus far, it appears that there has been no serious effort to determine critical details of this attack," they stated. "This is inexcusable and demands immediate attention by the Congress. Congress must show some leadership and provide answers to the public as to what actually occurred in Benghazi. Americans have a right to demand a full accounting on this issue."
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the speaker has said he trusts the current committees investigating the affair to "do their work on this issue."
Several other House leaders did not respond to emails seeking comment on the call for the special committee.
The Obama administration initially claimed—falsely—that the attack that took place weeks before the presidential election was the result of a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video. For several weeks, senior officials refused to recognize the deadly killings as a terrorist attack.
The letter said the administration violated "a longstanding American ethos" in failing to provide adequate security for Americans deployed in a dangerous zone and then failed to respond when they were attacked.
"Clearly, this is unacceptable and requires accountability," they said. "America has always held to the notion that no American will be left behind and that every effort will be made to respond when U.S. personnel are threatened."
Based on their background of combat and special operations service, "we are concerned that this sends a very negative message to future military and diplomatic personnel who may be deployed into dangerous environments," the letter said.
"That message is that they will be left to their own devices when attacked. That is an unacceptable message," the letter said.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) has said a special panel with subpoena power is needed to get answers. He has accused the administration of covering up the scandal.
A White House spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the letter.
Thirty-three survivors of the attack have been prevented from speaking publicly about the attack, according to published reports.
Pentagon officials in February blamed poor intelligence for not sending military forces to Benghazi.
"There was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack on that—the U.S. facilities in Benghazi," then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Senate committee. "And frankly, without an adequate warning, there was not enough time, given the speed of the attack, for armed military assets to respond."
An August 2012 cable sent to the State Department from U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens warned that Islamist militias threatened diplomatic facilities in Libya. Stevens was killed during the Benghazi attack, along with three others, including two former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
U.S. officials with access to intelligence said the administration deliberately politicized the incident by playing down the terrorist nature of the attack. They said the politicization was based on covering up an al Qaeda terror attack after Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention, in which he said al Qaeda was on the path to defeat.
Obama has been criticized for mishandling the response to the attack. He was informed about the Sept. 11 attack as it took place but passed off responsibility to Panetta. The president on Sept. 12 then traveled to Nevada to attend a fundraising event in Las Vegas.
The president’s claim about the decline of al Qaeda was contradicted by numerous intelligence reports circulating within the government at the time indicating that al Qaeda terrorists were systematically moving into Libya, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa.
"We ask that you fulfill your responsibilities to the American people and take appropriate action regarding Benghazi," the letter to Congress said. "With over sixty members of the U.S. House of Representatives calling for this select committee already, it seems that the time is right to take appropriate action on Benghazi."
According to the letter, unanswered questions about the attack that a select congressional panel needs to answer include whether military forces were in the region and whether they were alerted, and if military aid was requested by the State Department during the attack.
The panel also should answer what recommendations for military action the Pentagon and the Stuttgart-based U.S. Africa Command made.
The panel should question attack survivors and ask who was in charge of the White House situation room during the eight-hour attack and whether a senior U.S. military officer was present.
The panel also should inquire about the roles played by White House officials Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser; Counterterrorism coordinator John Brennan, now CIA director, and presidential assistant Valerie Jarrett.
In addition to Boykin, the letter was signed by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Leroy J. Manor, who commanded the 1970 raid on Son Tay prison in Vietnam that sought to rescue U.S. prisoners of war, who had been moved to another camp prior to the raid.
Other signers included the Medal of Honor recipients and retired SEALs Lt. Thomas Norris, and Lt. Michael Thornton.
Retired Navy Capt. Larry W. Bailey and retired Air Force Col. Dick Brauer, both founders of the group Special Operations Speaks that sponsored the letter, were signers as well.
The letter includes 20 pages of signatures from special operations retirees, many of them senior officers.