A Republican member of Congress in charge of investigating the Benghazi attacks in which four Americans were killed said Monday that questions remain about what happened that night but he does not think the Obama administration formulated a "complete cover-up."
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Georgia, chair of a House Intelligence subcommittee, said incompetence is the likely culprit. "I don't think they knew what they were doing," he said.
He said the various arms of government involved - the State Department and intelligence agencies - "got their communications mixed up."
"I think what ended up happening, you had the State Department trying to tell one story and you had the security, the intelligence community that may have been trying to sell another story," Westmoreland said on CNN's "New Day."
Westmoreland's subcommittee interviewed five CIA contractors who were at the compound that night. It was the first time Congress had spoken to people present at the compound.
More than a year after the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, questions still linger as to what led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The House Intelligence Committee has held 15 hearings on the attacks.
In the days following the September 11, 2012, attacks, the Obama administration said the incident was not a planned attack but was a protest turned violent. That story quickly unraveled and the administration has been accused of a cover-up.
"I don't think there was any doubt that they knew it was a coordinated attack," Westmoreland said, pointing to the "accuracy of the mortar fire that came."
More questions about a cover-up arose recently when members of Congress found out that Americans present that night were asked to sign an updated nondisclosure agreement.
CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin reported last week that a source told him that "there is not a person in Washington, D.C., who doesn't understand why the forms were put in front of these people."
Westmoreland said it's "not that unusual" to sign updated security agreements and that the forms specifically stated that signatories have the right to speak to House and Senate Intelligence committees.
Westmoreland also said that reports of "an ongoing gun battle" throughout the night are "just not true." He said the CIA operatives told his subcommittee there was random fire throughout the night, which was commonplace in Benghazi.
He said questions do remain, however, including if there was a lull in activity between the sparse gunfire.
In addition, Westmoreland said that when the CIA arrived at the compound that night, regional security forces were unarmed and one officer didn't have his shoes on.
"I think they were totally unprepared for any type of attack," he said.
Westmoreland said the committee is looking into why a directive was released on August 11 telling the personnel in Benghazi that "you are on your own."
The compound itself is not set up for protection," Westmoreland said, adding that the CIA operatives said "they couldn't believe those guys were over there as unprepared and unequipped as they were."
"We have been chasing every rabbit that's popped its head out of the rabbit hole and we're going to continue to do that," he said.
The congressional hearing lasted for 4½ hours. Of the thousands of words spoken between what seemed like all 54 members on the House committee roster and four witnesses representing government contractors responsible for healthcare.gov, five things could be taken away.
No answers to key questions
How many error logs did you receive? How many people have been able to enroll? When will it be fixed? Those are three major questions lawmakers asked. Reasonable, especially since those questions would provide insight about the scope of the problem. But those are the questions that the witnesses did not answer.
"I don't have that information," or, "I don't have that (data) with me" or "I'm not able to provide that information" were the responses.
Witnesses told lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee they would provide that information by 9 a.m. Friday. If not, perhaps next week's hearing on the website woes will provide clarity to some of those questions.
Only 61 people in the history of the United States have held the position. It's the second most powerful in the country and second in line to the presidency.
But after this week, not many people may want to be Speaker of the House.
John Boehner, the chain-smoking, politically moderate, congressman from southwestern Ohio who has held the job for the past three years, has seen his power to corral his Republican caucus tested.
He's just come out on the losing end of a ferocious battle with President Barack Obama to reopen the government and avert a possible default.
"We fought the good fight, we just didn't win," Boehner told a Cincinnati radio station on Wednesday.
A GOP congressman who was in a closed-door meeting late Wednesday afternoon with the caucus told CNN's Dana Bash: "Speaker Boehner said, 'Look, I don't want everybody beating each other up. I know this isn't everything we want, but we're going to live to fight another day.'"
Next up: the debt ceiling.
The White House continues to issue dire warnings about the economic consequences should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling this month. President Barack Obama told Wall Street to be "concerned" and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Congress is "playing with fire."
But despite all the drastic pronouncements, some Republicans in Congress aren't buying it. For one thing, they doubt that October 17 is the date when the Treasury will be unable to meet its obligations.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Nebraska, is one of those lawmakers.
"For him to just put out the 17th as a drop-dead date, I don't think there's a lot of credibility to that. I don't think a lot of my peers and I believe in that," Terry recently told CNN.
The deadline for a potential government default is fast approaching nonetheless, and could have disastrous effects. CNN Business Correspondent Christine Romans explains, the Treasury Department is about to run out of money to pay all of its bills and can’t currently borrow more.
Unless Congress raises the debt ceiling, “it would have to rely on $30 billion in cash that's in the Treasury's coffer right now," Romans reports. "There's also daily revenue coming in but that fluctuates, so we can’t really count on how much is exactly coming in and that’s not enough to pay everything.”
And come November 1st, Social Security, veterans benefits, military pay and Medicare bills will all be due. Once those priorities are met, the government will no longer have funds for remaining interest payments, which absolutely must be paid.
The risks if they aren't paid: Stock markets would most likely plunge. The value of the dollar would crash. Interest rates would rise for the country. Our borrowing costs would increase.
"That means, credit card rates, mortgage rates, car loan rates," Romans says. "And ironically, our debt and deficit would explode because of those borrowing costs.”