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tv   Benghazi Consulate Attack and Diplomatic Security  CSPAN  January 27, 2015 10:30am-12:31pm EST

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and again, here we're looking at congressman trey gowdy of south carolina chair of the select committee on benghazi. also with him the ranking member elijah cummings of maryland. they're going to be hearing this morning from the state department and the cia about some of the delays in the committee's request for documents and access to witnesses. >> this is the third hearing on the benghazi committee. the committee will come to order. the chair notes a quorum of two members for taking testimony as present. the chair will further note -- well, before i note that, -- consistent with rules and practices of the house without
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action well, that point has now been rendered moot. so, you have been reappointed to the committee. and all members can participate fully. okay. okay. all right. the chair will recognize himself and then the ranking member for purposes of making an opening statement. the committee on benghazi exists because the house of representatives voted for it to exist. and in the process made it very clear what is expected. if you have not read the house resolution authorizing this committee, i would encourage you to do so pop. for those asking for a road map or a scope of the investigation or want to know what the committee intends to do the resolution passed by the house of representatives i hasten to add, with seven democrats voting yes, answers all of those
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questions. the resolution asks this committee to investigate all policies decisions, and activities related to the attacks, the preparation before the attacks, the response during the attacks, efforts to repel the attacks, the administration's response after the attacks, and executive branch efforts to comply with congressional inquiries. the operative word in the resolution is the word all. and the word all is about as comprehensive a word as you could use. so it stands to reason if you're asked to conduct a full and complete investigation into all policies decisions and activities, you need to access all witnesses and all relevant documents. because the final task assigned to this committee is to write a comprehensive report complete with recommendations on how to prevent future attacks. and to write a comprehensive report, you need access to all witnesses, and all relevant documents.
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it is essential we talk to every witness with knowledge and examine all relevant evidence. if six people witness an important event you cannot credibly report on that event by examining one out of the six. frankly, you can't credibly report on that event by interviewing two out of the six. each witnesses aa different perspective, each witness may have observed a different fact. each witness has a different vantage point. so to do your job, you have to interview all witnesses. so, too with documents. it is interesting but not relevant, to note the number of pages agencies produced to congress. what is both interesting and relevant is whether the agency has produced all documents responsive to the request. giving congress 10,000 pages of material out of a universe of 10,000 pages of material is good. giving congress 10,000 pages of
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material out of a universe of 100,000 pages of material does not get us any closer to issuing a final report in a timely fashion. and make no mistake, time is of the essence. the world is not a safer place, as some of you may have noted even this morning. it is not safer than it was in 2012, so the sooner we make recommendations related to the improvements that make lives better for the women and men who serve us abroad, the better. moreover, time does not make investigations or witness recollections, or memories, or evidence better, either. the purpose of today's hearing is to hear from some agencies and entities about the state of compliance with request for documents and access to witnesses and we have had some success. the state department provided the committee with 25,000 pages of documents. previously provided to the oversight committee, but now with fewer redactions.
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in addition this production included, finally, 15,000 new pages of documents. these documents include significantly more traffic from state department leadership than in previously provided information to congress. these new documents are a reminder that no previous standing committee compiled or had access to a complete record of events. which is precisely why the speaker constituted a select committee. to produce a complete definitive record for our fellow citizens. additionally as of recent the cia made available some of the documents we requested in november. and while it is good to finally receive the new documents, the pace at which this process is moving is not conducive to the committee concluding its work expeditiously, and frankly, it should not take a public hearing to make progress on these requests.
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our hearing should be about substance, not process. we should be analyzing documents, not waiting for them to appear. i want to read a quote. i can promise you that if you're not getting something you have evidence of or you think you ought to be getting we will work with you, and i will appoint someone to work directly with you starting tomorrow. with you, mr. chairman, to have a review of anything you don't think you've gotten that you're supposed to get. let's get this done, folks. that was secretary john kerry. and that was in april of 2013. so my objective is simple. i want to be able to look the family members of the four murdered americans in the eye and tell them we found out everything that we could. i want to be able to tell my
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fellow citizens including the man from oregon who sat beside me on the plane yesterday who used to guard facilities across the world as a marine, that we made improvements that make women and men who serve us in dangerous places safer. and i want to be able to look my fellow citizens in the eye regardless of their political ideation, and say, this is what happened, and this is how we can make sure it does not happen again. so there will be no mystery to my questions today. there will be no trickery and no art fis. i want to know when the agencies are going to comply with the request made by this committee so we could finish the work assigned to us because i have zero interest in prolonging the work of this committee. and by the same token i have zero interest in producing a product that is incomplete. so in conclusion i want to be as clear as i can possibly be. we intend to access all of the information necessary to do the job the house instructed us to do. and we need to access that information now. talking to only some of the
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witnesses will not work. and accessing only some of the documents will not work. if you want all of the truth then you need all of the information and we will do it in a respectful way worthy of the memory of the four who were murdered and worthy of the respect of our fellow citizens. but it is going to be done, and the sooner the agencies make these documents and witnesses available to us the sooner we can do what we were asked to do pop with that i would recognize the gentleman from maryland. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i agree with you that we need to have all the information. we need to have all the documents. we need to have everything that you just talked about sooner rather than later. mr. chairman and my fellow committee members i'm a bit saddened to report today that there are major, major problems
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with this committee's work. democratic members have grave concerns about the partisan path this committee has taken over the past year a path we believe undermines the credibility of the investigation itself. and the very things the chairman just said he's fighting for to make sure we come up with a credible report. we spent months trying to resolve these problem ss privately. but we can no longer remain silent. when the committee was established last may many questioned whether it was devolve into unseemly partisanship. many worried that it would become a repeat of the oversight and government reform committee. where ridiculous allegations were made with no evidence, no evidence to back them up.
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excerpts of documents were leaked out of context. to promote false political narratives. and democrats were cut out of the investigative process. i know because i was a ranking member and i was cut out over and over and over again. in response, chairman gowdy assured the families of chris stevens, shawn smith, ty woods and glen doherty that this investigation would honor their loved ones by being bipartisan. fair, and based on the facts. one of the things that i said to the father of tyrone woods is that i would do everything in my power to seek the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. so help me god.
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the chairman said that he would transcend politics, and that's a quote. he stated these words and they meant so much when he said them. he said, if we engage in a process that is not fair according to the american people, we will be pun fshed as we should be for that. end of quote. unfortunately, since then democrats have been excluded from core components of this investigation. people may find it difficult to believe but eight months into this investigation democrats and republicans on this committee have not spoken jointly with even a single witness. instead, we were stunned to discover that the chairman and the staff have interviewed at least five individuals on their
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own without including democrats or even notifying us. we learned about these interviews from the witnesses themselves, and from press accounts, not from our republican colleagues. even worse, when our staff inquired about some of these interviews, republicans downplayed their significance. they said these interviews were not important, that one of them said nothing, quote, of note. and that the committee did not plan to use them. but when we spoke to these witnesses we got a different story. they share key facts that undermine allegations the committee is investigating. let me repeat that. when democrats had a chance to interview some of these individuals, they provided
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factual information that challenge allegations these committee is investigating. rather than bringing this information forward when the committee first obtained it the information was --. the chairman's right. we need all the facts. facts that may not be consistent with some of the things that we're hearing. because the families of those four americans deserve that and the american people deserve it. the truth, the whole truth, and nothing put the truth. these are not actions of a bipartisan investigation. to have secret meetings and witnesses. the way to honor the four americans killed in benghazi is to seek the truth, not to ignore the facts. to contradict frequency political narrative.
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a skredible investigation recognizes the importance of collecting these facts and putting to rest false allegations, rather than allowing them to fester. to try to address these problems we asked the chairman to hold a vote on basic committee rules. just want some rules. we wanted to ensure that all members both republicans and democrats, and i emphasize that, both republicans and democrats could participate fully in the investigation and would no longer be excluded. some may recall that our hearing in december was delayed because democrats were meeting with the chairman beforehand to discuss these problems. as a matter of fact, there were some of our republican colleagues that had drifted into that meeting. following that meeting the chairman promised that we would hold a vote on the committee rules.
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we even met with the speaker and he gave his blessings. but no vote has been held. what is so disappointing is that this has been going on for months. we wrote private letters to the chairman laying out these problems in detail. hoping to resolve them. we explained that this will not be a credible, fair and factual investigation until the committee holds joint meetings, interviews, and discussions with potential witnesses, and includes all members in key aspects of our work. that is not an unreasonable request. in fact, it is exactly how several other committees currently operate, such as the house armed services committee. and those -- there are those who will say that well maybe it's not in their rules. well, house armed services
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apparently has not decided to move to common ground. they decided to move to higher ground. but today after eight months we still have no committee rules, so we have no choice but to make these letters public. as we explained last may when we agreed to join the committee we need someone in the room simply to defend the truth. but we cannot defend the truth if republicans lock us out. until this changes the committee will be viewed as nothing more than yet another partisan expensive and time-consuming campaign to continue politicizing this terrible tragedy. finally, mr. chairman, let me say a few words about today's hearing. many people are concerned about the face of this committee's investigation. but rather than blaming federal agencies we should acknowledge that the reason for the delay lies in the committee's own actions. the fact is that the committee waited six months before sending its first request for new documents. six months.
