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U.S. Still Lacks Legal Authority to Fight Benghazi Attackers, but a GOP Bill Could Change That


"[W]ith four dead Americans, the president must not be restricted from holding individuals and organizations responsible."

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and GOP leaders finish a news conference following a Republican strategy meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Boehner has created a special select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. Benghazi resonates with Republicans and remains a rallying cry with conservatives whose votes are crucial to the GOP in November's historically low-turnout midterm elections. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Two dozen House Republicans have introduced legislation authorizing the government to use force against the terrorists and groups responsible for the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) offered the bill after being informed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the government currently does not have any authority to use force against the Benghazi attackers.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, may soon have to decide whether to authorize the use of force against the Benghazi attackers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

"As important as it is to gain absolute clarity on the Benghazi attacks through ongoing oversight, it is no less important for the president, as commander in chief, to possess the necessary authority to strike targets directly linked to the attacks," Hunter said this week.

"Having the authority is by no means a requirement to use it," he added. "But with four dead Americans, the president must not be restricted from holding individuals and organizations responsible. And if the president believes this authority is unnecessary, then he has an obligation to come forward and explain why the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is wrong or why he would avoid action in the event of an opportunity."

Congress' oversight over Benghazi has been reinvigorated over the last several days. Last week, GOP leaders said they would push for the creation of a select committee to investigate the attack, after the White House was forced to release an email showing that officials downplayed the idea that terrorists attacked the consulate and killed four Americans.

Instead, the White House played up the idea that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. But the email released to Judicial Watch showed that intelligence officials dismissed that possibility almost immediately.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was outraged over the email, and said it shows a full investigation is now necessary.

"Americans learned this week that the Obama Administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the People's House," Boehner said last week. "These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen."

As of this week, House leaders have not indicated whether they would approve a bill to congressionally authorize the use of force against the Benghazi attackers.

A more immediate question is whether the Obama administration has any idea how to use any new authority to attack. Many Republicans have criticized the administration for failing to take any real steps to even identify the attackers.

In the meantime, the House on Thursday was scheduled to pass the resolution creating the select committee. That resolution would create a 12-member committee made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats, and it would have unlimited time and funding to investigate the attack and the White House's response to the attack.

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