November 18, 2012

Washington Notebook: Maine delegation weighs in on Benghazi investigation

By Kevin Miller
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - One of the big topics on Capitol Hill last week was the ongoing investigation into the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. And members of Maine's congressional delegation -- including one who isn't even an official member yet -- were in the thick of the discussion.

Both of Maine's two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, serve on Senate committees that are probing the September attacks that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Collins made headlines Tuesday morning when she said it was "absolutely imperative" that former CIA Director David Petraeus testify to Congress, despite his recent resignation amid an extramarital affair scandal. Petraeus appeared before congressional committees late in the week.

But Collins also made news when she said a Watergate-style investigation was unnecessary and, in the process, appeared to "ding" fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona for missing a closed-door briefing on Benghazi. McCain was holding a news conference on his desire for a special select committee during the briefing to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

NBC reported that McCain "made his displeasure to Collins known" the next day. And Collins later clarified her earlier, "inartfully" made point.

"All I was trying to point out is that he's a very valuable member of our committee, so he would be involved in all the briefings, the hearings and investigation," Collins told NBC. "And thus, I don't think that it's necessary to create a whole new separate committee. Our committee has a history of doing independent, bipartisan, comprehensive across-the-board investigations."

Maine Sen.-elect Angus King, meanwhile, added his thoughts on whether Susan Rice's statements on Benghazi should disqualify her for the secretary of state job. McCain and other Republicans have vowed to oppose Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, over early statements suggesting the attacks may have been tied to protests over an anti-Islamic video.

"I watched some of those comments yesterday and I don't really like starting out my Senate career -- I'm not even sworn in yet -- getting crosswise with some of the leaders of the other party. But I thought it was a bit premature," King said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.

Snowe was scheduled to talk about Benghazi on CBS' Sunday morning news program, "Face the Nation," with Bob Schieffer. Snowe participated in several closed-door briefings on Benghazi in recent days as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the week, Snowe was withholding judgment on whether a select committee was necessary. But she was critical of the lack of answers or progress on bringing the attackers to justice.

In the mid-1980s, Snowe helped develop legislation that established the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service to oversee security of State Department facilities worldwide after a surge in attacks on U.S. facilities abroad.

"But, frankly, it's inconceivable to me that we would not have provided the necessary resources to provide for the protection and defense of that consulate," Snowe told the Portland Press Herald. "That was the purpose of the initial law creating the bureau to begin with because we had a lapse in security that ultimately led to attacks on our embassies and on our men and women."


U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, is asking leading defense officials for answers about how the military lost, destroyed or failed to keep combat records for many incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Such records can provide important documentation for veterans later seeking treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs. A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Seattle Times found lax record-keeping for some units in the two wars.

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