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it took the committee almost a month longer to request witness interviews from the state department. and even now eight months into the investigation the committee still has not sent a document request to the department of defense, and has yet to request a single witness interview from the cia. although i continue to believe that the best way forward for our committee is to reach agreement on a truly bipartisan approach, i can no longer say that i am optimistic that this will happen. nevertheless, our door is always open and we will always be willing to sit down in the pursuit of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. with that i yield back. >> mr. rubin you are recognized for your five-minute opening statement. >> thank you chairman gowdy ranking member cummings and distinguished members of the committee. it's an honor to be with you and thank you for providing me with
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the opportunity to give testimony to your committee this morning. my name is joel rubin, and i'm the deputy assistant secretary of state for house affairs in the department's legislative affairs bureau. in this role, i serve as the department's chief liaison to the house. responsible for ensuring that the multitude of foreign policy issues that the house cares about, from fighting terrorism, to preventing a nuclear iran, to expanding our economic alliances in asia to supporting your constituents when they travel overseas, are dealt with both efficiently and effectively. i've served in the federal government for more than a decade including bethesda hill staffer and as a civil servant in the state department during the bush administration. i work closely with committees and leadership in the house on a daily basis ensuring that the department's relationships and communications with the house are strong, and that's why i'm here before you today. as you know, the state department has a strong record of cooperation with your committee. something which we're proud of and something that you yourself
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recently acknowledged, mr. chairman. statements for which we're grateful. this is consistent with our work prior to this committee's formation. as the department has provided nearly two years of steady cooperation with congress on benghazi by responding to requests from ten committees, through hearings with several officials, including former secretary clinton, and by providing more than 20 witness interviews, and more than 55 congressional briefings, in addition to responding to hundreds of congressional inquiries. since the formation of this committee in may of last year we provided four briefings and witnesses for two more hearings plus today's. and usually we have produced more than 40,000 pages of documents related to the tragic benghazi attacks all of which are in the hands of your committee today. since our most recent conversation with the committee last month about its pop priorities, the department has been hard at work on implementing your most recent requests for documents, and interviews. our progress has been slowed somewhat by the holidays and the briefing we provided to you on january 13th.
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but also by the breadth and time span of the document request itself. nonetheless, we will begin producing documents soon to the committee to meet this request. to put it bluntly, your priorities are our priorities. priorities are our priorities. therefore, in addition to the priority documents we will be providing soon we look forward the continuing to work with your staff to ensure that your requested interviews can proceed. so long as they do not jeopardize the department of justice's investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of the benghazi attacks. it's important to remember that from a management perspective, we cannot respond to every request for a hearing a briefing, documents or interviews sim ulultaneoussimultaneously but we can and will prioritize our resources to address each request in the order you identify as most important to you as the committee did in december. turn ing turning to your december
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requests for interviews, the staff informed us that up to 22 names requested, the committee's priority was to interview the diplomatic security agents who served during the attacks. we understand the committee's interest in interviewing these agents and i'm sure the committee does not want to take action that would create risks to their personal safety or ability to do their jobs. we have concerns that the requested interviews will pose preceasely such risks. we want to avoid interfering with the department of justice's ongoing investigations. as a result, we have been in ongoing negotiations since december with your staff counsel for the agents and the department of justice to try to find a way that accommodates your request without endangering these men and their families without negatively impacting national security, without harming the investigation and perpetrators of the attacks. we're hopeful an accommodation can be reached. in closing, we are proud of the steady progress we have made on
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the committee's document and interview requests. we are graeft to the committee and staff for your -- and we look forward to working with the community on its most recent interview requests of which you will be seeing additional responses in the near future. thank you and i look forward to the committee's questions. >> mr. higgins, chairman ranking member and the committee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the continuing cooperation with the committee's investigation. i apologize in advance for my cough. since the creation, ci has envoyed a productive dialogue with the staff. since last june, cia has secured the work space granted access to sensitive information and committee staff, reviewed roughly 40,000 pages of state department documents for equities and through the
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director of national intelligence, provided documents relating to libya during the period in question. last friday, cia began production of more than 1,000 sensitive documents. i understand staff will begin reviewing those tomorrow. current and former officer, we will work with the committee to respond to such requests in a timely fashion. working with classified information and an interview -- we are committed to providing the committee with information you need while safeguarding sbel is jensen, sources and methods. we look forward to continuing our dialogue in the week ahead and i look forward to your questions today. >> chair now recognizes himself for questions. mr. reuben, have you read the house resolution? >> yes, sir, i have.
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the question's been asked to review the incidents related to the benghazi attacks in all of the, as you described in the as expects. >> so your understanding is that we have been asked to look at all policies, decisions and activities that contributed to the attack? >> that affected our able thety to prepare for the attack. but if that's the ultimately t the decision -- >> you've read it you're not disagreeing with my interpretation of the resolution. >> we defer to the committee's -- >> including branch efforts to identify and bring justice to perpetrators of the attacks. did you read that in the resolution? >> sir, i don't have it in front, so i can't put it. >> i'll be thrilled to get you a copy of the resolution, but in the meantime, you're just going to have to take my word that it says executive branch efforts to identify and bring to justice
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the perpetrators of these attacks chlts that's in the resolution k. you tell me specifically how our interviewing witnesses is going to jeopardize the prosecution? >> sir, the department of justice has been clear with -- >> i'm asking you. it was in your opening statement. you tell me a former prosecutor, how our interviewing witnesses that have already been interviewed by a arb, the best practices panel and frankly, already been interviewed by the state department. the video you showed us last week that agent interviewed the witnesses in preparation for the video, so if the arb and best practices panel and your own agency can interview people in preparation of a training video how can congress not interview those witnesses? >> sir no one has said -- >> you just said it would jeopardize an ongoing prosecution and i asked you specifically, how. >> my understanding is that our
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colleagues at the department of justice have been in touch -- >> specifically, who told you that? >> my colleagues within the state department -- >> i'm looking for a maim. i've got to clear up this misconception that simply talking to a witness who's talked to three other investigatory bodies that somehow or another congress cannot talk to these witnesses even though apparently, everybody else can. i'm curious how that jeopardizes an ongoing prosecution. >> sir i'm not an attorney, i'm not a prosecutor. what i am is the chief liaison from the house to the state department. the justice department has told us this could have an impact and would like to have a conversation with you and your committee about that. >> do you believe that congress has the constitutional authority to provide oversight? >> every day i do that with my job, yes, sir. >> so, you do agree. what is your interpretation of the phrase all policies,
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decisions and activities? >> in what context? >> in any context. how about contributed to the attacks? what is your understanding of all policies all decisions, all activities? >> the approach we're taking is to provide materials to the committee at the direction of the community. i explained that the justice department has said they would like to have conversations with the committee. not on another single solitary thing, agrees we don't want to do anything to jeopardytize the physical security of anybody who works for this government nor does anybody on this dice want to do anything to yep diaz an ongoing prosecution. can we stipulate that?
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>> certainly. >> will you always stipulate you can talk to witnesses while preserving their identity and not jeopardizing an ongoing -- >> i am confident those modalities can be discussed. >> mr. reuben, do you see the justice department at this hearing? >> no sir. >> do you know why? sfwl no >> no, sir. >> because we don't have any issues with them. that's why they're not here. you just cited a reason to deny access to witnesses that even the justice department has cited. so what i want you to do is help this committee gain access to precisely the same witnesses that everyone else from the arb to the best practices panel to your own agent who compiled a train ing training video had access to the witnesses. >> sir, as i said my opening statement, we are happy to have
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the con verversation with you and your taf on how to engage on this and that is something we're open to. we have never said no. >> well and appreciate that. i appreciate that. but i want to make sure you and i have a clear understanding with each other. it's six people observed an important event and you were being asked to write a final definitive accounting of that event, how many of the six would you want to talk to? >> sir, i understand -- >> that's not a trick question. >> i know. and i understand the point and this is why we are -- >> if you understand the point -- >> this is why we provided the documents and worked in cleenlgal -- >> we're going to get to the quantity documents in a minute. i notice you said 40,000. that's an impressive number. that's 40 copies of -- crime and punishment. that's a lot of pages. 40,000 out of how many? that's our question. how many documents? is 40,000 half? is it all?
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two-thirds? >> we have made a comprehensive search and as you know, the state department spans 275 missions overseas. 70,000 -- >> i'm not asking you to bring any ambassadors back. i'm not asking you to bring any ambassadors back to search for e-mails. i'm not. not a single one. how many employees does the state department have? >> roughly 70,000. >> 70,000? >> correct. >> and we have asked for e-mails from seven floor principles. do you think that is a reasonable question when b you have been asked to study all policies activities and decisions? >> in your committee's december letter where it named principles, at first, many, if not all of those, there are e-mails, documents related to them in that 40,000. in addition, you and your -- >> is it your testimony that we have all of the e-mails we've asked for? >> former secretary clinton's
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e-mails and that is our priority. >> well, i would say multiple e-mails. if there are multiple accounts, we want all of the e-mails. >> and we agree and we are as i say -- >> well, you may have noticed by colleague from maryland used the word glibl. i find the ice of that word interesting when you vote against constituting a committee, when you threaten not to participate in the committee. when you continuely threaten to walk away from the committee. when you can't identify a single solitary person you would issue a subpoena to. when you are prepared to have an ask and answered website before you got the pages of documents you provided. when you expect members of congress have been con verversations on airplanes and stop the conversation and say, let me go get a democrat. you've heard the word, glabl. we're going pick up the pace. i have no interest in prolonging this. none. >> sir -- >> you're going to have to pick up the pace with us, okay?
