Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s whereabouts and activities during the attack in Benghazi are similarly mysterious. Clinton’s State Department repeatedly rejected requests for enhancing security at Benghazi, even as Ansar al-Sharia’s power in the area grew over the summer of 2012. Why did State not beef up the Benghazi mission’s security? The Benghazi attack was focused on the U.S/ consulate, which belongs to the U.S. State Department. Why Stevens was in Benghazi that night, and what the consulate may have been used for, remains unknown. One of the Wednesday whistleblowers, veteran counterterrorism officer Mark I. Thompson, is expected to testify that Secretary of State Clinton sought to cut the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of reporting and decision-making during the attack. Thompson also claims that the State Department suppressed his account after the attack. Another unnamed State official corroborates Thompson’s account. But Daniel Benjamin, head of the counterterrorism unit at the time, says Clinton never tried to cut his group out during the attack. All of this brings to mind the question, exactly what was Clinton’s role on the night of the attack? Secretary of Defense Panetta testified that he and Clinton never communicated during the attack. All three of the nation’s top national security and diplomatic officials — President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta and Secretary of State Clinton — were in Washington that night. Panetta and Clinton were evidently engaged in responding to the attack, independently. Yet according to Panetta, they never talked to each other during the attack. Why would they not communicate during an ongoing attack on a U.S. facility overseas, if indeed they did not? Both Defense and State would surely be involved in any effective response to an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission overseas.
When asked Monday who told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sept. 11, 2012–while the terrorist attack was still ongoing in Benghazi and before former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed there—that the attack was being justified as “a response to inflammatory material posted on Internet,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell would not answer…
At Monday’s briefing, CNSNews.com asked: “That statement was put out before former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died in Benghazi. Who specifically told Hillary Clinton that there were some people blaming this on inflammatory response to–inflammatory material on the internet? Where did she get that idea at 10 p.m. on September 11th?”
Ventrell responded: “Look, these are issues that have been looked at in great detail, that have been answered in great detail to the Congress, to the American people, and you’re asking about something that is many months prior. And we’ve been very clear, and the ARB has looked at all of these issues and done so in great detail.”
Was this attack, then, a spontaneous reaction to a video or a planned attack? Either way, it was a major security failure. In fact, it’s hard to say which horn of the dilemma would make the administration look worse. A planned attack means a failure of intelligence and security. A spontaneous attack suggests security was so lax, little planning was needed to overrun the compound.
Finally, it’s possible the truth is somewhere in the middle. Some people on hand that night were upset about the video. Others may have had different motives and used the video as a pretext. As the initial, unaltered talking points said, “The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qa’ida participated in the attack.”
The military did nothing, except send a drone to watch the action. Defense Secretary Panetta later offered the excuse, “You can’t willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of place. . . . You have to have good intelligence.” As a civilian, Mr. Panetta probably didn’t know that 99 percent of air sorties over Afghanistan never drop a single bomb. General Dempsey, however, knew it was standard procedure to roar menacingly over the heads of mobs, while not “blowing the hell out of them.” A show of air power does have a deterrent effect and is routinely employed.
A mortar shell killed two Americans during the tenth hour of the fight. A mortar tube can be detected from the air. The decision whether to then bomb should have resided with a pilot on-station — not back in Washington. As for the alleged lack of “good intelligence,” three U.S. operations centers were watching real-time video and talking by cell phone with those under attack. Surely that comprises “good intelligence.”…
Have our military’s best and brightest lost the capacity to improvise? Clearly, that merits an assessment. Will General Dempsey ask for a review of his own procedures? Do as I say, or as I do? The chairman of the joint chiefs is the only general who can answer that.
It’s not unreasonable for President Obama, Clinton and others to have decided that the loss of four Americans to an attack by Islamist militants was preferable to expanding the fight and risking a larger, bloodier and more potentially embarrassing battle in Libyan rebel capital. It is not reasonable, though, to mislead the public about such a decision.
Asking that Americans die in the line of duty in service of a larger policy aim is nothing new. Saying that there was no choice when there were at least some options, crosses a line. Changing talking points to support a false account of events would cross yet another. Doing so eight weeks before an election would be really rotten.
Some Republicans remain focused on bringing the botch and alleged cover up to Obama’s feet. And like other second-term scandals, this one could further clip the wings of a lame duck in the White House. A charge of passivity in the face of an attack is especially difficult at a moment when the U.S. seems to be a bystander to a rapidly devolving security situation in the Middle East…
But Republicans playing the long game know that the real issue here isn’t the current Democrat in the White House but derailing the chances of the woman who wants to be the next one.
“I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term,” Huckabee said. “I know that puts me on a limb, but this is not minor.”
“When a president lies to the American people and is part of a cover-up, he cannot continue to govern,” he added. “And as the facts come out, I think we’re going to see something startling. And before it’s over, I don’t think this president will finish his term unless somehow they can delay it in Congress past the next three and a half years.”
One woman still looking for answers about the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is Pat Smith. Her son Sean Smith, a State Department information officer, was one of four Americans killed during the attack.
“I blame her,” said Smith, referring to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.