The response of Obama Inc. and its defenders to the Benghazi attack has generally been some variation of, “Who could have known?”, “We didn’t know” and “How could we have known.”
Their claim that they practiced due diligence only to fall victim to an unexpected set of events never held much water. Benghazi was a danger zone and everyone knew it. The issue wasn’t a movie trailer, but the aftermath of a botched war that left Islamist militias in control of entire cities.
Now the Congressional report on Benghazigate tears apart some of the biggest claims.
An ongoing Congressional investigation across five House Committees concerning the events surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya has made several determinations to date, including:
• Reductions of security levels prior to the attacks in Benghazi were approved at the highest levels of the State Department, up to and including Secretary Clinton. This fact contradicts her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on January 23, 2013.
• In the days following the attacks, White House and senior State Department officials altered accurate talking points drafted by the Intelligence Community in order to protect the State Department.
• Contrary to Administration rhetoric, the talking points were not edited to protect classified information. Concern for classified information is never mentioned in email traffic among senior Administration officials.
This is, as noted, still preliminary but it finds enough deceptions to justify a more in depth investigation.
First the report makes a clear case that Hillary Clinton knew the situation in Benghazi and chose to weaken security while far larges sums of money were being wasted by the State Department elsewhere.
Repeated requests for additional security were denied at the highest levels of the State Department. For example, an April 2012 State Department cable bearing Secretary Hillary Clinton’s signature acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz’s formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned.
• The attacks were not the result of a failure by the Intelligence Community (IC) to recognize or communicate the threat. The IC collected considerable information about the threats in the region, and disseminated regular assessments to senior U.S. officials warning of the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi, which included threats to American interests, facilities, and personnel.
And also notes
In addition, the April 2012 cable from Secretary Clinton recommended that the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the U.S. Mission in Libya conduct a “joint reassessment of the number of DS agents requested for Benghazi.” This prompted one frustrated Embassy Tripoli employee to remark to her colleagues that it “looks like no movement on the full complement of [five DS] personnel for Benghazi, but rather a reassessment to bring the numbers lower.”
Furthermore it points to a lack of preparation by the White House and its incompetent centralized national security framework.
The President, as Commander-in-Chief, failed to proactively anticipate the significance of September 11 and provide the Department of Defense with the authority to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense. Defense Department assets were correctly positioned for the general threat across the region, but the assets were not authorized at an alert posture to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense, and were provided no notice to defend diplomatic facilities.
The report addresses the fumbled cover-up and incompetent response in the aftermath of the attacks.
After the Attacks:
• The Administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video. U.S. officials on the ground reported – and video evidence confirms – that demonstrations outside the Benghazi Mission did not occur and that the incident began with an armed attack on the facility. Senior Administration officials knowingly minimized the role played by al-Qa’ida-affiliated entities and other associated groups in the attacks, and decided to exclude from the discussion the previous attempts by extremists to attack U.S. persons or facilities in Libya.
• Administration officials crafted and continued to rely on incomplete and misleading talking points. Specifically, after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks. The Administration also removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya, including information about at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi.
Senior State Department officials requested – and the White House approved – that the details of the threats, specifics of the previous attacks, and previous warnings be removed to insulate the Department from criticism that it ignored the threat environment in Benghazi.
• Evidence rebuts Administration claims that the talking points were modified to protect classified information or to protect an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Email exchanges during the interagency process do not reveal any concern with protecting classified information. Additionally, the Bureau itself approved a version of the talking points with significantly more information about the attacks and previous threats than the version that the State Department requested. Thus, the claim that the State Department’s edits were made solely to protect that investigation is not credible.
• The Administration’s decision to respond to the Benghazi attacks with an FBI investigation, rather than military or other intelligence resources, contributed to the government’s lack of candor about the nature of the attack.
• Responding to the attacks with an FBI investigation significantly delayed U.S. access to key witnesses and evidence and undermined the government’s ability to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice in a timely manner.
The report includes a timeline of events and of the administration’s narrative and slams Obama’s determination to treat the attacks as criminal attacks, rather than acts of war.
Without significant progress in finding and questioning suspects, it appears that the decision to proceed with an FBI investigation – presumably with the intention of obtaining a criminal indictment in U.S. courts – was ill-advised. For instance, the United States responded to the attacks against U.S. embassies in Africa in the 1990s and against the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 with criminal investigations. On their own, those investigations failed to bring many of those responsible to justice and likely encouraged further terrorist activity. This approach is not the most effective method of responding to terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in foreign countries.
It was only after the September 11, 2001 attacks, when the United States responded to terrorism with military force, that the government successfully brought some of the perpetrators of those attacks and the previous attacks to justice. The Department of Defense offered to provide a U.S. military security team to accompany the FBI team. This option was not pursued. Terrorists are not deterred by criminal investigations. Because members of terrorist organizations that attack U.S. interests around the world are conducting more than a crime, they must be responded to accordingly to be thwarted.