Proof That The Benghazi Investigation Is Totally Unlike Any Other, In Two Charts

Emily Atkin Reporter, Climate Progress

On Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will testify in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, where Republicans will try to prove that the former secretary of state mishandled the events leading up to and following the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Lately, however, those same Republicans have found themselves trying to prove something different: That their intense focus on Benghazi is not primarily driven by a political desire to undermine Clinton. Recently, a number of Republicans have said that targeting Clinton is part of the investigation’s purpose. But others, like House Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), suggest they’re treating Benghazi like they would any other terrorist attack.

But are they?

An analysis of Congressional attention to previous high-profile terror incidents suggests that significantly more emphasis has been placed on Benghazi than other terrorism acts. The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the 1996 Khobar Tower bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and even the attacks of September 11, 2001 — all received less Congressional attention than Benghazi in the form of formal hearings and investigations into their respective causes.

The chart below shows the number of congressional committees dedicated to investigating facts about each respective attack. For the purposes of this analysis, committee investigations are defined as efforts that produce written reports.

CREDIT: Graphic by Andrew Breiner

Benghazi: For the Benghazi attack, there have been eight separate committees investigating the incident and producing reports, including the ongoing investigation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. These eight include six House and two Senate committees. There was also one non-partisan agency investigation into Benghazi by the State Department’s Accountability Review Board.

A significantly smaller number of congressional committees investigated each of the other six terrorist attacks.

Boston Marathon: Only the House Homeland Security Committee investigated the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013, producing two written reports. A number of other committees held hearings, but none of those wrote reports. A non-partisan investigation into the Boston bombing was also conducted by the Inspectors General of the Intelligence Community and the Central Intelligence Agency, which produced a report.

USS Cole Bombing: Two separate congressional committees investigated and wrote reports on the USS Cole bombing, a 2000 incident in Yemen that saw 17 soldiers killed. The House Armed Services Committee issued a public document, while the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report was classified. Aside from congressional inquiries, the Navy, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the independent Crouch-Gehman Commission conducted investigations into the bombing.

Khobar Tower Bombing: Two congressional committees investigated on the 1996 Khobar Tower bombing, an attack on a housing complex in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 U.S. servicemen. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House National Security Committee each issued reports. In addition, the Department of Defense-appointed independent Downing Assessment Task Force conducted an investigation.

September 11 Attacks: For the September 11 terrorist attacks, the government mounted only two fact-finding investigations resulting in written reports. One of those investigations was from a joint congressional investigation, while the other came from an independent investigation conducted by the 9/11 Commission. Many, many other hearings were held by a bevy of other committees regarding policy issues surrounding the attacks, and many of those produced written reports as well — but none were formal investigations of the attack itself.

There were no formal congressional investigations leading to committee reports on either the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings which killed 224 people, nor the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people and injured 680 others. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) released his own findings about the Oklahoma bombing, but they were not approved by the committee he sat on.

CREDIT: Graphic by Andrew Breiner

When it comes to the actual number of hearings held, there is also a disparity between Congress’ attention to Benghazi and other high-profile terrorist attacks.

Benghazi: To investigate the Benghazi attack, congressional committees have so far held 32 public or private hearings. They are all listed here.

September 11 Attacks: The terrorist attack that got closest number of hearings to Benghazi was the September 11 attacks. The joint congressional committee that released the report held 22 hearings — nine that were public, and 13 that were closed. The House Armed Services Committee also held a hearing to discuss the findings of the joint committee’s report.

There were certainly more congressional hearings regarding 9/11 aside from that, but like the committees investigating it, they do not appear to be about investigating the attack itself. Other 9/11-related hearings instead appear to be about policy issues, like how to improve airport security.

Khobar Tower Bombing: The Khobar Tower bombing garnered 14 hearings from various House and Senate committees, some of which focused on general security challenges in the region. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held seven. The House National Security Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the House Government Reform Committee each held two. In addition, the House Judiciary Committee held one, focusing on the FBI’s response to the incident.

1998 Embassy Bombings: 12 congressional hearings were held regarding the 1998 embassy bombings. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee each held five; the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Government Reform Committee each held one.

USS Cole Bombing: At least eight congressional hearings were held for the the USS Cole bombing, six of which happened in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Three of those hearings were closed to the public. The other two hearings took place in the House Armed Services Committee.

Oklahoma City Bombing: Congressional committees held a total of nine hearings regarding various aspects of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1996. Only two were specifically about the attacks, and those were done by the House Government Reform Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively. The House Judiciary Committee also held three hearings related to domestic terror, among other related hearings.

Boston Marathon Bombing: Five hearings by the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees were held on the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. There were reportedly other, private hearings on the attack as well, but those have not been disclosed.


A spokesperson from the House Select Committee on Benghazi did not return ThinkProgress’ request for comment.


This has been reposted from Think Progress.


Image courtesy of iStock.

Emily Atkin is a reporter for Climate Progress. She is a native of New York’s Hudson Valley, and holds a B.A. in Journalism from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Before joining the team at American Progress, she worked as a news-gatherer and reporter covering litigation and policy for the legal newswire Law360. Emily has also held internships with the New York Observer, the Legislative Gazette and investigative reporter Wayne Barrett.