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Republicans skip Benghazi hearing; complain about lack of information on Benghazi

This week, a number of Republican senators have strongly criticized the administration for failing to properly explain the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Some of those senators failed to show up for a briefing on the attack Wednesday. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been the leading congressional critic ...

This week, a number of Republican senators have strongly criticized the administration for failing to properly explain the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Some of those senators failed to show up for a briefing on the attack Wednesday.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been the leading congressional critic of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack and what he sees as the administration’s lack of candor with Congress on the matter. On Wednesday, he pledged to block the potential nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton due to Rice’s statements on the attack. That drew a sharp rebuke from President Barack Obama at Wednesday’s press conference.

But although McCain had time to speak on the Senate floor and on television about the lack of information provided to Congress about the attack, he didn’t attend the classified briefing for senators Wednesday given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which he is a member.

Committee ranking Republican Susan Collins (R-ME) called out McCain for skipping the briefing and said his call for a special committee to investigate the Benghazi attack was not necessary because the Homeland Security committee could handle it.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), "who was there at briefing, and Senator McCain, who was not, are members of our committee, and I know they would play very important roles," Collins told Politico.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another Homeland Security committee member who was on television complaining about the lack of Benghazi information, also did not show up for the Wednesday hearing. Paul did a CNN interview from the Capitol building Wednesday in which said he had questions about the anti-Islam video, the lack of Marines in Libya, and diplomatic security. At one point he says, "I don’t know enough of the details."

The closed and classified briefing included representatives from the State Department, the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the FBI, an administration official said. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a classified hearing on Benghazi on Tuesday and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold one Thursday, but McCain and Paul are not members of either of those committees.

"If you want answers, a good first step is to show up and ask a question," an administration official told The Cable. "That’s what a senator does."

UPDATE: According to his spokesman Brian Rogers, "Senator McCain was absent from the hearing due to a scheduling error."

UPDATE #2: Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley tells The Cable: "Sen. Paul didn’t need to attend yet another Administration press conference disguised as a classified briefing to know there should have been Marines defending our personnel in Libya, to hear the Administration make the same excuses in private they will make in public. Sen. Paul is focused on demanding answers, demanding those who made these fatal mistake be fired, and fixing the mess this Administration has made. All of that needs to be done in public, for Americans to see and hear."

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This week, a number of Republican senators have strongly criticized the administration for failing to properly explain the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Some of those senators failed to show up for a briefing on the attack Wednesday.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been the leading congressional critic of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack and what he sees as the administration’s lack of candor with Congress on the matter. On Wednesday, he pledged to block the potential nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton due to Rice’s statements on the attack. That drew a sharp rebuke from President Barack Obama at Wednesday’s press conference.

But although McCain had time to speak on the Senate floor and on television about the lack of information provided to Congress about the attack, he didn’t attend the classified briefing for senators Wednesday given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which he is a member.

Committee ranking Republican Susan Collins (R-ME) called out McCain for skipping the briefing and said his call for a special committee to investigate the Benghazi attack was not necessary because the Homeland Security committee could handle it.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), "who was there at briefing, and Senator McCain, who was not, are members of our committee, and I know they would play very important roles," Collins told Politico.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another Homeland Security committee member who was on television complaining about the lack of Benghazi information, also did not show up for the Wednesday hearing. Paul did a CNN interview from the Capitol building Wednesday in which said he had questions about the anti-Islam video, the lack of Marines in Libya, and diplomatic security. At one point he says, "I don’t know enough of the details."

The closed and classified briefing included representatives from the State Department, the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the FBI, an administration official said. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a classified hearing on Benghazi on Tuesday and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold one Thursday, but McCain and Paul are not members of either of those committees.

"If you want answers, a good first step is to show up and ask a question," an administration official told The Cable. "That’s what a senator does."

UPDATE: According to his spokesman Brian Rogers, "Senator McCain was absent from the hearing due to a scheduling error."

UPDATE #2: Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley tells The Cable: "Sen. Paul didn’t need to attend yet another Administration press conference disguised as a classified briefing to know there should have been Marines defending our personnel in Libya, to hear the Administration make the same excuses in private they will make in public. Sen. Paul is focused on demanding answers, demanding those who made these fatal mistake be fired, and fixing the mess this Administration has made. All of that needs to be done in public, for Americans to see and hear."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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