April 24, 2013
The latest GOP Benghazi Report certainly has the earmarks of a political hit job. The report highlights contradictions made by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as other senior officials, but it fails to make the case for assessing blame and winds-up looking like the opening salvo of the 2016 political campaign against Ms. Clinton.
The 46-page anti-Hillary propaganda report reveals little new information. The Report hangs its conclusions on an April 2012 cable from security officials in Libya addressed to Ms. Clinton, which discusses potential security issues. While the cable seems to contradict her testimony, it hardly sheds light on the Benghazi attack.
“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,” according to the report. However, during her January 2013 testimony Ms. Clinton claimed, “They didn’t come to me. I didn’t approve them. I didn’t deny them,” and famously replied, “What difference does it make.”
“The report also concluded that White House and high-ranking officials at the State Department changed CIA talking points following the attacks, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others (Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods), in order to shield the State Department from ‘criticism for inadequate security levels’ on the ground in Benghazi,” the Washington Examiner reported.
The Report’s highlights fail to mention the former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s plentiful weapons that went missing following the fall of the Libyan leadership. In fact, the significance of these weapons is lost on the report’s authors, and they fail to acknowledge the MANPADs (Man Portable Anti-Air Defense) as well as military-grade weapons that are now in the hands of al-Qaeda or affiliates and have been found on battlefields from Syrian to North and Central Africa covered in the blood of thousands.
Instead, the Report focuses on the talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice. Ms. Rice infamously went on five Sunday news talk shows and told America the attack was the spontaneous result of a YouTube video that berated the Prophet Muhammad. The YouTube video theory was debunked by unnamed sources hours after the terrorist attack. The Report presented evidence to suggest the talking points were intentionally altered to mislead the American “public” [i.e., voters]
The GOP Report concluded, “The Administration also removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qaeda in Benghazi and eastern Libya, including information about at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi. 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 to insulate the Department from criticism that it ignored the threat environment in Benghazi.”
During the latest round of Benghazi hearings, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to questions about why the military didn’t react immediately, claiming, “we never got a call.” Surely this is a question worth investigating, but in this report the military is given a free pass.
However, there are a few targets the GOP failed to mention that are worth exploring.
First, if President Obama ordered the US military to render all available aid, where is the memorandum to that effect and the copy of the Flash that went to all ships and stations (link to Denver TV reporter asking the President about the order). The report states that, “The President, as Commander-in-Chief, 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.” Who is right?
Second, if the President ordered the US military to render all aid why did the two carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf not respond? The distance from the Gulf to Benghazi is almost the same as from Rota, Spain. They would have required over-flight rights from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but did they ask for them?
Third, whose bright idea was it to separate the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) from its air transport? This aspect is simply inexcusable, especially with 9-11 approaching, multiple threats in the region, and the major combat units moved to the Persian Gulf, the FAST team was the only real rapid deployment force available to area commanders.
Fourth, there is no mention of the judgment of the EUCOM, CENTCOM, AFRICOM commanders who shifted the 6th Fleet carrier battle group and Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group with the 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf in response to Iranian saber-rattling which severely limited military options in the Mediterranean. Was this move reminiscent of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, when he chased the Japanese carriers and left U.S. amphibious forces protected by destroyers against a much larger Japanese force? Regardless, the Iranian bait emptied the Med of American carrier forces on 9-11.
Fifth, the Department of Defense (DoD) moved a remotely piloted vehicle (drone) over Benghazi within 20 minutes of the initial attack, if the same sense of urgency had been applied to other assets, would two former Navy SEALs still be alive?
Sixth, DoD knew of the security issues in Benghazi because it had been providing the Security Support Team (SST) in Benghazi. The claim that DoD did not get a call is absurd. The duty officer in the Tactical Operations Center “immediately” notified State they were under attack. Somebody had to notify DoD because a drone was moved into position. Once alerted, a DoD contingency plan should have gone into immediate effect. This also begs the question as to what time did the President direct the “render all aid” order?
Finally, and most importantly, the investigation identifies State Department Under Secretary, Patrick Kennedy, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, Charlene Lamb, as the individuals that refused to strengthen security at the diplomatic mission despite repeated calls for help. Both exchanged dismissive emails with State Department staff in Benghazi who pleaded for more security assistance and their sharp exchanges included political overtones as justification, not funding or necessity.
“Despite the denial of Ambassador Stevens’ request, Embassy Tripoli officials persisted in their requests for additional security. In July 2012, for example, RSO Eric Nordstrom alerted DS officials in Washington that he intended to submit a formal cable request for an extension of the SST and MSD teams. DS personnel in Washington alerted Mr. Nordstrom that Ms. Lamb, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, was “reluctant to ask for an SST extension, apparently out of concern that it would be embarrassing to the [State Department] to continue to have to rely on [Defense Department] assets to protect our Mission.” Moreover, in response to Mr. Nordstrom’s intent to request an MSD extension, Ms. Lamb responded, “NO, I do not [I repeat] not want them to ask for the MSD team to stay!”
According to the Report, there were 200 security incidents from June 2011 to July 2012 made by then- Regional Security Officer (RSO) for Libya Eric Nordstrom. He said 50 of those security breeches took place in Benghazi. Further, testimony from Nordstrom before the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, October 12, 2012 revealed this sound bite; “I said, Jim you know what [is] most frustrating about this assignment? It’s not the hardship, it’s not the gunfire, and it’s not the threats. It’s dealing and fighting against the people, programs, and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me … For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”
Even Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, who headed the military’s efforts to support diplomats in Libya, recommended that the State Department shutter its operations. “It was apparent to me that we were the last [Western] flag flying in Benghazi. We were the last thing on their target list to remove from Benghazi.”
The report also criticizes the FBI’s handling of the Benghazi terror aftermath and investigation. The fact they failed to arrive promptly meant witnesses went unquestioned and evidence went missing. Under the circumstances, an independent review board must be appointed if family members of the fallen and Americans really want an honest accounting of the events that surround the 9/11/12 Benghazi terrorist attack.
As for now the Report opines, America remains operationally in a reactionary mode, and little has been done to prevent another Benghazi-like catastrophe.
Last Benghazi story: http://www.examiner.com/article/benghazi-next-stop-a-special-prosecutor-1
For more Libya stories:
For more stories: http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak
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