Is The Benghazi Investigation Still A ‘Witch Hunt’?

Suzanne Scholte President, Defense Forum Foundation; Seoul Peace Prize Laureate
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Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the Benghazi hearings a “witch hunt.” The Obama administration called the attacks an “old story.” Congressman Gerry Connolly said the congressional investigation is a “blatant exploitation of a tragedy” with “outrageous GOP charges” that a U.S. security team was held back from rescuing Ambassador Stevens.

Current Fox News reporting by Brett Baier and the new book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team, reveal that first responders — Kris Paronto, Mark Geist, and John Tiegen were held back from an immediate attempt to help those being attacked at the consulate for half an hour.

A CIA officer in Benghazi, who has still not been identified under CIA demands, ordered these contractors to “stand down.” These men, speaking live on Fox, were stationed at the nearby Benghazi CIA annex— Kris Paronto, Mark Geist, and John Tiegen — and said they and were ready to respond within five minutes of notice of the attack.

Paronto said people at the consulate called them saying, “we’re taking fire, we need you guys here, we need help,” but the CIA chief held them for 30 minutes. By that time it was too late. “Ambassador Stevens and Sean [Smith], yeah, they would still be alive, my gut is yes… I strongly believe if we’d left immediately, they’d still be alive today,” Paronto told Bret Baier.

Why are we finding out two years later rescuers were stopped from leaving and rescuing Ambassador Stevens?

Simply put, the Obama administration, Congressman Gerry Connolly, and their allies participated in a cover-up of executive malfeasance to affect the 2012 elections. They have continually done everything possible to stop the truth from coming out. Why were Paronto, Geist and Tiegen prevented from testifying before Congress? Why won’t the State Department and CIA admit why they were in Benghazi? Who at the State Department sent the executive stand-down order?

Americans deserve answers to these questions, as do the parents of those slain. Last September, Patricia Smith, the mother one of the fallen soldiers, said in a tearful testimony, “I’ve been ignored by the State Department. I’ve been told I was unimportant … no one from the government has gotten back to me to tell me anything … I want to know what happened to my son!”

Where was my opponent, Gerry Connolly, or the rest of the Committee’s Democrats while she was testifying? They had walked out of the room in an act of political showmanship. They did not take the time to hear this mother’s story and her plea for a better investigation.

Maybe if they had listened to Patricia Smith, we would not be sitting here, two years after the tragedy, still finding out new information from sources outside the government. Maybe if these politicians had stopped blocking the investigation for political reasons, she would have answers.

Gerry Connolly, Hillary Clinton and their allies should be ashamed and apologize to the families of the victims for their ridicule of ad for stonewalling the investigation — an investigation these families and all Americans still need.

Congress and the Select Committee should have an achievable goal: let’s not let another year pass before getting these answers to the parents and the American people. Two years has been two too many. Government officials have the answers, and Congress should use every tool possible to get the truth.

We absolutely must set aside partisan politics to tackle the very serious problems our country is facing. When an American ambassador is brutally murdered and Americans serving us abroad are killed in an attack on our consulate, we need to come together as Americans to make sure this never happens again.

Any member of Congress or member of the administration that had mocked this truth-finding investigation should be removed from office. We need leaders who put parents over politics and the truth over party tactics. This investigation should not be about politics on either side, but it can be about elections. We can achieve a better investigation by electing better leaders this fall who will make this effort a priority.

Suzanne Scholte is a globally awarded human rights advocate and a candidate for Congress in Northern Virginia’s 11th district.