Two officials from the Obama administration are on the hot seat today on Capitol Hill: John Brennan, who is the president'a chief counterterrorism advisor and who has been nominated to lead the CIA, and Leon Panetta, the retiring defense secretary. For Brennan, the issue is whether he should be confirmed to be the next CIA director; while Panetta will be on Capitol Hill to answer questions about the September 11 terror attack in Benghazi that led to the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Panetta will sit before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and field questions from its members. Last week, the committee grilled the man nominated to be Panetta's replacement, Chuck Hagel. Republicans had demanded that Panetta come to Capitol Hill before Hagel could testify (in the end, they settled for Panetta coming the week after Hagel testified).
The Panetta hearing is titled, "Oversight: Attack on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya," and includes this tag-line: "To receive testimony on the Department of Defense’s response to the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and the findings of its internal review following the attack." While the bulk of the hearing is scheduled to be open to the public, the committee states that " There is a possibility of a CLOSED session..."
The primary question, one imagines, is whether there was anything Panetta could have done to prevent the murder of the four Americans. And what did he know about the attack, and when did he know it.
Panetta will be joined at the hearing by General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As for Brennan, he is scheduled today to appear in front the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, with a hearing titled, "Open Hearing: Nomination of John O. Brennan to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency."
Brennan has been under fire from the both the right and left. "Opposition to the nomination of John Brennan, now Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, surfaced quickly among Republicans after the White House tapped him to replace David Petraeus as CIA director," reports the Hill. "But Monday's leak of a confidential Department of Justice (DOJ) paper justifying the use of armed drone strikes against suspected terrorists — even if those suspects are U.S. citizens — has lit a fire under liberals as well."
From Republican senators, Brennan will also likely have to answer for allegedly leaking classified information to the media. From Democratic senators, Brennan's past support for enhanced interrogation techniques and torture will likely be an issue at today's hearing.