Monday, May 13, 2013

Benghazi: Missing The Crime for the Coverup

May 12, 2013 -- by Tom Mannis -- We've heard a lot recently about the failure to rescue the U.S. consulate staff in Benghazi, Libya during the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack. Killed in that attack were Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and two embassy security personnel, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods (both former Navy SEALs, stationed at the CIA annex nearby).

We've heard a lot about the lies about what happened after the whole sad affair by the Obama Administration.

That, I believe, threatens to draw attention away from the more important issue of what happened before the attack.

The Obama Administration's statements after the attack are important, but they distract from what should be the main point of investigation: The denial of sufficient security before the attack, despite pleas for more protection from the consulate.

Unfortunately, too many Republicans and too many in the media are obsessed with what happened in the aftermath of the Benghazi tragedy. There has been too little discussion of the drawback and denial of security in Benghazi, and even less talk of the warnings of pending violence. Yes, there were warnings...

What did Obama and Clinton know, and when did they know it? "American diplomats were warned of possible violent unrest in Benghazi," reported The Independent (UK) on Sept. 18, 2012, "three days before the killings of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three members of his team, Libyan security officials say."

Attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Sept. 11, 2012
The Independent previously reported "diplomatic sources who said that the threat of an attack against US interests in the region was known to the US administration 48 hours before it took place. The alert was issued by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but not made public."

The Independent also reported that a senior official of the February 17th Brigade, financed by the Libyan defense ministry and the biggest militia in Benghazi, "told CNN that he had warned US diplomats of a rapidly deteriorating security situation in Benghazi three days before the attack."

Those were not the only signals of danger. "Just hours before he died in a terrorist attack at the U.S. compound in Benghazi," reported The Washington Times in January, "Ambassador Chris Stevens sent a cable to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton painting a chaotic, violent portrait of the eastern Libya city and warning that local militias were threatening to pull the security they afforded U.S. officials."

Question: Who read the cable from Stevens? Clinton? One of her aides? Assuming the cable was read, why was no action taken to either increase security immediately or, at the very least, evacuate the consular staff to a safer location until the situation in Benghazi could be better assessed?

And yet, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice and a variety of apologists blamed the assault on a reaction to an obscure video titled "Innocence of Muslims."

That video was offensive to Muslims, but was not the cause of the violence at the consulate. Until the Obama Administration began blaming the video as the cause of a non-existent "violent protest," it was virtually unknown.

On September 18, 2012 White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "Our belief, based on the information we have, is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo, and the video and the unrest in Cairo that helped -- that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere. What other factors were involved is a matter of investigation." In October 2012, the State Department contradicted the administration by saying that it never believed the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was just a film protest gone awry.

In fact, the attack was carried out by Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda. We know now that transmissions and emails from the consulate just before and during the attack said nothing about a demonstration or protest. Libyan President Mohamed Magarief immediately said that the attack was a terrorist act. And that goes to my point: The events leading up to Sept. 11, 2012 are critical, and more important than the noise that followed. It was a planned terrorist attack. There was intelligence warning of it in advance. The already weak security presence was not beefed up. Those are the real sins in the Benghazi saga.

Fact: Nobody died in the Watergate scandal.
Let's recall the Watergate investigations for a moment. In September 1971, operatives of the Nixon Administration burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to steal files on Daniel Ellsberg, a former defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers (the Defense Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War).

In June  1972, five men were arrested while trying to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C.

The FBI determined in October 1972 that the Watergate break-in was part of an overall campaign of political spying and sabotage by Nixon's reelection team. (See Watergate timeline.)

Nixon, of course, tried to keep the lid on this scandal. The cover up of Watergate scandal involved additional various illegal activity, and deserved investigation. The crimes of illegal bugging, burglary and political sabotage, though, were far worse than the cover up of those crimes.

To obsess over the Obama adminstration's spin after the Benghazi attack is to miss the forest for the trees. What's worse: A murder, or the attempt to cover up that murder? Both are bad, of course. But the murder itself is the main offense. In the case of the consulate in Benghazi, it is the crime of allowing the ambassador and his staff to remain unprotected that is the primary issue.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a press
briefing on May 10, 2013 -Win McNamee/Getty
All the spinning and lying that came afterward, to further a political agenda and minimize the embarrassment of incompetence, is secondary. Yet what we've primarily heard from Republicans in recent days is outrage over the secondary issues. The lack of an acceptable level of security for the Benghazi consulate is more important.

But it isn't just the post-attack "talking points" that are distracting from the main offenses. The events during the attack are also blurring the focus.

Many of the questions asked of witnesses in the House hearings on Benghazi last week centered on whether or not help could have been sent to Benghazi after the attack began.

Democrats and liberals have seized on this, with some success, and mocked the idea that a rescue could have been quickly executed.

