Congressional Hearings Focus On Benghazi Attack

Both House and Senate committees held hearings on Thursday to learn details of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. Meanwhile, former CIA Director David Petraeus is scheduled to testify behind closed doors before House and Senate intelligence committees on Friday.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Three congressional hearings, two of them closed to the public, focused today on the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in those attacks, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. As NPR's David Welna reports, the only open hearing today on Benghazi turned into a political slugfest.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Congressional Republicans say they want to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi. Still, Arizona Senator John McCain skipped a classified briefing on Benghazi yesterday to hold a news conference demanding more information. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen left the Benghazi hearing she was presiding over today to make similar demands on Fox News. Meanwhile, at that hearing, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher had already reached his own conclusions.

REPRESENTATIVE DANA ROHRABACHER: What is clear is that this administration, including the president himself, has intentionally misinformed - read that lied to the American people in the aftermath of this tragedy.

WELNA: Other Republicans on the panel also pointed fingers at the president. Some took aim at U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who five days after the Benghazi attack described it based on U.S. intelligence reports as a spontaneous response to an anti-Muslim video. Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly scolded those Republicans saying they were behaving like the disgraced former senator and anti-communist zealot Joseph McCarthy.

REPRESENTATIVE GERRY CONNOLLY: If you want an honest investigation of this tragedy, we will join you. But if you want to persist in trying somehow to put this, lay this at the doorstep of the president or the secretary of state or the United Nations ambassador, you will find us ready and willing to resist to the teeth.

WELNA: Meanwhile, behind closed doors, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified today on Benghazi before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Former CIA chief David Petraeus will do the same tomorrow. Saxby Chambliss is the top Republican on the Senate intelligence panel.

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS: General Petraeus just got back from over there, and we're particularly curious to know what he found. He is one of the only folks who's actually been on the ground that's going to be testifying. So it's going to be pretty interesting, I think, to hear what he found.

WELNA: Petraeus is not expected to talk about the extramarital affair that led to his resignation from the CIA last week. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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