What happened in Benghazi, Libya?

Four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed during September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and nearby CIA annex.

Critics have suggested that U.S. officials did not heed warnings about security before the attacks and that there may have been a political coverup in the aftermath.

[Map quiz: Can you find Benghazi?]

Image source: Digital Globe via GoogleEarth

Whom is Clinton testifying to?

The House of Representatives voted last year to establish a select committee on the Benghazi attacks to investigate the causes of and subsequent responses to the incidents. The committee will eventually produce a report on its findings.

As secretary of state during the attacks, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the highest-ranking U.S. official in charge, after the president. Examining Clinton’s role falls within the stated goals of the committee, which include investigating “policies, decisions and activities” relating to the attacks.

The committee includes 12 members of the House of Representatives – seven Republicans led by Trey Gowdy, and five Democrats led by Elijah E. Cummings:

Cliff Owen/AP

Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)


Gowdy is the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi and a former federal prosecutor – work for which he received the Postal Inspector’s Award for the conviction of J. Mark Allen, one of “America’s Most Wanted.” Elected in 2010, he represents the Spartanburg and Greenville-based 4th District.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)

Ranking member

The top Democrat on the Benghazi committee has also been one of its most vocal critics. Cummings also is the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, another venue where he has locked horns with Republicans. The Baltimore Democrat was first elected to the House in 1996 and is a potential candidate in the race to replace Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who is retiring at the end of the session.

Show 10 other members

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Susan Brooks (R-Ind.)

A former deputy mayor of Indianapolis, George W. Bush appointed Brooks in 2001 as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. She was known for her work on mortgage fraud, gun violence and identity theft. She was elected to the 7th district in 2012.

M. Spencer Green/AP

Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

An Iraq war veteran, Duckworth flew combat missions as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. During one flight, a rocket-propelled grenade hit her helicopter and she lost both legs and partial use of her right arm. She was an advocate for wounded warriors and served as assistant secretary for Veterans Affairs before winning a seat in Congress in 2012. She now has her eyes on the Senate and is running against Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

A four-time state wrestling champion, Jordan runs the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Elected in 2006 to Ohio’s 4th District, he got into a sparring match at a recent Oversight committee hearing with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.)

A military veteran who patrolled Iron Curtain countries before the Berlin Wall fell, Pompeo was elected in 2010. Before coming to the House, he founded Thayer Aerospace and was president of Sentry International. He has said the Benghazi issue is “in some ways” worse than Watergate.

Martha Roby/AP

Martha Roby (R-Ala.)

A college music major, the lawyer and ex-Montgomery City Councilwoman was elected to the House in 2010. She also serves on the House Appropriations Committee and introduced a controversial House-passed bill to allow workers to receive comp time instead of overtime pay.

Alex Wong/Getty

Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.)

Before being elected to Congress, Roskam worked as a personal injury lawyer and served as a state senator and representative for several years. He came to the House after defeating Tammy Duckworth – now also a House member and on the Benghazi committee – in 2006. A former chief deputy whip, Roskam’s name emerged as a potential candidate for the post-Boehner leadership team, but he decided to stay out of that fray.

Cliff Owen/AP

Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.)

A labor lawyer before being elected to Congress in 2002, Sánchez continues to focus on economic issues through her seat on the Ways and Means Committee. She also serves as the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee and has spearheaded efforts to discourage cyberbullying. Sánchez serves in Congress along with her sister, Loretta.

Alex Brandon/AP

Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.)

A former federal prosecutor, Schiff serves as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which conducted its own investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. Schiff has been a leading voice advocating for the repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which he considers outdated, and passing a new authorization to fight the Islamic State. He has been in the House since 2001.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Adam Smith (D-Wash.)

A former prosecutor, Smith serves as the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. He has used this role to establish himself as a leading voice in the party on national security issues. Smith, who was elected in 1996, has been critical of the Benghazi panel, calling it a “witch hunt” that is being used for partisan purposes.

Alex Brandon/AP

Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.)

Westmoreland ran a construction business before being elected to Congress in 2004, where he now serves on the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees. He has thought about making a bid to be speaker but likely wouldn’t run if Paul Ryan decides to seek the job. He is a fiscal conservative who has pushed to cut spending and overhaul the tax code.

How does this relate to her e-mails?

After Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal e-mail account while secretary of state was reported by the news, the Benghazi committee issued subpoenas for any of her e-mails related to Libya.

Separately, Clinton has since turned over 30,000 work-related e-mails to both the State Department and the FBI. She said she chose not to keep 31,000 others she deemed personal.

[Read the e-mails and catch up on the controversy]

Has she testified before?

Clinton has not testified before this committee, although she did testify in January 2013 in House and Senate hearings. That was one week before she stepped down as secretary of state.

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s opening remarks on Benghazi

Huma Abedin, Clinton’s longtime personal aide, was questioned by the Benghazi committee during a private session Oct. 16. Other State Department employees have testified during previous hearings.

Has anyone found wrongdoing so far?

An investigation by an Accountability Review Board appointed by the State Department faulted the department for security shortcomings and not heeding warnings about the dangers in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya. The board recommended broad changes in security and a review of the way the department spends money and Congress provides it.

A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report released in January 2014 faulted both the State Department and the intelligence community for not preventing the attacks. It said the State Department failed to increase security at its mission despite warnings, and blamed intelligence agencies for not sharing information about the existence of the CIA outpost with the U.S. military.

The Senate report found no evidence of the kind of political coverup that Republicans have long alleged.

[Read the Senate report]

What other names might come up in the hearing?

Sidney Blumenthal, an old confidant of Clinton’s, is a figure of interest to committee Republicans. Blumenthal was deposed by the panel in June, and since then, GOP lawmakers have called him Clinton’s primary correspondent on Libya policy during the time in question.

What new information has the committee found?

It’s complicated. The committee has obtained thousands of pages of e-mails and interviewed dozens of witnesses, but most of what they have learned has been leaked or communicated in small bits to the news media. The best sense of what they know will come during Thursday’s hearing and after the committee report is published.

Why do critics say this is only about politics?

Democrats have consistently argued the Benghazi committee’s intent was to hurt Clinton and the Obama administration politically. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy lent this argument momentum when he suggested that the committee helped lower Clinton’s poll numbers.

Why Rep. McCarthy’s Benghazi comment backfired

Democrats point to that and other similar comments by House Republicans as evidence that the committee is chiefly political.