A searing new Interim Progress Report released by the GOP chairmen of five House committees reveals the disturbing extent of the Obama administration's deceit and manipulation over the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As the 43-page document details, not only was gross incompetence to blame for the success of the attack that cost four Americans their lives, but a concerted effort at the highest levels of government was undertaking to cover up the debacle, deceive the public and shield officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, from responsibility.
Ranking Democrats on the same five committees, who said they were not included in writing the report, dismissed it as politically motivated. “You are sacrificing accuracy in favor of partisanship,” they said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
Hardly. Dividing the timeline into three sections -- before, during and after the attack -- the report paints a damning picture of the Hillary Clinton-led State Department, which knew "the threat environment in Benghazi was high and that the Benghazi compound was vulnerable and unable to withstand an attack, yet the Department continued to systematically withdraw security personnel."
The smoking gun revealed in the report -- contrary to Hillary Clinton's congressional testimony that requests for additional security in Benghazi never reached her -- was that "an April 2012 State Department cable bearing Secretary Hillary Clinton’s signature acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz’s formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned." A Senate report, "Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi," released on December 31, confirmed the lack of security, citing "extremely poor security in a threat environment that was 'flashing red.'"
President Obama was blamed for the lack of security as well, in that he "failed to proactively anticipate the significance of September 11 and provide the Department of Defense with the authority to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense." The report noted that the Intelligence Community was not to blame for anything, in that they "collected considerable information about the threats in the region, and disseminated regular assessments to senior U.S. officials warning of the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi, which included threats to American interests, facilities, and personnel."
The 2013 report's most scathing assessments concern the post-attack response by the Obama administration that "willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video." The report excoriated the administration's so-called "talking points," revealing that
after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks... removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya, including information about at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi.
Furthermore, the report states, "Senior State Department officials requested--and the White House approved--that the details of the threats, specifics of the previous attacks, and previous warnings be removed.”
The timeline following the attack reveals a carefully orchestrated disinformation campaign that began with the president, Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice peddling the YouTube video story, even as government emails surfacing six weeks later revealed that both the State Department and the White House were told during the attack that terror group Ansar al-Sharia took credit for it. The video charade continued until September 19, when Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, became the first administration official to label Benghazi a terrorist attack, even as Obama continued to push the video lie a day later. On September 24, during a taping of "The View," the president still refused to label Benghazi a terrorist attack. “We’re still doing an investigation,” he said.
As the facts became known, Clinton blamed "the fog of war" for her initial lies, while White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed the White House was giving out the best information it had at the time, but the information had “evolved."
Other lies by the administration are also forcefully rebutted in the 2013 report, including claims that the talking points were altered to protect classified information of the FBI investigation, noting that the FBI itself “approved a version of the talking points with significantly more information about the attacks and previous threats than the version that the State Department requested," and that even "limited due diligence" of an Intelligence Committee (IC) report would have made it clear that "the situation was more complex than the narrative provided by Ambassador Susan Rice and others in the Administration."
The final post-attack conclusions noted that the administration's decision to conduct an FBI investigation, as opposed to one by military or other intelligence sources, "contributed to the government's lack of candor" and "significantly delayed U.S. access to key witnesses and evidence and undermined the government’s ability to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice in a timely manner. "
That delay was underscored by the reality that 15 days after that attack, it was reported by CNN that the FBI was still waiting to get access to the area. That would be the same CNN that found ambassador Christopher Stevens' journal on the floor of the unsecured compound -- three days after the attack.
Unsurprisingly, the White House pushed back Wednesday, accusing Republicans of creating a political distraction. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden claimed that the report goes over old ground and that some of its conclusions conflict with those reached during an internal investigation conducted by the State Department itself. “The State Department’s Accountability Review Board--the independent body charged with reviewing the attacks and evaluating the interagency response--released its report which specifically found that the interagency response was ‘timely and appropriate’ and ‘helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans,’ while also making important recommendations to improve security that we are in the process of implementing,” she said.
Hayden is, unfortunately for the Obama administration, misrepresenting reality. The thrust of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board’s report was completely different. "Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department ... resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," it said.
Hillary Clinton supposedly took "full responsibility" for those deficiencies --responsibility best described by Clinton herself in a testy exchange with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, when he accused her of blaming non-existent protests for the deaths of four Americans. “What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton asked.