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>> absolutely and this is why we were here today. we have made two witnesses available since the fall of last year. we are prepared at any time, proactively as you -- >> i appreciate that. are you familiar with the subpoena that dates back to 2013, the oversight committee sent with respect to the arb. >> yes. >> it is a stat torre -- do you agree congress can amend or at alter? congress can change itd, right? you agree congress should provide oversight over one of its stat torre creations. how can we do that if you won't give us the documents? >> sir first of the 40,000 pages of documents that the committee has received, many of those are in fact related to the arb. >> i appreciate, i really do. i really do. i appreciate the word many, i
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appreciate the 40000. i keep coming back to one word that's in the house resolution. and that word is all. >> sir -- >> do we have all of the documents? >> what we have communicated to you and to your staff and what we've been grateful for is the committee's explanation of its top priorities and we would be very honored to continue to have this discussions if the arb as you've noted here, becomes the top priority, that is certainly -- >> we shouldn't have to -- you have 70,000 employees. what we're not going to do is identify one trauchb of e-mails then two months later, go depose or do an interview and then get an traumpbl of e-mails when our colleagues on the other side, who had no interest in forming this committee that are now ironically complaining about the
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pace of the committee they had no interest in forming whatsoever, it's time for us to pick up the pace and i'm look ing to you to help me do that. >> and that's why we're here and that's why we have continuely engaged proactively with you and your committee and we're happy to do so. the 70,000 employees are engaged in their jobs. >> appreciate that. i don't want any ambassadors, security guards i don't want anybody taken off of an important job. but compliance with congressional inquiryies is important and if you have time for culinary diplomacy, i think you have time to comply with a legitimate request for documents with congress and i'm sure you agree. with that, i would recognize the gentleman from maryland. >> hi, mr. smith. >> thank you, mr. chairman. try something different here. i'm going to let you get a
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complete sentence out so we can hopefully listen to some information. the first document request this committee sent out was on the 14th. sorry, my math's a little off between may and november. that's five or six months before the committee made a document request. now, the chairman would have everybody believe they've been begging for documents since day one and you've been stone walling them, but fact number one, from may to november, there were no document requests from this committee. okay. if we're not interested in dragging it out, that just boggles the mind, that you wouldn't make a document request. now, putting aside for the moment there had been nine separate investigations and gosh i don't know if anyone could count up the number of document requests that you have received from those nine separate investigations or the nine you have provided, but the reason democrats in this
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committee are concerned about the glabl pace is is that's the long time to wait for a document request if you're in a big hurry. the second interesting thing about the back and forth right there, as far as i can tell, you have not said no to any requests to interview a witness, is that not correct? >> that is correct. >> let's just be clear about this this stone walling effort the chairman described. includes a situation where you have never said no. to an interview request and the questions have been relatively slow and coming, so, maybe we will get to the point where you do say no. you were making the legal point and i'm ranking member of the armed services committee and we've been through this with investigations before, where the justice department gets a little queasy when someone else wants to interview a witness. as a former prosecutor, i know he would have felt the same way.
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you always get nervous, but doesn't mean you don't do it. i just want the record to be very, very clear here, the state department has not said no. if they do then we can have a conversation about it. the republicanason the committee is moving slowly, there may come a time when you are being uncooperative and we can have that conversation. we ain't there yet. these are the issues that give us concern. why was this committee formed in the first place? now, one of the things i really want to make clear for mr. goudy is he's never going to get every single question answered and he's never going to get every single document. i have not yet encountered the event in human history where every question gets answered.
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if you interview all those you can't figure out how to reconcile them. we are not going the get every question answered and to lay that out to the families involved that somehow, we're going to answer every question that no other committee has ever been able to answer every question i think is unfair. that's not what we're doing. we have nine separate investigations that have been done. so what the democrats are concerned about on this committee is whether or not this committee has a clear purpose. o okay? or is that purpose purely political and partisan. because the other thing i'm readily going to admit is that benghazi was an awful incident in our nation's history. and the people who are in charge when it happened, they've got to feel very very bad about it happening. it is the nature of being the
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president. that bad things happen on your watch. when george bush was president, 9/11 happened. bill clinton, somalia. 18 dead americans. when reagan was president, we had two suicide bombings in beirut. jimmy carter and the ran hostage crisis. there is no question that benghazi is a bad, bad incident in the obama administration. it has always been my suspicious that the purpose of this is to focus on that bad incident as much possible for partisan and political reasons. said, okay, let's see. formed may, no document requests. until november 18th or in january, we don't have a vote on the rules. we get occasionally a loose timeline for an interview that seems to want to drag it out as close to 2016 as possible. if we want to offer to these
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families, let's do a realistic investigation and then we have the final fact. i'm sorry mr. chairman it is not just people you ran into on an airplane and didn't tell us. there were specific witnesses interviewed and they didn't tell the democrats and in a couple of those instances, those witnesses contradicted the information the swrort was speaking. again, information not provided to us. he was chair and we've had our disagreements, but it's never been anything like that where evidence on the other side, we just sort of exclude from the minority party. if we want to change that and actual start trying to work together, that would be wonderful, but as our ranking member pointed out, after we raise these issues, interviews
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witnesses and not telling democrats, not only was it a change, you're attempting to write it into the rules of the committee that it would be permissible. a slow pace of this. we started in may. had our first document request in november. interviewing witnesses. all of this points to a goal and objective of this committee that doesn't have much to do with finding out the truth and doesn't have much to do with preventing future attacks. now, i hope we get better, but wa i just witnessed between the chairman and mr. reuben here, trying to make it look like they're being stone walled when you're not, hardly encourages me. again, i'll just conclude and emp fizing the fact that mr. reuben said they have not said no and i agree with mr. goudy. as members of congress, we're constantly bumping heads.
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you get to the point where you say no then maybe we'll have an argument, but you haven't said no. the documents, you're trying to generate. the document request as i understand it, included a request for two years worth of information from i don't know, 14 different people. all around libya. that was a heck of a lot of information to find good luck finding it and i see no evidence that either of these gentlemen not doing their best to find it and provide it. i don't know if you're going to find everything, but it is clear that there is tho stone walling effort here. that the reason we've moved so slow is because the decisions made by the committee. i tend to be more impatient than our ranking member. that's why he's got the top job. he's better at it. for me, when i learned about all
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this stuff, what's the point, what are we doing here. if the committee will now begin to include us in these things, stop accusing them of stone walling when they're not and pick up the pace a little bit. i guess it is still possible this committee could -- yes, we have all red what the majority voted for. they want everything and you know, it's going to take tim to get everything i would imagine. but the mere fact that the house of representatives controlleded by the republican voted congress, doesn't change the possibility it's more of a partisan political investigation than a legitimate effort to find the truth. number one, it's got to be bipartisan.
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some will be interviewed to attempt to establish a line of well you know, an argument and it turned out that point is is directly contradict t and then you don't tell the other side he's pointed out he's a prosecutor. you do that in open court you get a piece of information like that, you don't provide it to the other side as a prosecutor or defense lawyer, you go to jail. all right? violation of the laws of court. i would hope that congress would at least live up to that, so i sincerely hope we would do better. i don't envy your job, but i hope you will provide them and provide what this committee asks for when they get around to asking for it. i yield back. >> chair will now recognize the gentlelady from alabama. >> mr. reuben i hope you thank
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mr. -- after the hearing for giving you a little bit of a break. i'm going to ask you a series of questions now to follow up with the chairman about the processes. we keep talking about this 40,000 documents, i want to get a better perspective from you. is that the universe of documents? is that your position that 40,000 is it? or is 40,000 one quarter or one-half? can you give us an idea of what this universe of documents looks like like? >> thank you, ma'am. the 40,000 is the accumulation of two plus years of searching, of gathering of documents from across the entire state department. we have provided these, we provided -- >> right. i'm trying to get an idea of in the entire universe of documents that we have yet to receive, does mr. gaudy's we are looking for all what portion of that do
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the 40,000 because 40,000 is is a lot of documents, so where does that fit? >> it's 40,000 pages of documents, i said 40,000 documents, i meant to say 40,000 pages of documents. that is a significant amount. that is what we have found. what we have searched for and found. >> but you don't really know at this moment what, where that is and i don't want to get hung up on that. i want to spend the time talking about the process you're using to gain access so let's start with are you using a centralized location to ensure that you're properly capturing all of the documents or is it mined oult to different bureaus? >> i appreciate the question. thank you. at the state department, we do not have a single person reasonable for document requests. when we have a question, it comes from congress.
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the requested information sought essentially means that all individuals at the state adopt have to go rocking at their files. often time these are desk officers, responsible for could be tri issues. people working in our affairs bureau. >> can you tell us right now, can you tell us right now, how many people you have working on the production of documents that have been requested as it related to benghazi? >> regarding the collection of documents, i can't tell you how many state department people over the past several years have provided documents specifically because it's a, across the entire -- >> but there's not a benghazi group, so to speak a group of people who say you are in charge of document collection for the incident regarding incidents that happened in the deaths of the four americans in benghazi? there's not people that have been tapped for that? >> it's a fair management question and what happens is
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when we get the information from across the building, there are people who review the documents, we had a discussion with the committee where we came to an agreement with the chairman and committee that we would at the state department, provide minimal redaxs of the documents. those are made by experts who look at equity -- >> back to my question. is there a group of people that have been tapped as individuals to work on document collection for benghazi? yes or no? is there a group of people that said you are the benghazi group for document production? >> again production is is an effort that is across the -- >> so no there's not. and if there's not a benghazi group, i would say the 40,000 pages of documents that have been produced not knowing what universe, you know in the universe of documents, what percentage that 40,000 pages is,
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why has there not been up to 70,000 employees that you referenced before, why has there not been a group of individuals that you have said in light, the chairman mentioned not to take anybody off a very important task of their job, but this is an important task. this is an important issue, so, of those 70,000 employees, why can't we just get one group of people designated to say hey, it's your job to respond and respond quickly to these requests so we can get to the truth. >> ma'am, i assure you this is a highest priority. when individuals a the state department are asked to provide documents, people move on it. it's not a question of people not. it's a question of the comprehensive nature of acquiring all the information available and we want to make sure we do that well. that means if we have one or two individuals, they may miss things, we need to go -- >> i'm not asking about one or two.
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i just wanted to know if the state department took this seriously enough that they are willing to identify a group of employees of the 70,000 whose job was to ensure that we get to the job in days and weeks leading up to the attacks in benghazi and afterwards. i'm going to move on. i want to know how these searches are done by the individuals across as you have stated, across the state department. do they do a keyword search? do they type in libya or benghazi or tripoli for any and all records that relate to benghazi? is a staff member you know, deemed relevant and then the keyword search is completed? what does this look like when you say to that one employee it's your job to do that. what do they do? >> essentially as you described. going and searching the files.
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searching the electronic, the hard files and looking for documents that are relevant. we have multiple document requests underway all the time from congress on multiple issues that affect the whole breadth of american foreign policy. and what that means in practical purposes is when congress says we need documents on topic x that topic is shared with the department and individuals at the department have to go search for whether they have information related to that. >> why is so much time being spent redakting material from these documents? >> the state department has an agleemt in place with the committee we're happy with, which is minimal redaxs of these 40,000 pages and the committee has told us they are comfortable with that. >> some of these documents have been highl highly ri -- and that takes time as well.
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>> those are not necessarily state department redaxs. we cover foreign policy across the board and multiple agencies and equities are involved in the interview process. >> okay, every document that we receive is digitally stamped and it has a bates number assigned so this lead us to conclude the records are in electronic format. why is it the department has produceded all records in paper format despite our requests for electronic copies? >> that's historic standard practice from the state department to ensure we're providing the documents. but i'm happy to take back that request. >> please do and please report back this committee as quickly as you can on that. there's no order to the paper documents being produced. they're not in order. they're not by person. they're not by office or bureau.
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just boxes of documents. so, can you give us assurance that your further production of documents will occur not only timely as you can see from the passion of the members of this committee, we want to get to the truth. and so, the quicker you can give us this information, obviously, the better. particularly because of the volume, but there's no rhyme or reason to what you're sendinging to us so could you provide them in some sort of order? >> so, ma'am, you're, this goes back to the original questions you asked. we are trying to provide the documents in as quick a manner as possible that are relevant to the committees for their investigation. if you're asking we ko late the paper, do the work to review it ourselves, that is, that's -- >> well, you're taking a lot of time to redakt information.
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it seems that you could at least put them in some kind of order, so i look forward to your, you know further participation with this committee and your willingless to provide us these responses quickly. i would appreciate that you get back to us on the electronic format of these documents. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> mrs. sanchez. >> thank you mr. chairman. i want to pick up where mr. smith left off. which is encountering the suggestion by if chair's questions that somehow, the department of state is not forth komcome ing with their witnesses. the doj said the thirmchairman had no problems, but i do hold in my hands a letter from the department of justice dated november 21st of 2014 and in that letter, it states they have
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concerns because they have an ongoing investigation and that prior to any interviews the committee would conduct, if they could please noef the department of justice prior to that and i would ask unanimous consent to submit this letter for the record. >> without objection and i'm happy to reckononcile those two. >> i'd like to continue with my questioning and comments and perhaps at the end of the hearing, there will be an opportunity for the chairman to have further time to speak on his time. >> very well. >> so i think it's clear that doj has expressed some concerns and that it's wrong to suggest that somehow something is being with held from the community. no one has said there are witnesses not interviewed by this committee, so i just
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thought it important to show as far back as november that the doj did communicate with this committee and express those concerns. i want to thank our witnesses for joining us today. i have to admit when this committee was first announced some of us were a bit skeptical about the intentions. from the outset, some uncertainty as to what questions this community would be tasked with answering and whatether or not members would be included in the work of the committee. could partisanship be set aside and value the course of the investigation and i can only speak for myself in saying that i put those concerns aside in the hope there would be an open and honest investigation free of partisan motives, but boy, it really looks like i was wrong on this one. the committee members on the democratic side waited patiently
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as the chairman assured us there would be transparency and that committee members would be included and that he would outline the questions that needed to be answered. eight months later, our committee still lacks that scope, transparency and more than ever, the crede bability. now, more than ever, i'm convinced that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are in search of this mythical creature, this unicorn and the unicorn being some kind of nefarious conspiracy and that this nefarious conspiracy they're looking for, does not in fact exist. over the last months, the majority has systemically robbed democratic members of meaningful participation in this investigation. apparently, our only use is to set up on this dase in full committee hearings and be allowed to ask a few simple hearings. as my colleagues have noted, mr. cummings and mr. smith have noted, democrats have been excluded from discussions the
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chairman and his staff have had with material witnesses. the chairman has refused to convene an organizational meeting or establish rules about the concerns about the increasingly partisan direction the committee has taken. yesterday, the chairman told us we could only have a vote on committee rules if we agreed to vote on his rules. even though we think that they're patently unfair. i don't know what kind of logic that is that you can have a vote so long as the it's a vote for what i want. the chairman might have the right to do these things, but that doesn't make his actions fair or nonpartisan. witnesses have been interrogated without any of our members present. we've been denied opportunities to counter fanciful claims and left in the dark as to what answers chairman goudy is searching for. to suit the narrative of their ongoing conspiracy theorys. when convenient, they've left out key witness testimonies
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outlandish conspiracy theorys they're seeking to prove and when the facts don't add up, they continue to make more fanciful claims. frek, back in september an article reported ray maxwell came forard with a startle lg investigation that quote, hillary clinton confidants were part on an operation to separate damaging developments before they were turned over to the accountability review board. that allegation which was reported in many conservative media outlets was that former secretary of state hillary clinton's aides ordered the destruction of documents to prevent congress and the arb from ever seeing them. chairman goudy called these allegations incredibly serious and told fox news in mid october that the committee would be investing this. what he failed to admit was that at the time of the chairman's fox news interview, republicans had already investigated the maxwell claim and only found evidence against it.
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the day before the chairman's interview on fox news, his staff had spoken to a witness that mr. maxwell identified as being able to corroborate his claim. republicans excluded democrats and told us they had learned nothing, quote, of note, from that witness. but when democratic staff spoke to ta witness, he said he didn't recall having been in the document review session mr. maxwell described. that might be unfavorable to the department. he further reported he never engaged in or was aware of any destruction of documents. that witness was perfectly willing to talk to democrats and has always been willing to talk to us. he always never asked to be treated at a confident source. chairman goudy has explained why we were excluded from that interview. he's never explained that. he's down played or discounted the factual information that the
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witness provided and the information was material. as a former prosecutorer, you unction that evaluating the credibility of witnesses and their allegations depends on whether the information they provide can be corroborated or not. nothing of note, not substantiated and to me that's incredibly telling. unfortunately, because the -- to our side. if our goal predetermined outcome, these interviews should have been conducted jointly with democrats and republicans in the room. facts should not and cannot be ignored. these actions sabotage a serious and credible investigation. they make it an unfair exclusionary investigation with
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no transparency. and i for one am not willing to sit by silently any longer. maybe there is a good reason for this nonsense. maybe the secrecy is meant to distract from the community's shortcomings. in the eight months since its formation, the majority of the committee has failed to deliver on some key promises. they have yet to request documents from the department of defense or summon any cia witnesses or yield any new information that has not yet been uncovered by the previous eight in depth investigations into the attacks on the embassy in benghazi. that's a pretty bis mall record. if we sound frustrated today, well, it's with good reason. we've had enough of this pursuit and requests to catch this mythical unicorn. eight separate investigations where both sides adpreeed on the rules have been conducted and
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none have found this nefarious conspiracy. if a constituent of mine were audited by the irs eight times in the same year or some member of the american public were tried in a court of law, eight separate times for the same crime and no wrong doing was found, we would say it was lunacy to expend the time, effort and money to continue to put them through that again. and yet, here we are again. but this time, this time perhaps, if we change the rules if we make them unfair and lopsided, give unside the advantage of hearing witness testimony and the other side not, keep them locked out of the room, especially well then maybe, swrus maybe, the outcome might be a little different from this committee than from the previous eight. >> mr. chairman, the american public, the families affected by what happened in benghazi and the victims themselves desefrrve better. so, i'm urging you to adopt rules that allow participation of both republican and democrats
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in all future committee interviews so that we can conduct credible, nonpartisan and transparent investigations into this matter. in the time that i have remaining, i just want to say i apologize to our witnesses, these are tensions that have been boiling over for some time, but they're tensions that have been raised again and again and again and you make much of the fact we didn't vote to impanel this committee or be here, because we kind of suspected that this is where it would end up and i hate to say it but those who were more cynical i think had the better argument and with that i yield back the balance of my time. >> thanks and i can assure her, i will never give veto power over subpoenas to any entity that thinks no sub pea that should be issued. with that, i'll recognize the gentleman from illinois. >> thank you.
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i'd like to point out a few inconsistencies. mr. cummings made a pledge to pursue the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and mr. smith basically said, you're never going to get it. it's impossible. in fact, he said you're never going to get all the answers, all the documents. that's an internal inconsistency and they're never going to work it out, mrs. sanchez said well, certain information was, would have disposed of a particular question, but add that information been released, it would have made an exact argument that said this is selective leaking of information. and to mr. cummings point to go pack and use just a classic strong man argument, you don't hear that that much and there was really no pretense to it but the classic argument says this is the oversight and government reform committee. no, it's not. it's a completely different committee. with the a completely different chairman and completely different admonition from the house and really, to
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characterize this as a partisan process that is glacial to have the first two subjects at the request of the minority party ridiculous. mr. reuben, thank you for your time today. i thought it was ironic that you're talking now in terms of the timing of these things and that's what has everybody concerned, but you're speaking in seasons of the year. you said with some happiness we've produced two witnesses since the fall. isn't that ironic? that you're not speaking in ternls of days or weeks or months, but you're characterizing timing of the department of state in terms of seasons of the year. now, you've come into this with an opinion, haven't you, based on your past writings.
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you wrote a piece about the politicizing the benghazi attacks in october of 2012. isn't that right? let me read the first two paragraphs. i want to get your opinion and how that opinion intersects with today. so, you wrote, the killing of four american patriots in benghazi last month was an act of terror. those four americans representeded the best of our country. they put their lives on the line to advance american interests in a volatile region. they deserve the support of their government back home. paragraph two. instead of getting that support their deaths are being made used as a partisan attack on president obama, part of a false narrative that the president failed them. what has failed them is our political system. rather than supporting a serious, nonpartisan investigation into what took place and to what went wrong waiting to get all the facts out, conservatives are trying to affix blame for their debts, for
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political advantage. now, i recognize, mr. reuben, there's been a lot of things coming off of capitol hill as it relates to benghazi but you don't think this is a prif louse partisan investigation, do you? >> chris stevens was friend of mine. i worked on capitol hill. >> i understand that. >> sir, i'm sorry -- >> you think this is a frivolous partisan investigation? >> sir i'm not commenting on the question of is this a frivolous investigation because you're citing to -- >> accepting the reasonability -- department of state. and i'm interested in a simple question. do you think that this investigation is frivolous and partisan? what's your opinion? >> sir, again, in 2012, after chris stevens was killed and i remember the morning because he
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was a friend and i remember when his name was announced on the radio and my heart sunk to my feet because i knew chris because he represented the best of the state department and i'm sorry, sir his name at that time was not being used in the manner i felt respect. >> mr. reuben, is this frivolous? i'm asking you an opinion about your opinion about this process today. is this frivolous and is this partisan. what's your answer? can you not give an answer? >> the state department is and has been from secretary on down happy to comply and work with the committee as the chairman himself has said in a letter as well as in public comment that -- >> mr. reuben, i thought that was an easy layup. i think it was an easy thing to think, no, of course this is serious and not partisan and let's get to it. i find it shocking that you can't give a straight answer to that simple question and you're not going to give it to me so let's move on. i find myself oftentimes --
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language up here, state department and you're in the business of understanding foreign language and you have misinterpreted the language -- because to come in here and to sort of claim that we are, you're gratified that your cooperation, let me translate for you. he's not pleased with your cooperation, he durant think this is going well and he thinks you you're part of the problem. now, you claimed in your original testimony, in this role, i serve as chief liaison to the house ensuring foreign policy issues et cetera. so, your testimony is that you're responsible right? >> that i am the chief liaison that the state department has a significant number of people
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working on a significant number of issues. in my job, i convey that, those issues as requested by congress and back and forth in the dialogue with the foreign affairs committee. >> back in november, november 18th a season ago, this committee requested the documents, the e-mails communiques and so forth of 11 of the principles on the seventh floor. now, i brought my computer here today and i know it's mott the same thing. i don't want to oversimplify it through the sake of being gratuitous, but when i go to my e-mail, which has thousands in it and i type in something like united airlines, for example, and i sort it, dozens and dozens of things come up within the twinkling of an eye. when can we expect you to use a similar enterprise is there a date certain that we can rely on because the admonition that you have never said no is ridiculous. you don't have to say no.
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as a dad, when my kids could come to me, i would say, they'd ask to do something and i didn't want to do it i'd say, let me think about it. you're doing the exact same thing. you're saying, we're working on it. remember that scene in raiders of the lost ark at the end when indiana jones goes in and is talking to the government guy and he says, where's the ark? and the government guy says, we have top people working on it. and indiana jones says what people? and the government guy says, top people. you're the government guy. you're standing up for top people. you've got to bring your game. quouf got to be the expediter. the one that sheds your past opinions about congressional investigations and takes on the job of being an advocate so that we can all get to the bottom of this. the other side doesn't get to
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argue in the alternative that it's not moving fast enough and they're being passive aggressive by not participating. it just doesn't work and it's very flat footed. but what we need from you is a disposition of expedition that is recognizes that a chairman is not happy. don't misinterpret the charm and graciousness of the south. i'm from chicago we have none of that. and we're trying to be very very direct and that is to be to be part of the remedy mr. reuben, to be part of the solution and to get things done. >> as i've said, sir, and as i can assure you as i said in my testimony, we will begin with production of additional documents to the committee within days. we are also needing the guidance from the committee as to its top priority and sequencing. >> no, no. >> the committee had told us -- >> you're making an argument that says these things have to be consecutive requests.
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they're not. they're concurrent requests. you can walk and chew gum at the same time. you've got 70,000 employees. so so, to make the add machine igs of the committee that you've got to line up single file and you're going to be admitted in, we're going to get you this piece of evidence if you ask the right way and that piece of evidence, come op. that's an old trick. >> we have a record of cooperation with this committee. in recent days, we proactively offered to this committee -- >> a brief. come on. we need documents. 11 people on the seventh floor. we need it promptly and -- >> and we are committed. >> my time is expired. i yield back. >> chair, we'll go to the gentleman from california. >> thank you mr. chairman. still trying to figure out who's indiana jones in that analogy.
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i want to comment on a couple of things and i'm not sure that i have a question for any of the panelists. thank you for spending your time with us today. i'm not sure why you're here, but i appreciate your presence end mr. reuben, looks like your reason for being here is so that we can beat up on you which i think is grossly unfair to you and the state department considering that if we're going to look to assess reasonability for the slow pace of this investigation, we have to look to ourselves before we look to the state department. given that we didn't ask for a single new document from the state department for the first half year of existence of this select committee, it seems a bit disingenuous to be criticizing the state department for the pace of our investigation. the entire katrina investigation had finished its work before we requested a document from the state department. and certainly, before this point in our investigation. i think the problem here is not
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with the pace of the state department's response. the problem all along has been this committee has such an indefinite scope. we don't know exactly what we're looking for. this was a big part of the reason why many democrats had reservation about participating in a committee or forming the committee. as the chairman pointed out. on the vote to form the select committee, originally only seven democratic members supported it because unclear, other than the political purpose, what was the purpose of this select committee and in the reauthorization, which took place as part of the rules package, not a single democratic supported it. in fact, four republicans voted against the rules package, which reauthorized this committee and a big part of the committee is that even now eight months later, we still don't know wh we're looking for and this is a problem not only in terms of this select committee and investigation going on.
