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Benghazi: Panetta stonewalls House committee chairman McKeon

posted at 2:47 pm on October 20, 2012 by

The news keeps getting worse.  The Washington Free Beacon reports today that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has “blocked” four senior military officers from answering questions on the Benghazi attack posed by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

McKeon asked the officers to provide answers to questions about security threats by the close of business Friday…

McKeon asked each of the four officers in separate letters whether prior to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi anyone under their command had notified the State Department or other agencies about growing dangers in Libya. …

He also wants to know if there were any requests to increase security in Libya for U.S. personnel. … [T]he letters to the four officers asked whether any military officers under their command had recommended “deployment of additional U.S. military forces to Libya due to the threat environment.”

Other questions focused on determining if the officers were aware that officers under their command recommended increasing security in Libya prior to the deadly attack …

“To your knowledge, has the Department of State or any other federal agency requested additional U.S. military forces to augment security for U.S. personnel in Libya?” McKeon asked.

Said a HASC aide:

It is nearly unprecedented that the office of the secretary of defense would prohibit a member of the uniformed military from answering direct questions posed by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Indeed.  But what, if anything, about the Benghazi incident does have a precedent – outside of the other actions of the Obama administration, such as Fast & Furious?  We have reached the point at which the cynical behavior of this administration can’t be reinterpreted or spun.  There is no honest purpose for refusing to answer these questions from the House.  If the Obama executive is running an actual investigation, we’re at day 39 now after the 9/11/12 attack, and it’s past time to have answers.  There is no excuse for the administration’s behavior.

Why would Panetta and the White House use the stonewalling tactic with the House?  Presumably because the Democrat-held Senate has given them until after the election to answer its questions.  The calculating character of this reprieve from the Senate is obvious.

Many readers probably saw Bret Baier’s Fox News special Friday night on the Benghazi attack and its aftermath (video linked here).  For those who missed LTC Andrew Wood in the recent Congressional hearing – Wood, deployed through the National Guard, led a special security team for the US missions in Libya, until the team was withdrawn earlier this year by a State Department functionary (video of his testimony here) – Baier’s interview with him brings out clearly that State decided to cut the already-inadequate security force in Libya.  Wood advocated keeping his team in place, but State decided against it – even though the Defense Department was actually paying for it.

So McKeon’s questions to the Department of Defense are right on point, and the American people are owed the answers.  There is a certain pragmatism at work on both sides of the aisle right now; Democrats want to get through the election, and Republicans are likely to take a more perfunctory approach to the Benghazi issue if Mitt Romney wins on the 6th.  The public appetite for details – at least, any details we still don’t know this point – will probably wane once the people know the Obama administration is on the way out.

The gingerly treatment of the Obama administration by the MSM on this matter is a timely reminder that the MSM are not peopled with objective journalists.  If a Republican administration were backing and filling after the Benghazi fiasco, it would find no rest anywhere.  The attacks on it would be relentless.  We may say, “And rightly so!” – but the MSM seem incapable of calibration here: either they are in a frenetic feeding frenzy, hammering their own narratives as they “cover” the activities of a Republican administration, or they are declining to cover stories that obviously matter about a Democratic administration.  Too seldom anymore do we see from them the middle ground of sober, fair-minded, carefully assembled reporting.

But the most important take-away from the Benghazi fiasco is the nakedly cynical, self-serving behavior of the Obama administration.  Four Americans were killed, in a terrorist attack on a facility that should have been protected better, but – because of decisions made by Obama’s appointees – was not.  Instead of manning up to what happened and providing the answers that are owed to the people, the administration first built a specious narrative about why the attack was launched, as if that was what mattered, and then spent weeks claiming that it was too early to answer questions on almost any aspect of the topic.

Now the administration has directed senior military officers not to answer questions from Congress.  There is no conceivable reason for this, other than to stymie progress on the House’s inquiry.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

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“Wood advocated keeping his team in place, but State decided against it – even though the Defense Department was actually paying for it.”

It’s almost as though someone expected – even wanted – an attack on the consulate.

Perhaps so that “someone” could act forcefully, rescue the American personnel and look almost ‘presidential’. What could go wrong?

Solaratov on October 20, 2012 at 3:07 PM

I believe that if the entire truth was known the president wouldn’t have a snowball in hell’s chance of re-election. This whole Libyan adventure wreeks of Obama administration actions that are detrimental to American interests. Why is the State department in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamists? And now, after a total fiasco in Libya, they’ve apparently taken the show on the road to Syria.

Elric on October 20, 2012 at 3:09 PM

It’s almost as though someone expected – even wanted – an attack on the consulate.

Perhaps so that “someone” could act forcefully, rescue the American personnel and look almost ‘presidential’. What could go wrong?

Solaratov on October 20, 2012 at 3:07 PM

I’ve been saying that for weeks now, Stevens knew something that would/could be pretty bad for either/both Hussein and Shillary. Just seeing a united stance from both of these criminals shows they worked on this together.

riddick on October 20, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Nicely done J.D. I have to the conclusion that the Dem. leadership is in serious denial over how really bad Benghazi is, or how much they have HONKED OFF the senior leadership in both spec and regional commands. (By Democrat leadership I mean the House and Senate.) And by now, it has become blazingly clear that Obama has walked away from his duty as Commander in Chief. I have saying this all day now, but one more time. A vacuum now exists, and our adversary’s know it. We have now entered a worst case situation. Seventeen more days…

flackcatcher on October 20, 2012 at 6:50 PM

come to(been up way to long.)

flackcatcher on October 20, 2012 at 6:52 PM