The shaping of the narrative for the 2016 presidential campaign begins.
At a keynote appearance before the National Automobile Dealers Association on Monday, Hillary Clinton began laying the groundwork for how she will respond to the Benghazi scandal during her likely 2016 presidential run. "My biggest, you know, regret is what happened in Benghazi,” she answered in response to a question asking her to identify “do-overs” during her stint as Secretary of State. She then proceeded to double down. “I mean, you know, you make these choices based on imperfect information,” she contended. “And you make them to, as we say, the best of your ability. But that doesn't mean that there's not going to be unforeseen consequences, unpredictable twists and turns.”
One is left to wonder what “imperfect information” Clinton was vaguely referring to in her response. The alleged "imperfect information" that led Clinton and company to lie for weeks about the nature of the attack? The "fog of war," as Clinton previously described it? Of course, "imperfect information" had nothing to do with the Obama administration's deceitful portrayal of the terrorist attack to the public. Declassified documents made public two weeks ago reveal that AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham told members of the House Armed Services subcommittee that he learned about the "terrorist attack" on the consulate compound only 15 minutes after it commenced. "My first call was to [Joint Chiefs of Staff General chairman] General Dempsey, General Dempsey's office, to say, 'Hey, I am headed down the hall. I need to see him right away,'" Ham testified on June 26, 2013. "I told him what I knew. We immediately walked upstairs to meet with Secretary [of Defense] Panetta." Ham further testified that Dempsey and Panetta “had the basic information as they headed across for the meeting at the White House."
The meeting to which Ham referred was a pre-scheduled session with President Obama at 5 p.m. EST. A Defense Department timeline reveals that this meeting occurred one hour and 18 minutes after the attack began. The meeting lasted half an hour. That means that Obama knew it was a terrorist attack on September 11, 2012, before the battle that lasted approximately eight hours was less than two hours old.
According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Obama phoned Clinton at 10 p.m. that same night, more than six hours after that attack began, but more than an hour before Navy SEALS Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were killed. “Like every president before him, he has a national security adviser and deputy national security adviser,” Carney told CNSNews.com on Tuesday. Feb. 19, 2013. “He was in regular communication with his national security team directly, through them, and spoke with the Secretary of State at approximately 10 p.m. He called her to get an update on the situation.”
Carney's statement contradicts a letter released to Congress by the White House five days earlier. It claimed Obama made no phone calls at all the night of the attack. Carney was forced to "amend" the record because Clinton had testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a month earlier that she learned of the attack on Benghazi at 4 p.m. In the ensuing hours, Clinton testified, “we were in continuous meetings and conversations, both within the department, with our team in Tripoli, with the interagency and internationally.” One of those conversations was with the president. “I spoke with President Obama later in the evening to, you know, bring him up to date, to hear his perspective,” she revealed.
Thus, unless one is willing to believe that no one, including Obama, told Clinton it was a terrorist attack, the words "imperfect information" are nothing more than an attempt to again revive the "fog of war" canard that the former Secretary of State relied on to initially explain away the administration's false account of the attack and changing story.
As for "unforeseen consequences" and "unpredictable twists," a scathing report released Jan. 15 by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the attack in Benghazi was preventable. Clinton's State Department was singled out for its failure to bolster security in response to an increasing threat level. The report states that the intelligence community "produced hundreds of analytic reports" in the months preceding the attack that "militias and terrorists ... had the capability and intent to strike U.S. and Western facilities and personnel in Libya." There were "at least 20 security incidents involving the Temporary Mission Facility," including one in which an "IED exploded near the main gate of the Mission facility in Benghazi, creating a 9x12 hole in the exterior wall." Responsibility for this attack was claimed by followers of the "Blind Sheikh," united under the banner of the "Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman Brigade."
Ambassador Stevens himself was seriously concerned with the rapidly deteriorating security situation and made requests for support, which were not heeded. Stevens sent numerous cables regarding the vulnerability of the mission. In late June, Stevens wrote, "that the attacks were the work of extremists who are opposed to western influence in Libya. A number of local contacts agreed, noting that Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Libya and that the Al-Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings and training facilities in Derna."
However, according to Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, who was privy to intimate details of the security decision process, Stevens' "requests for additional security were denied or ignored. Officials at the State and Defense Departments in Washington made the decisions that resulted in reduced security."
"When I arrived in Tripoli on July 31, we had over 30 security personnel, from the State Department and the U.S. military, assigned to protect the diplomatic mission to Libya. All were under the ambassador's authority. On Sept. 11, we had only nine diplomatic security agents under Chris's authority to protect our diplomatic personnel in Tripoli and Benghazi," Hicks wrote.
By all accounts, what happened in Benghazi was the result of extreme negligence on the part of Clinton and her cohorts. It was not "unforeseen" or "unpredictable" -- precisely the opposite. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was willing to take Clinton to task for her latest remarks, contending she needs to back up her "regrets" regarding an attack for which no one has been fired, and none of the attackers has been captured. “If she was really sorry--talk is cheap, she needs to stand up and demand action,” he told Fox News. Cruz's idea of action is a call for her to join him and other lawmakers in convening a select committee to fully investigate what happened.
With all due respect to Cruz, Clinton knows what happened. She's known it for a long time. And it is more than likely the only regret she truly harbors at this point in time is the reality that, despite her best efforts, along with those of her fellow Democrats, and a mainstream media fully invested in her 2016 election, Benghazi is not going to be the irrelevant issue they are trying to make it. When four Americans have been killed in a preventable tragedy, "shaping the narrative" isn't going to cut it.
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