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it's also a problem in terms of which we can expect to get our document requests responded to. if we had a better idea of what we were looking for, of what was in controversy then we could narrow our requests and i'm sure we could get it complyied with with much more lackrity. part of the reason why i think the charter for this select committee is brought as the chairman mentioned is that we didn't really know the purpose of this committee. were we looking at gun running or nonexist ens stand down orders or military assistance that was ordered not to be provided or any number of myths. the challenge has been that on these issues, it's not as if there was a factual controversy. there wasn't before this committee was established. we've had innumerable investigations and we couldn't
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narrow in on a particular set of facts in dispute because it really wasn't the fact based dispute as much a political dispute. about how to interpret the events, so the charter was broad and for that reason, it was voted on on the party line basis, but the committee was established and we agreed to participate in the hopes that against our expectation, it would turn out to be different. and initially it looked that way and i'm grateful the first two hearings were on a very productive course and that is what have we done in terms of recommendations -- where are we in the hunt frs those responses. we haven't narrowed the scope at all. we still don't know what we're looking for, but we know we're looking for something. and it's part of the reason why we feel it's so important we agree on the scope of this investigation, otherwise, it's going to go on forever.
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it will be a partisan fishing expedition or drawn out to affect the presidential election cycle. at the end of the day and i want to use an idea suggested by my colleague, we have never asked for veto over subpoenas. what we have asked for is to be notified of them. to have a chance to weigh in. where they're not disputed. our ranking member and chairman can agree and where they are, we ought to have a vote on them. that's not a veto. they have more members than we do. provided their members agree with the question, with the subpoena request they should always be improved, but we ought to have an open debate about it to prevent this from being a purely partisan exercise, unless that's the goal. so i think defining the scope is going to be important. ifst going to have credibility. the final point i would make on this is if this investigation doesn't produce a bipartisan report, it will have been a
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complete failure. it will be a meaningless failure because if we don't produce a bipartisan report at the end of the day, it will have no credibility. so if we're going to invest our time in this let's make it worthwhile make it worthwhile, and that means let's make it bipartisan so that the country and the families will have the confidence of knowing that this was an objective work product. because honestly, if at the end of the day we have a report and the republicans vote for it and the democrats vote against it yes, it will pass. you have the majority you can do pretty much whatever you want. but it will have been a complete waste of time. and it will be a disservice to the families and a disservice to the taxpayers. so if we're going to get to that bipartisan work product at the end of the day, we need to know who you're talking to. we need to know when they agree with the narrative and when they disagree with that narrative. we ought to be part of the discussions about who we're
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subpoenaing. we ought to be part of the discussion about what we're really going to focus on here. i mean at the end of the day is it really about gun running? does anyone really think that's what this is about? and if it's not, okay let's not waste our time on that. so let's figure out what this is about. let's, you know dedicate ourselves to making this a bipartisan work product at the end of the day, and we all have too much to do and there's too much at stake and too many families who are so deeply impacted by this that they deserve better than anything less than bipartisan. and i yield back. >> the gentle lady from indiana is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'd like to agree that we do need to get to the bottom. we do need to find out what happened, and that's what everyone has been talking about. but the manner in which you do that whether you're a lawyer, as i am former u.s. attorney
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whether you are a law enforcement official who conducts investigations whether as my friend from illinois said whether you are a parent trying to get to the bottom of an incident, you have to ask questions. and you have to interview those who were involved. but when the incident involves numerous documents, typically in any investigation you try to get the documents ahead of time so that you run an efficient, fair investigation when you get to ask witness questions, you have documents in front of you that you can ask them the most relevant questions. and that, i think is -- has been the problem that we have had is that while you mr. ruben, have talked about cooperating, you have required us to prioritize rather than giving us, as ms. roby talked
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about, the universe of documents. and so things have been, you know, dribbed and drabbed out to this committee over a period of time. and in large part because of that, that is why we have not had interview -- have not interviewed witnesses yet because we've been waiting on the documents for months, and i think when this committee was established, the state department knew, as we said we were going to take the work, the documents from the other committees, we didn't want to duplicate the effort. we wanted to take the documents from the other committee, and it's taken a long time just to get those. what was produced ogr, what was produced to intel? so i just want to say, we are -- have tried in a very thorough fair manner to try to extract the documents from the various agencies that have already given the documents to different committees. our recommendations do plan to
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be very -- we do need to make bipartisan recommendations. i agree with that. but in order to conduct a fair, authorize re thoughtful, efficient investigation, we have to have the documents first. that's why we focused on the documents. and i have to ask how can we possibly learn from the attacks if we don't learn about the attacks? we can't make recommendations going forward if we don't have all of the facts about what happened before, during and after the attack. and there are documents that remain to be reviewed. we've learned that. you have recently given us new documents that were never reviewed prior to the establishment of this committee, even though there have been eight committees that received and requested documents in the past, this committee is still getting new documents. and our challenge is we don't know how many more new documents are out there. and how can that be after two years, since this tragic
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incident, how can it be that we are still getting new documents? and the need to review those documents is anyone who conducts any investigation that is critical prior to interviewing witnesses. who have yet to tell their stories to congress. so many witnesses have yet to tell their story to congress. and i want to focus on our request to interview those witnesses. our first two requests -- and there will be more requests, mr. ruben -- our first two requests to the state department were to interview 22 state department personnel. 18 of whom were in benghazi in the months prior to the attack. and experienced firsthand the deteriorating security posture as well as the four who were in benghazi. none of those people have been interviewed by congress, to my
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knowledge, none. and so for the other side to you know, really try and capture all that's been done, how is it that 22 people who have direct knowledge have not yet been interviewed by any committees in congress? so there are no asked and answered questions from 22 different people with firsthand knowledge. so we're not seeking to duplicate any work that's already been done. this is new fresh work that needs to be done. people who were there people who were in benghazi prior to the attack and actually people who were there during the attack. so would you agree with me mr. ruben, that firsthand knowledge rather than a summary, a report another agent coming in and talking to us firsthand information is better than secondhand information, would you agree? >> sorry.
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ma'am, the request for these interviews came on december 4th, i believe, and we spoke quickly with the committee and the staff to try to figure out what the highest priority were, and it was communicated to us that the four diplomatic security agents, d ds, and that's where it runs into this complexity of an ongoing investigation to prosecutor potentially the individual that is in custody for those terrorist attacks and the justice department has raised concerns that need to be -- we need to be mindful of. that's the only discussion that we've had related to that. >> thank you. and please note that as a former u.s. attorney and someone who is in charge of victim witness subcommittee for attorney general ashcroft and attorney general gonzalez, i'm very concerned about prosecutions and about victims and witnesses. and let me just share with you that our staff is in communication with the justice department, and we will handle these witnesses appropriately. but if we made a request to you on december 4th of all of these
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witnesses, and i appreciate you would like them to be prioritized, it's january 27th today. there is no date yet scheduled for an interview of any of these people. we're not going to wait to receive now all of these documents, which would have been the more efficient way for a real investigation to be done. so we'd like to know what date, and because we want to preserve the safety and security of these personnel, we'd like to know i would say within the next 24 hours, which witnesses will be made available next week and which witnesses will be made available the following week? and which witnesses will be made available the following week and so on? and we all have a certain number of staff but our staff will go to these witnesses, or we will work with you to make arrangements to get these staff back to washington d.c., to conduct these interviews. are you in agreement that that can be done? >> to provide a bit of
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context -- >> and we will be working with the justice department on all of this as well to ensure their safety and security. so assuming that we take the justice department prosecution off of your plate and assume we work with them on how this will be done will you work with us to get these interviews set up in the next week? >> ma'am, we're always open to communicating and speaking with you. the experts, i am not the legal expert for the state department. i will not take on that role. >> who is the legal -- who is the legal expert? >> we have lawyers at the state department that are continually in touch, and individuals and staff with the staff of the committee. >> and who is -- >> and we're always open to that conversation. >> i appreciate that. who is the lawyer from the state department that we should be communicating with with respect to scheduling these interviews of up to 22 different witnesses? >> i'd have to get you the specific person, but i'm sure that the staffs know who they are speaking with directly about these issues. >> who is the head of legal affairs for the state department? >> well, the legal adviser is
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nancy mcleod. that's -- that's the legal adviser, the top of the state department bureau for legal affairs. but the context of the letter request for these interviews, it's important to remember that after we received the request, we have gone to the committee to ask for the priorities. in that interim process, we have prepared briefings. we have been engaged, and it took several weeks to get the priorities from the committee. >> why do we need priorities? they're all priorities. 22 people -- why do we have to prioritize? why does our staff have to prioritize to the state department? >> because we want to know for your work to make it as easy as possible what it is that you are looking at as the highest to-do item on your checklist. >> when we don't know what they have to say, it is difficult mr. ruben to know who has the most information. and so at this point, we have the bandwidth and i would suggest that the other side has
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the bandwidth to set up a schedule as to when we will interview each of these 22 witnesses. 18 who have not been interviewed who worked in benghazi and in libya prior and four who were there at the time of the attack. and so will you work with us? will you commit -- >> of course. >> -- that your legal department will work with us to -- and we will pledge that we will work with the justice department on these witnesses, too, because we absolutely do not want to compromise that investigation. but these are individuals, some of whom have been interviewed by the arb, is that correct? >> i'm not intimately knowledgeable of every individual the arb spoke with. >> we must have these interviews done in an expeditious manner, and if we could please get the documents ahead of time, it will make it most effective, and we won't need to have multiple interviews with these important eyewitnesses. >> thank you. >> thank you. i yield back. >> the chair would now recognize the gentleman from kansas, mr. pompeo. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it's been a very productive
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hearing. mr. schiff seemed confused by why you're here mr. higgins. i'm go to enlighten him perhaps a little bit about why you're here today. the central intelligence had turned over a series of documents to the house permanent select committee on intelligence when it wrapped up its investigation. it returned those documents as it did under its instructions andity rules and provided them to you in a letter of may 8th. then chairman of the committee, mike rogers, asked you to hold on to those documents, to secund them in a way that would be available to this committee in a very expeditious manner. since at least october, this committee has been seeking those documents. november 19th, one of your staff said, quote, working to try to set up a time next week. end of quote. december 8th, one of your staff attorney says quote, we're in the process of organizing and page numbering. end quote. and then december 15 one of your staff attorneys said quote, we'll reach out to you soon, end of quote. this is a series of documents
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you've already identified. you turn them over on thursday of last week. after chairman gatty had to go through the process that you were going to have to come here today and answer to why you hadn't turned over the documents. coincidence? >> no, sir. thank you for the question. and i absolutely understand your frustration and the committee's frustration. producing these materials has taken longer than you consider acceptable, and certainly longer than we anticipated as those e-mails from november and december suggest. if you bear with me let me see if i can explain the delay. >> if you will do so quickly i'd be happy to bear with you. >> i will do so as quickly as i can. let me see if i can explain the delay. the committee first requested access on november 14th, one of the e-mails you reference. over events overtook that request. the committee revisited the issue on december 8th asking to see the documents during the week of december 15th. at that point, those of us in contact with the committee, as those e-mails, again, suggest, thought that it should be a pretty straightforward process
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of delivering to you the materials that we previously produced to the house intelligence committee. during this time while we were in contact our staff most familiar with theback-related documents have been working on the state department document request, reviewing those 40,000 pages for cia equities. when we asked them to prepare our own documents for delivery to the committee, they made three discoveries. first they discovered the documents we had provided to hipsi and they had returned to us. we were disorganized. they were not in chronological order or any logical order. secondly, they realized that the documents did not comply with the limited redaction criteria that we have previously discussed with this committee staff directors. third, they learned that cia had not kept an exact soft copy of what had been produced to hipsi. so what that meant was that we had to go through a fairly time-consuming process of identifying the matching soft copies for the hard copies of thousands of pages that were produced to hipsi pairing them up, the limited redactions that
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we had agreed with staff directors and then inserting them in chronological order and run into technical problems with bates numbering them, but we were hoping they would all be able to be bates numbered as well. >> let me see if i can summarize. you couldn't figure out how to get them back to us in a timely fashion. but when the hearing was noticed, you figured it out. >> our internal goal was to finish it -- our internal goal was to finish it by this friday. we did accelerate that time line. >> you bet to meet the hearing. >> to meet the hearing deadline. we planned to finish the process as i designed as bureaucratic and as cumbersome as it sounds by this friday at the latest. >> i appreciate that. >> i apologize for the delay. >> this was a pretty simple request. some of the other challenges that the state department identified didn't exist. >> we discovered it was more complicated. >> let me talk about witnesses. there have been comments from the other side that we haven't asked for witnesses. we're going to. will you agree that you will help us find those folks we'll do all the right things to
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safeguard these folks they are warriors, we don't want to compromise them at all. will you agree that you will work with us closely to help us get those folks so that we can get their testimony as well? >> yes, sir. we actually just received today the committee's request to speak with the eyewitnesses, and we will do so. >> great, thank you. that brings up a point. you just got it today. i assume when these witnesses come, you're going to hope we only have to interview them once. is that correct? >> i would hope so. >> it would be your strong preference that we not turn up a document after we've brought these folks back from goodness knows where to come testify that we don't have to call them back to address another document. so one time is better than two. and certainly better than three. right? >> absolutely. >> and mr. ruben, you'd agree with that? >> yes, although i'm not the expert in interviews. >> but you'd prefer if we have to round up, we just do it once and not have to gather them up get your lawyers, all that goes with that a second or a third time. that's better from your agency's perspective. fewer of your 70,000 top people right? >> i can't speak to the effectiveness of interviews,
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but -- >> here's what i can say. we have heard today from the other side that we haven't called witnesses. and i will tell you until you get us the documents we're going to be very loathed to bring them because i know we will never get these folks back a second time. you all will find hundreds of reasons not to bring them the first time and thousands of reasons not to bring them the second time. and we're just going to do this right. we're going to do this where we're actually going to pursue this inquiry in a reasonable way. mr. higgins, it took us a long time to get some of our sf star clearances. we had a three-star general that couldn't get an sci completed until when was it? when the hearing was noticed, shortly before the hearing is noticed, we get the final set of clearances that we need. can you assure us that that won't happen in the future? we'll probably have additional folks that need to be cleared. this is a comedy between the branches that you all have done good work on in the past. and it's one of the things, again, we've been trying to move this along. now we have the minority saying we're too slow. but we didn't have clearances for staff members in a timely fashion. >> we will commit to working with you to make the clearance
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process work as smoothly as possible. i'm happy to explain in more detail if you like the various -- what cia's limited role is in the clearance process and why it's taken as long as it has in a few instances. but the bottom line is we will work with you to clear vitd individuals as quickly as possible. >> in the case that we're doing something wrong you don't have the information, we are happy to expedite that as well. but the executive branch sat for far too long and plea vented this committee from taking on the task that we have been charged with. and so we hear the minority today talk about it. but the executive branch prevented us from having access to information and having staffpeople having access to information that was necessary for us to execute this investigation the way these families deserve. >> usually when clearances have taken longer than we would like or you would like, it's because necessary information to adjudicate staff access to sensitive compartmented information which is the limited piece that cia does was not provided. and we either had to come back to the committee or go back to
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our interagency partners. we've worked through that. i think our security officers and committee security officer now have a good understanding of how we can move forward in an expeditious fashion. >> have you received any documents from the minority? >> no, i have not. >> have you received any witness request requests? >> no requests independent from the requests that we received this morning. >> mr. ruben, have you received any document request from the minority on this committee? >> we have not sir. >> have you received any witness requests from the minority on this committee? >> similar to mr. higgins. >> so this -- today this is fascinating to watch, mr. schiff and mr. cummings talk about us being too slow. you've seen all the impediments that have been put in our way whether it was clearances or priorities or documents we can't get our hands on. they claim that they want to get mr. cummings says i want to make sure we complete a fact-finding investigation. he hasn't asked for a single fact, not one. it must be the case that he believes every fact has been determined, that every relevant line of inquiry has been
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completed, that there is not a single witness left in the universe to be interviewed. the minority complains they've been shut out. they haven't asked for a single thing that they have not been granted by an incredibly gracious chairman with respect to a witness that they wanted to call before this witness or a document they sought from any group within the executive branch. the hypocrisy to come today and say we are both moving too slow and asking for too much is something the american people will get to judge as we move forward. but i can assure you that everyone on this committee -- and i hope the minority will join in this effort in a serious way as well -- we're going to ask the questions, and it may be the case as mr. smith said we won't get to all of the answers that we would like to get to but we're going to work at it. we're going to take this charge seriously. and i hope the minority will participate as well. they talk about us being too slow, and yet they act as if their job is to play defense right, to stop us from engaging in this inquiry. not participate in it.
