‘The fog of Benghazi’

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.

Benghazi coverup

The Obama administration and a complicit batch of media have stonewalled on this as long as they could. It’s been over seven weeks now of a handful of journalists and former military and diplomats asking questions about what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11. Americans deserve answers now, before the election.

They’ve been trickling out for weeks, and more are coming out now.

WaPo on the recent reports and conflicting reactions to them:

So what did happen on the night of Sept.?11, when Woods, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two others were killed? The best way to establish the facts would be a detailed, unclassified timeline of events; officials say that they are preparing one and that it may be released this week. That’s a must, even in the campaign’s volatile final week.

The piece goes into claims and counter-claims, facts as they’re known and reactions from different players, Defense and CIA and “administration officials” among them, using info on where drones and gunships were at that time as a partial excuse.

If these rebuttals are accurate, that raises another troubling question: At a time when al-Qaeda was strengthening its presence in Libya and across North Africa, why didn’t the United States have more military hardware nearby?

Looking back, it may indeed have been wise not to bomb targets in Libya that night. Given the uproar in the Arab world, this might have been the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a burning fire. But the anguish of Woods’s father is understandable: His son’s life might have been saved by a more aggressive response, had one been possible. The Obama administration needs to level with the country about why it made its decisions.

Columnist Jonah Goldberg in the Chicago Tribune:

Last week, Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that sources on the ground in Libya say they pleaded for support during the attack on the Benghazi consulate that led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. They were allegedly told twice to “stand down.” Worse, there are suggestions that there were significant military resources available to counterattack, but requests for help were denied.

If true, the White House’s concerted effort to blame the attack on a video crumbles, as do several other fraudulent claims. Yet, last Friday, the president boasted that “the minute I found out what was happening” in Benghazi, he ordered that everything possible be done to protect our personnel. That is either untrue, or he’s being disobeyed on grave matters.

Important point.

This isn’t an “October surprise” foisted on the media by opposition research; it’s news.

This story raises precisely the sort of “big issues” the media routinely claim elections should be about. For instance, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that the “basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place.” If real-time video of the attack and communications with Americans on the ground begging for assistance doesn’t constitute “real-time information,” what does?

Real Clear Politics picks it up:

The ride on the Obama bus gets bumpier as more bodies are thrown under it…

The journalists went under the bus because the Foreign Service and career intelligence officers the administration tried to scapegoat refused to go there. They’ve leaked emails that reveal the White House was informed while it was still going on that the attack was the work of terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida.

To put this in the context of the Mother of All Scandals, these emails are the equivalent of a transcript of what was on the 181/2 minutes of the secret White House tapes President Nixon’s secretary erased.

“What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn, asked during the Watergate hearings. The answer in the leaked emails is that the president knew everything, all along.

They were sent by the Regional Security Officer in Libya to the State Department in Washington, the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon, the FBI and thedirector of National Intelligence.

The first said the consulate was being attacked by “about 20” armed men.

The third, sent two hours later, reported that Ansar al Sharia, an Islamist militia, was claiming credit for the attack.

A fourth, sent at 11:57 p.m. EDT, described a mortar attack on the consulate annex, where the Americans were killed.

About 300 watch officers at the NSC, State, Defense, the FBI and other agencies would have read these emails as soon as they were received, and informed their superiors right away. This was a crisis. Men armed with mortars, machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades were attacking a U.S. consulate. The ambassador was missing. The secretary of state, the DNI and the president would have been briefed within hours.

When the “three a.m. phone call” came (at 6:07 p.m. EDT), the president ignored it. The day after learning Ambassador Stevens had been murdered and sensitive intelligence documents were missing, he jetted off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

And for nearly two weeks afterward, Mr. Obama and his senior aides blamed the attack on the Youtube video — even though they knew that wasn’t true.

His interview with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, taped the day after the attack, indicates that Mr. Obama has been lying from the get-go.

“My suspicion is, is that there are folks involved in [the attack on the consulate] who were looking to target Americans from the start,” the president told Mr. Kroft.

The fact that CBS cut this from the broadcast — airing instead Mr. Obama’s attack on Mitt Romney for criticizing his Middle East policy — indicates why the White House remains confident the “mainstream” media will continue to downplay the scandal.

This cover-up, like that in Watergate, goes right to the top. What’s being covered up is much worse than a “third rate burglary.” Why was security so lax? Why were the ambassador’s pleas for more turned down? Why did the president lie? Americans have a right to know. Few in the media have tried to find out.