Furthermore, the four officials ostensibly terminated because of their mistakes leading up to the attack remained on the State Department payroll. And while spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton “has accepted [Assistant Secretary of State] Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as assistant secretary for diplomatic security, effective immediately,” she neglected to mention that Boswell gave up only the presidential appointment as assistant secretary, not his other assignments. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) illuminated reality. “State Department officials proclaimed ...that heads would roll...Now we see that the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney defended Clinton, contending that her signature on the damning cable mentioned above was standard procedure for all diplomatic cables, essentially meaning that any State Department cable has the head of the Department's signature on it. "In this way, Secretary Clinton and others before her signed hundreds of thousands of cables" as secretary, he said. "Efforts to politicize this have failed in the past and they are not helpful to the broad national security interests we share." Neither is the fact that Carney is apparently suggesting that Clinton signed something she didn't read, despite the deadly consequences that occurred as a result.
Regardless, the Republican chairmen weren't buying it. "An April 19, 2012, cable bearing Secretary Clinton’s signature acknowledged requests for additional security, but nevertheless ordered the withdrawal of security assets to proceed as planned,” they said in a letter to the White House. “Given the gravity of this issue, we request that you immediately make the April 19, 2012, State Department cable public.” So far the White House has not responded.
Despite the stonewalling, House Republicans will press on. On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced that the investigation into Benghazi will continue next month. This part of the investigation is likely to become compelling, because it will include testimony from whistleblowers within the administration. “Next month, the Oversight Committee will convene a hearing on the Benghazi terrorist attacks to examine evidence that Obama Administration officials have attempted to suppress information about errors and reckless misjudgments,” said Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). “The American people still don’t have the full truth about what happened both before and after the murders of four brave Americans.”
Adding fuel to Issa's fire are the allegations made by former special ops forces that the revelations contained in the current report don't go far enough, especially regarding why the administration seemingly abandoned its responsibility to protect those who came under attack. “As a former soldier it pains me to think that for hours upon hours and more hours they waited in vain for someone to come to their rescue,” retired Special Forces Col. Jamie Williamson told the Washington Free Beacon.
Williamson is the cofounder of OPSEC, a non-profit organization that protects US special ops forces and intelligence operatives from "political exploitation and policies, and the misuse of classified information, that unnecessarily exposes them and their families to greater risk and reduces their effectiveness in keeping Americans safe." The group is asking critical questions that remain unanswered, such as “why were no U.S. military assets immediately deployed in response?” and “why did the commander of Africom tell a member of Congress that he had available assets but was never given order to deploy them?”
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 7, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey insisted assets could not have reached the scene in time. Yet Panetta and Dempsey were not alerted about the attack until almost an hour after it began, and they didn't raise the issue with Obama until their previously scheduled 5 p.m meeting, one hour and 18 minutes after the attack began. Moreover, Africom commander Carter Ham told Rep. Jason Chaffetz he was never given the order to secure the consulate in Benghazi. And according to Fox News, neither was a Special Operations team in Sigonella, Italy, despite being only two hours from Benghazi.
OPSEC also illuminated another potential hazard for the administration, claiming that the 20-30 survivors of the attack have been intimidated into remaining silent. “They’re afraid and reasonably so,” said Williamson, who says his group has had direct contact with them. “It appears there has been overt or subtle intimidation and they’re afraid to come forward with their stories.”
A March 1 letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry by Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) demanded the names and contact information for “as many as 30” Americans that were injured in the attack “so that we can make appropriate arrangements.”
OPSEC and other like-minded organizations are calling for a Watergate-like select committee to investigate. Rep. Wolf has been the primary advocate for such a committee, and has garnered the support of 120 lawmakers who believe that such a committee, which would have the power to issue subpoenas compelling key officials to testify, is vitally necessary.
Four dead Americans, 20-30 survivors, and every other American frustrated with the media-abetted lying perpetrated by the Obama administration deserve nothing less. Those on the left who deride the effort to get to the bottom of this scandal have certainly demanded much more for far less serious transgressions. That they would reject the same effort here reveals a level of ideological bankruptcy and hypocrisy that is nothing short of appalling.
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