A good example of this is a commentary by CBS commentator Dave Ross. On May 9, Ross did a piece called "When The Cavalry Doesn't Come," in which he concentrated entirely on the events during the attack on Sept. 11. Ross, either through ignorance or his own blinding leftist ideology, completely missed the point. Here is the transcript of Dave Ross's May 9 commentary (with my emphasis added):
Last year's September 11 attack in Benghazi that killed our Ambassador to Libya and three others was briefly back at center stage Wednesday. 
For several days, Republicans had been promising new revelations - in particular, they released a quote from State Department officer Gregory Hicks - who was some 400 miles away at the embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks - and who said that if the military had only sent a fast moving fighter jet over Benghazi it would very likely have scared the terrorists away and saved lives.
Mr. Hicks finally testified Wednesday, and he confirmed that quote. But under questioning by Democrat Elijah Cummings he would not contradict what military officials have already said.
Cummings: Mr. Hicks I understand that you wanted planes, that is completely understandable, but the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said they simply could not get there quickly. Mr. Hicks do you have any reason to question General Dempsey's testimony?
Hicks: Again, I was speaking from my perspective based on what the defense attache told me, and he said two to three hours, but there were no tankers.
But there were no tankers, the defense official explained, by which he meant there was no way to refuel the planes so they could get to Libya and return to their base in Italy.
And that wasn't the only problem.
These planes aren't kept on alert and since it was the middle of the night, the crews were asleep. So the attache was not refusing to help, but simply pointing out that the U.S. Air Force, while it may be invincible, is not the fire department.
Ross seems unaware that fire departments do not close when fire fighters go to sleep. Those sleeping Air Force pilots, just like fire fighters, can be awakened and quickly spring into action. Ross is apparently unaware of the fact that a military rescue mission was actually told to stand down.

In Congressional testimony last week, whistleblower Gregory Hicks said the cause of the Benghazi massacre were inadequate security and substandard building requirements. Hicks is the former deputy chief of Mission and Charge d’Affairs in Libya.

"A seven-member security team was dispatched from Tripoli to Benghazi as soon as reports emerged that the diplomatic mission was under attack. Stevens was reported missing by the time the team arrived, according to a timeline provided by the Defense Department last year," notes a May 9 post on The Algemeiner.

"As the assault unfolded, four Army Special Forces members, part of a second team, were told not to go although they were poised to board a Libyan C-130 bound for Benghazi as early as 1:45 a.m." (The attack started at 10 p.m. local time.)

Note to Dave Ross: When fire fighters are sliding down the pole and jumping onto fire trucks, they are never told to stand down and let the fire burn.

Ross also did not mention in his smug commentary was the State Department's decision to keep the consulate's security at an inexcusably low level, and why Washington denied previous and numerous requests by Stevens for more protection. Nor did Ross say anything about the fact that Washington failed to act on warnings of a pending terror attack on the consulate from Libya itself, as well as from intelligence agencies of other nations.

National Review columnist Mark Steyn was a guest on Hugh Hewitt's radio broadcast on May 9. On that show, he made a scathing condemnation of the Obama Administration’s spinning of the Benghazi attack. "They let him die, and then told lies over his coffin," said Steyn (audio at Daily Caller).

Yes, and while the lies are bad and deserve investigation, the deaths of Chris Stevens and four others -- and the inadequate security that left them unprotected -- is far worse. Although Steyn's remarks were mainly about what the administration said after the attack.

To Steyn's credit, however, he did say that Clinton and senior State Department officials allowed the consulate staff to die, meaning that he was "sacrificed for the Obama-Clinton fiction of the Arab Spring."

Even so, Steyn veered away from talking about the diminished and inadequate security at the consulate and allowed himself to wade into the shallows of post-attack obsession with what the administration said about it afterward.

"In a sense," said Steyn, "[Stevens] was sacrificed to the Obama-Clinton fiction of the Arab Spring," said Steyn. "This is absolutely disgraceful. I cannot conceive of how empty and dead you have to be inside to put Ambassador Stevens through that, then leave him to die, and all the nonsense we heard about oh, they couldn’t have got there in time? Oh, really? You had, it’s like a football match, is it? It’s like a football game, you’ve got an end time, you know they’re all going to pack up and go home at 5:00 in the morning or whatever? They didn’t know how long it was going to last. They left him to die. They decided to let their guy die in the confusion of the stuff happening in Egypt and Tunisia over the stupid no-account video."

Let's revisit Dave Ross's lame fire department analogy. Suppose there is a deadly fire in an apartment building. The hypothetical fire was caused by bad electrical wiring, and deaths were multiplied by the absence of smoke detectors and sprinklers.

The Bad Landlord
The fire department, already stretched thin, was busy fighting other fires and responded slower than they are usually able. The landlord tries to cover his butt by falsely blaming the fire on arsonists. Should we ignore the cause of the fire -- the landlord's criminal negligence -- only to obsess on the slower-than-normal response of the fire department? Should we obsess on the landlord's lie about arsonists, only to ignore his own inaction prior to the fire?

To do so misses the real offense: The landlord's deliberate sacrifice of his tenants' safety. The issues of the fire department's response time and the landlord's lies are worthy of investigation, but should not distract from the investigation and prosecution of the landlord for the initial crime.

This is what I see happening in the Benghazi investigation. The lack of security on the ground at the consulate in Benghazi before the attack is the real issue. To repeat, the lack of a military rescue during the attack was horrible and merits investigation, as do the lies told by the administration. Had Clinton's State Department not denied additional security to them, the attack might have been repelled or, perhaps, been deterred entirely.

The biggest issue in the whole Benghazi story, then, is the negligence that made allowed the attack   to become so deadly.  Coverups only happen when there is something to hide, and there is plenty for the administration to hide regarding Benghazi. A coverup is, essentially, a sideshow to the main event. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted from the main by the sideshow. We must continue to ask why security was deliberately held to such a low level, why warnings were ignored, and why any rescue attempts were squashed. We must continue to ask what Clinton and Obama knew, when they knew it, and why they seemingly chose to ignore it. Then, after that's figured out, we can sort through the dust of the rubble.

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