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not say mr. chairman, i think we ought to ask this witness questions x, y and z. mr. chairman, might it be possible that we could obtain documents from this particular group. no, rather they simply act as if they are the break on this committee's investigatory work. as if their sole role is to claim that this investigation is political and not to participate. we still have men and women out in the world who are engaged in important intelligence collection activities and keeping america safe. we have an obligation to make sure this committee gets it right. and i hope the minority on this committee will begin to take that role seriously, that they will participate actively, that they, too, will seek witnesses and documents and information such that when we get done, they, too, will be able to sign the report. i would love nothing more than to have a bipartisan report that gets to all the facts. but if the minority continues to believe that their role is to play fullback to our efforts to block everything we do not to clear the way but rather to obfuscate, i suspect we'll end
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up in a place where we get a good factual report, but the american people don't get the full resolution that they deserve. with that, i yield back my time mr. chairman. >> thank you. the gentleman now recognizes the gentleman from georgia mr. westmoreland. >> thank you mr. chairman. i just wanted to make a couple comments about some of the statements that's been made about the delay in this committee. and the request for documents. this committee was formed in may, and i don't know as the minority leader, didn't appoint the other side's members for two or three weeks. but we had -- we had to staff up. both sides had to hire staff. and then once we hired the staff, they had to get security clearance, which mr. higgins and mr. pompeo alluded to. we had a retired three-star general that applied for clearance last september. and i think he got it last
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thursday. you know if that's not dragging your feet i don't know what is. but i don't know why we would have wanted all these documents, 40,000 pages of documents, if we didn't have staff cleared to read them. i mean, we members of congress, i know y'all don't think we do much, but, you know, for us reading 40,000 pages of documents, that's what the staff's for. and so just in the amount of time it took to staff up to find the right people from both sides of the aisle and then to get their security clearance, i think everybody needs to understand it took a while. and then as far as the delay, you know, i think the delay has come from our chairman being too bipartisan. i know there was hours if not a couple days, spent on arguing about how much time each member would get. and i think the minority wanted it down to nine minutes and 20
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seconds each the way this thing was deliberated. and so when you have to spend a couple days arguing about you know, 40 seconds or 20 seconds or whatever it is you're not going to get very far. and as far as us being in a majority, i think the president said in 2009 elections have consequences. as mr. pompeo said, he and i both saidt on the intelligence committee. and reading the resolution that was put before the house we have those same authorities as the intel committee. mr. higgins would you agree with that? >> the resolution does carve this committee into house rule 10 which establishes the intelligence committee's authorities over intelligence sources and methods. >> so you will give this committee the same respect that you would hipsi and any request
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for documents or witnesses that they might request? >> i'd be happy in a classified setting to discuss it is materials that cia has provided as well as the limited set of redactions that we are implementing pursuant to conversations with this committee's staff directors. >> okay. and 40,000 pages came from the state department. and mr. ruben mentioned that there were a lot of -- talking about redaction there was a lot of other agencies i guess, that had to look at what was in there as far as redacting the information. when the cia received this, were there any redactions already done? >> we had a team that we sent down to the state department to review. these are materials that had prooely been produced in part in
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unclassified form with redactions. we sent a team down to review the redactions, see which redactions could be lifted. as mr. ruben indicated, the documents are now less redacted than they were previously in part because other agencies like cia lifted their redactions. again, any remaining redactions that are cia redactions are pursuant to discussions that we've had with the staff directors here. >> so is the cia the only redactions that are there now? >> i can't speak to that, i'm afraid. >> mr. ruben, is that the documents, the 40000 pages, only the cia redactions? >> so the different agencies that have redacted in different areas cut across the entire interagency as all -- many agencies involved in foreign policy. i'm sorry, sir. >> no, i'm sorry. do we know what agencies redacted what parts of -- >> we'd be happy to meet with your staff to go over specific documents to identify where those redactions came from.
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>> okay. but you know where they came from, the redactions, and why they're there, right? >> again, if another agency did it we would engage with the committee staff and with that agency to help figure that out. >> so by sending this to the cia -- and i'm assuming that the cia had, unlike the state department, had some people specifically set up looking at these benghazi documents? >> between our office of congressional affairs and our office of general counsel we have people that we have designated to review benghazi-related documents. so we actually sent people to the state department. they didn't send it to us. >> so you sent them to the state department rather than the state department sending you over some documents and you looking at it. you actually send folks over to the state department. >> that's correct. >> is that correct? now, and i'm assuming that for both the intel committee and
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this committee, that the redactions you make are for methods and sources, is that correct? >> that's correct. again, i'd be happy to provide more detail and in a different setting. we have discussed that with the staff directors from both sides. >> okay. so do you think that the state department shares e-mails between employees that would have methods and sources in it? >> there may be times that e-mails in the state department's possession do include cia information that would speak to intelligence sources and methods. >> between employees? >> or between, say -- >> the state department feels like they're employees that can see methods that members of congress can't see? mr. ruben i'll ask you the question. are there e-mails between state department employees that
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disclose meds smethods and operations and stuff that they can see that members of congress can't see? >> in terms of communicating with other agencies, we have classified communications systems that are part of the daily operations on foreign policy, broadly speaking, national security. so certainly state, we communicate with all relevant agencies who are engaged in national security. >> well, i know that mr. higgins testified that all of our facilities have been secured and certified by the cia i guess that they're secure. and i think most of the members have top security clearance. and so are you saying that the state department employees just send these e-mails back and forth over something and that we shouldn't be seeing that? >> no, sir. related to the document requests and the 40,000 pages of
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documents that you have, there are some classified documents. there are some unclassified documents. >> and what would be considered classified from another agency that members of congress would not need to see? >> there's a process for determining when information is classified as well as to what level -- i can't speak in total specificity, but generally when communications are classified between agencies or within agencies, that type of information, as related to the document requests, we're also seeking. >> so is the cia the last agency to get the redactions to say what needs to be lifted and what doesn't? >> i believe the process is that we've gone to all the agencies who are relevant to these documents and ask for a review. >> but mr. higgins said they lifted some of the redactions. >> yes. and we as well in an agreement with the committee several
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months ago also agreed with the committee's desire to have minimal redactions. and so we went back over these 40,000 documents and minimized the redactions. >> you know, there was an outside group prior to this committee being formed that had a freedom of information act and got some information. i believe it was from the state department with no redactions. and as a member of the intel committee, we had gotten the same information redacted. now, would it be easier for this committee or to have better information if we go through the freedom of information act rather than requesting it from y'all? >> well, my understanding is that we received 18,000 foya requests last calendar year. >> they got -- >> i'd say it's significant. >> they got theirs quicker than we got ours. with to redactions.
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>> and this is in part and parcel in our cooperative working relationship with the committee is to provide these documents with minimal redactions. many of the categories that were redacted from the state department, we have reduced. >> your understanding of a cooperative relationship is probably a little bit different than some of ours. but i yield back the balance of my time. >> the chair would now recognize the gentleman from maryland. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. as i sit here, i just want to make sure that we are all pursuing the same thing. i've heard a lot of comments. let me be clear. we've never, ever tried to be told the chairman the subpoena power. it just never happened. and i made it clear to him over
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and over again what we have asked for is to be true partners in this investigation. and, you know i think it's sad. in over my 18 years in the congress to see how distrust wells up. and when distrust wells up it's very hard to get anything done, period. mr. ruben, i was watching you a minute ago. when you talked about ambassador stevens. and i watched you as you -- you may not even have realized it -- became emotional talking about your friend.
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and as you became emotional i couldn't help but think about all the other employee ss in state who's probably watching this right now. and how they go out and give their blood, their sweat their tears away from their families to do the jobs that they do. so the first thing i want to do is thank them. the same thing for you, mr. higgins. you know, it seems as if -- i mean, when i think about this effort that we're making and i don't care what anybody says. it is a search for the truth. and be clear that what is one
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person's truth somebody else may say something opposite, and that's their truth. but our effort is to bring our heads together our best efforts and hopefully add some trust to look at all the facts and come to some conclusions. mr. smith is absolutely right. if we end this with a republican saying this and democrat saying that, what have we really accomplished? you know one of the things that we did -- and i thought it was great that we did it -- was to sit down and meet with the families. and i meant -- i made every one of those meetings. and it was painful. it was painful.
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they did not ask for republicans to sit on one side of the room and democrats to sit on the other. they wanted us to sit down and work together, period. one of the things that they said over and over and over and over again, don't make this a political football. one of the family members said if you're going to do that, don't even bother. they talked about how they wanted closure. they talked about how they wanted us to truly work together. and what we have asked for is to merely be partners to do what we were sworn to do what we do every two years and affirm when we put up our hand and swear
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that we are going to support the constitution and we're going to support the people that we represent. and i've said it before and i'll say it again, and i'll say it until i die. each one of us represents over 700,000 people. and all of those -- and all of us have value. all of us bring something to the table. and so it should not be about the gotcha moment. it should be about the big-picture moment. it should be about how do we make sure that this does not happen again. and, you know as i listen to a lot of the discussion, it was an issue of the question of whether the democrats had put forth witnesses and the fact is is that we need a scope. we need an idea of what we are going after.
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and i wouldn't even be here -- i wouldn't even be talking about this if we didn't already have eight reports. and we talk about asserting, but we've got a situation where millions of american taxpayers' dollars have been paid for these reports. we've had members of congress that have been paid to sit in hearings. we have staff members that have produced these reports. and some of them are bipartisan. some of them are bipartisan. and so when the democrats on this committee, while we were waiting for things to move forward, we got our staff involved. and we created something that answers questions. and it's not -- contrary to what the chairman has said in writing, we weren't trying to -- we didn't say that these are things that we -- that -- we
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were not judging the facts. we just went to the sworn testimony. we went to the various documents from various hearings. documents that had been presented and just the very questions that had been asked, the main questions, we just presented the documents. just the facts, ma'am. that's all we tried to do. and then we said now that we've done that, now that we've got that let's see what it is that we can work together on if there is something that has not been answered. just want some scope. and we've been asking for scope. so mr. ruben, you talked about priorities. the chairman basically lays out as i understand it basically what he wants. have you been given priorities? >> thank you, mr. cummings. we have been given priorities, which is to ensure that in the
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immediate term that we provide additional documents related to a specific search for former secretary clinton as the top priority and that a second priority that the four ds agents that we worked to help secure interviews. >> and how did that come about? in other words, how did it come about that there was a list of priorities? how did that happen? and why did it happen? >> it was initiated through the continual contact and communications between staff and committee and our officials, our personnel at state including with the letters on december 4th and at the end of november -- november 18th as well that laid out those questions. and then through engagement with staff, it got refined. >> see this is the thing. that's why we need to have an idea of where we're going. because -- and i assume that the chairman's goal is to address certain issues in a certain order, and he needs certain information. i agree with

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