After the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported that the attack on Benghazi was “preventable” — surely one of the least surprising conclusions one could have foreseen from a serious review of the data — the rush was on to
take responsibility pass the buck. Some of that effort involved casting murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens as partly to blame for not being clearer about security needs in Libya and especially Benghazi, where terrorist attacks had escalated enough in both intensity and frequency to drive other Western countries out of the area, as well as the Red Cross. Don’t try that line out on Gregory Hicks, the State Department veteran and Benghazi whistleblower, who takes to the Wall Street Journal today to rebut that response:
Last week the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The report concluded that the attack, which resulted in the murder of four Americans, was “preventable.” Some have been suggesting that the blame for this tragedy lies at least partly with Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack. This is untrue: The blame lies entirely with Washington.
At issue are two offers from AFRICOM commander General Carter Ham for additional security in Libya that Stevens declined. Defenders of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have pointed to those responses to say that Stevens’ decisions pointed out how unclear the security situation was even to those on the ground. That’s nonsense, Hicks responds. Stevens had no choice but to reject those offers because of decisions made by the Obama administration about the nature of the mission — and takes aim specifically at Patrick Kennedy and Leon Panetta.
Stevens’ request for more security was based on the detachment having State Department aegis, in order to retain diplomatic immunity for the men. The Obama administration wanted to change their mission from diplomatic security to training Libyan militias, which would put them in the DoD and outside of the cover of diplomatic immunity. Kennedy refused to rescind the transfer of the forces to Defense, and that meant big trouble:
However, on July 13, State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy refused the Defense Department offer and thus Chris’s July 9 request. His rationale was that Libyan guards would be hired to take over this responsibility. Because of Mr. Kennedy’s refusal, Chris had to use diplomatic language at the video conference, such as expressing “reservations” about the transfer of authority. …
Transferring authority would immediately strip the special forces team of its diplomatic immunity. Moreover, the U.S. had no status of forces agreement with Libya. He explained to Rear Adm. Charles J. Leidig that if a member of the special forces team used weapons to protect U.S. facilities, personnel or themselves, he would be subject to Libyan law. The law would be administered by judges appointed to the bench by Moammar Gadhafi or, worse, tribal judges. …
Chris understood the importance of the special forces team to the security of our embassy personnel. He believed that by explaining his concerns, the Defense Department would postpone the decision so he could have time to work with the Libyan government and get diplomatic immunity for the special forces.
According to the National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department needed Chris’s concurrence to change the special forces mission. But soon after the Aug. 1 meeting, and as a complete surprise to us at the embassy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order without Chris’s concurrence.
Stevens ended up dying because State and the White House thought it was more important to train Libyan militias than to provide effective security cover for its consulate in Benghazi. Chew on that one for a while. And while that percolates a bit, remember that the so-called Accountability Review Board’s co-chair Thomas Pickering scoffed at the notion that his panel needed to depose Patrick Kennedy at all.
Earlier today, I pointed out that this was the one-year anniversary of the one and only time that Hillary Clinton got pressed for accountability for the debacle, and her now-infamous reply, “What difference at this point does it make?” Instapundit was kind enough to link to that, but Citizens United has a new video out marking the event: