State Department to press: Stop asking us about the sacking of Benghazi consulate

posted at 11:31 am on September 15, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The US insists that the death of an American ambassador and three others in Benghazi resulted from a riot spinning out of control over a cheesy YouTube video.  The Libyan government insists that the operation that sacked the consulate and assassinated the four diplomatic personnel was a well-planned plot that exploited the rioting.  Who to believe?  Whatever you think, don’t bother asking the State Department, because they have told the media they’re done discussing it:

The State Department told reporters Friday afternoon that it won’t answer any more questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans until the investigation into the incident is complete.

“I’m going to frustrate all of you, infinitely, by telling you that now that we have an open FBI investigation on the death of these four Americans, we are not going to be in a position to talk at all about what the U.S. government may or may not be learning about how any of this this happened — not who they were, not how it happened, not what happened to Ambassador Stevens, not any of it — until the Justice Department is ready to talk about the investigation that’s its got,” State Department spokeswoman Victorian Nuland told reporters late Friday afternoon.

“So I’m going to send to the FBI for those kinds of questions and they’re probably not going to talk to you about it,” she said.

They won’t answer any questions at all while the investigation continues?  That seems awfully convenient, especially since State had the responsibility for securing that mission in Benghazi in the first place — and on the anniversary of 9/11, a time when one might expect some kind of attack attempt.  Fox News military analyst Col. David Hunt told Breitbart’s Michael Patrick Leahy that the security policy for all Libyan diplomatic missions was determined last year after the fall of Moammar Qaddafi, and signed by Hillary Clinton — and that it “severely compromised” the safety of the diplomatic staff:

Hunt told Breitbart News that the new State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya, approved and signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton since the 2011 fall of Khadafi’s regime, severely compromised the safety and security of murdered Ambassador Stevens and all American diplomatic staff in Libya.

He also stated that the decision not to staff Benghazi with Marines was made by Secretary of State Clinton when she attached her signature to the State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya document. Breitbart News has subsequently learned that under those rules of engagement, Secretary Clinton prohibited Marines from providing security at any American diplomatic installation in Libya.

Hunt told Breitbart News that “the rules of engagement have been changing drastically over the last 10 years. . . The reason the surge in Iraq worked was we had another 40,000 soldiers and the rules of engagement were changed to allow our guys to shoot. What’s happened in Libya is the final straw of political correctness. We allowed a contractor to hire local nationals as security guards, but said they can’t have bullets. This was all part of the point of not having a high profile in Libya.”

According to Hunt, the debacle at the American mission in Benghazi is directly the result of Obama’s new policies. ”The policy of the Obama administration led to this,” he said.

The building in Benghazi lacked even the basic security amenities, like bulletproof glass, Hunt claimed, and the building itself as insubstantial as “an outhouse.”  If these indeed were the security arrangements, it reminds me of the UN’s mission in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  The UN refused to use troops from the US and UK to secure the facility, instead placing themselves outside of the American “Green Zone” in Baghdad and hiring local security forces.  Shortly afterward in August 2003, terrorists attacked the UN facility and killed the mission’s leader, Sergio Viera de Mello, 21 others, and wounded more than 100.   After a second attack just a month later, the UN withdrew its mission entirely.

Not only should we have learned a lesson from that attack, we should also have learned a lesson from the map.  While Tripoli remains fairly secure in the western part of Libya, Benghazi is located on the other side of the country — where radical Islamist groups have percolated for years.  Al-Qaeda in Iraq recruited heavily from that part of the country while fighting the US in western Iraq particularly, and the fall of Qaddafi has allowed these groups — including AQ — to operate more openly.  That was one of the big concerns when Obama pushed NATO into a war against Qaddafi; deposing him would leave a power vacuum into which radical Islamists could seize control of at least parts of a fractured Libya.  If no one at State understood that well enough to know that diplomatic missions in Libya and especially in Benghazi would need stronger rather than lighter security, one has to wonder what exactly they were thinking.

Of course, we can’t ask them now, because they’re refusing to answer any questions.  That led to this interesting question from a reporter at the presser:

Reporters at the briefing pointed out that the officials on that conference call noted that they were giving out preliminary information that might have been wrong and if the State Department doesn’t talk about the night’s events ever again, that wrong information would remain uncorrected in the public sphere.

“The U.S. government is going to be happy to let incorrect information stand?” one reporter asked.

Perhaps incorrect information serves their interests better than the truth, eh?


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