‘The fog of Benghazi’

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This is getting more attention, finally. Warranted attention.

The president’s apologists are doing their best to shut down any conversation and all investigation about what happened on 9/11 in Benghazi, Libya. Or to discount it when it comes out. That doesn’t change the facts.

Speaking of facts, the Wall Street Journal editors devoted their entire editorial column to this on Saturday.

The White House says Republicans are “politicizing” a tragedy. Politicians politicize, yes, but part of their job is to hold other politicians accountable. The Administration has made that difficult by offering evasive, inconsistent and conflicting accounts about one of the most serious American overseas defeats in recent years. Unresolved questions about Benghazi loom over this election because the White House has failed to resolve them.

Why did the U.S. not heed warnings about a growing Islamist presence in Benghazi and better protect the diplomatic mission and CIA annex?

From the start of the Libyan uprising in early 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency built up an unusually large presence in Benghazi. By this September, two dozen or so operatives and contractors monitored Ansar al-Shariah and other militant groups. Deteriorating security after the war was no secret. U.S. intelligence noted militant camps in the mountains near Benghazi, including “al Qaeda leaning” fighters, according to Tuesday’s New York Times.

Over the summer, the Red Cross and the U.K. closed their offices in Benghazi after attempted terrorist attacks and assassinations. A bomb went off outside the U.S. mission on June 6 but hurt no one. Ambassador Chris Stevens told his superiors in an August cable about a “security vacuum” in Benghazi. A different classified State cable sent in August, and obtained by Fox News this week, noted the growth of al Qaeda training camps and expressed concern about the Benghazi mission’s ability to defend against a coordinated attack. It said it would ask for “additional physical security upgrades and staffing.”

In a House hearing last month, career State Department officials said various requests for security reinforcements to Libya were turned down. A 16-member special security team in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, was pulled out in August. The inability of Libya’s weak central government to protect American diplomats was overlooked.These revelations came from the career staff at State.

Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have claimed “responsibility” for Benghazi, without saying precisely for what. During the second Presidential debate on October 16, Mr. Obama was asked: “Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?” He changed the subject.

Next question…

What exactly happened on the day of 9/11? During the over six hours that the compounds in Benghazi were under siege, could the U.S. have done more to save lives? What was President Obama doing and ordering his subordinates to do in those fateful hours?

An October 9 State Department briefing offered the first precise timeline, nearly a month later. There was no demonstration outside the consulate the evening of the 11th—”nothing unusual during the day at all outside,” a State official said.

That may not be right. Early that morning, Embassy guards noticed a Libyan police officer in a building across the street “photographing the inside of the U.S. special mission,” according to a letter dated September 11 from the Embassy to the Libyan government, calling it “troubling.” The letter was discovered last week at the still unsecured compound by two journalists and published on Foreign Policy’s website Thursday.

Why is this so sloppy? Why so much chaos and confusion? Keep asking the questions and the answers will come out.

Some details:

At 9:40 p.m. local time (3:40 p.m. EST), a security officer at the Benghazi consulate heard “loud noises” outside the gate and “the camera on the main gate reveals a large number of people—a large number of men, armed men, flowing into the compound,” according to the State Department timeline.

Within half an hour, the consulate was on fire. At about 10:45 p.m., help arrived from the CIA annex about a mile away. The CIA offered its first account of that evening this Thursday night, nearly two months after the fact.

Why? Why nearly two months after the fact? Where’s the communication and coordination among our services and the administration?

A snip:

The CIA briefers said the agency did not deny aid to the consulate. But the Journal reported on Friday that the CIA and State “weren’t on the same page about their respective roles on security” in Benghazi.

So they’re all winding up on the same page in the WSJ because of this serious disconnect revealed only because of dogged pursuit by dedicated journalists other media and Obama apologists have tried to discount and demean and ridicule, to no avail.

Mr. Obama was informed of the attacks at around 5 p.m.—11 p.m. in Libya—during a previously scheduled meeting with his military advisers, and he ordered military assets moved to the area, according to ABC News. During the attacks, however, the Administration didn’t convene the Counterterrorism Security Group, which was created to coordinate a response to a terrorist attack, according to a CBS News report.

Late last week, Mr. Obama was twice asked by a local Denver television anchor whether Americans who asked for help in Benghazi were turned down by the chain of command. He didn’t answer.

Why not? What is he dodging?  The Journal editorial board considers the facts.

Yet it’s still reasonable to ask why the U.S. wasn’t prepared for such a contingency. Since 9/11 (of 2001) the U.S. has been at war with the people who attacked in Benghazi, even though many liberals don’t like to say so. One of them is the current Commander in Chief, who still refuses to talk about his Administration’s response to his 9/11.

Exactly. And it was jaw-dropping to hear him say, in a stump speech in Las Vegas this week after stopping by the storm-ravaged northeast, that “Al-Qaeda has been decimated.”

What?

Mr. Obama has made the defeat of al Qaeda a core part of his case for re-election. Yet in Benghazi an al Qaeda affiliate killed four U.S. officials in U.S. buildings, contradicting that political narrative.

The President may succeed in stonewalling Congress and the media past Election Day. But the issue will return, perhaps with a vengeance, in an Obama second term. The episode reflects directly on his competence and honesty as Commander in Chief. If his Administration is found to have dissembled, careers will be ended and his Presidency will be severely damaged—all the more so because he refused to deal candidly with the issue before the election.

America has since closed the Libya diplomatic outpost and pulled a critical intelligence unit out of a hotbed of Islamism, conceding a defeat. U.S. standing in the region and ability to fight terrorist groups were undermined, with worrying repercussions for a turbulent Middle East and America’s security. This is why it’s so important to learn what happened in Benghazi.

Thanks to journalists who are asking the important questions, and those who know the answers speaking out, like Lara Logan, we may learn sooner rather than later.

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