Conservative media have sought to legitimize the House's new select committee on Benghazi by claiming only it could answer questions about Benghazi that have already been answered, a tactic that appeared to spill over to CNN on May 22.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer hosted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a newly announced member of the House committee, and pressed him on why Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on the day of the attack. Even though this matter has been repeatedly investigated in the public record, Blitzer asserted, "Maybe you'll get the answer" as to why during the House's latest investigation:
BLITZER: Here's a question. I don't know if you have the answer to this, maybe you'll get the answer. Do you know why Ambassador Chris Stevens was even in Benghazi during those days after there had been other terrorist attacks against the British facility there, against the International Red Cross, so many other international organizations that abandoned Ben[ghazi]. Why was he there to begin with?
SCHIFF: You know, that issue has been explored, Wolf. And I think that Ambassador Stevens was someone who really loved the Libyan people, wanted to be close to the Libyan people, understood the risks, understood that diplomats can't live in bunkers. Wanted better security but at the same time, he knew to do his job, he couldn't completely live in that bunker. So, you know, we might question that call right now but frankly, this is a dedicated public servant that gave his life ultimately for his country. And I have to respect the fact that he wanted to be where he was, that he felt it was important to the execution of his mission and his responsibility, and regrettably, we lost a great American.
BLITZER: So that was his decision to go to Benghazi? No one in Washington ordered him to go there?
SCHIFF: No, I haven't seen any evidence that he was ordered to go there.
There's much on the record about why Stevens was in Benghazi on September 11, and the myth that he was there on orders from Washington was debunked back in 2012.
Stevens reportedly planned to be in Benghazi from September 10 - 14, in part to dedicate a partnership project between Libya and the United States. According to his personal diary, recovered by a CNN reporter after his death and later authenticated by the State Department, while there he met with the mayor of Benghazi, local council members, and other leaders in the community active in Libya's transitional government at the time.
Stevens was far from the only diplomat to remain in Benghazi despite ongoing security threats. As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence noted:
Although some countries and international organizations had reduced their presence in Benghazi, the United States maintained a diplomatic presence there similar to the UN, the European Union, and other Western countries such as Italy, France, Turkey, and Malta.
The career ambassador understood the risks, his father emphasized in an op-ed, writing, "Chris was not willing to be the kind of diplomat who would strut around in fortified compounds. He amazed and impressed the Libyans by walking the streets with the lightest of escorts, sitting in sidewalk cafes, chatting with passers-by. There was a risk to being accessible. He knew it, and he accepted it."
Stevens' decision to travel to Benghazi was not the result of any directive from Washington. As the State Department Accountability Review Board, which released the findings of its Benghazi investigation back in December 2012, determined:
The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice. Timing for his trip was driven in part by commitments in Tripoli, as well as a staffing gap between principal officers in Benghazi. Plans for the Ambassador's trip provided for minimal close protection security support and were not shared thoroughly with the Embassy's country team, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound. The Ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. Mission in the overall negative trendline of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy, and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments.
Ambassador Stevens was scheduled to remain in Benghazi until September 14, and his visit was timed in part to fill the staffing gaps between TDY principal officers as well as to open an American Corner at a local school and to reconnect with local contacts.
Demanding answers to questions already in the public record is a tactic congressional Republicans and their right-wing media allies have perfected when it comes to Benghazi, and a convenient trick for justifying their desire for a redundant, partisan investigation.