Category Archives: Benghazi

13 Hours – Political?

Really?  Is there really something to discuss? If this isn’t as plain as the nose on your face …
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It is possible to identify how far down the mountain American politics has fallen in one word—Benghazi.

Benghazi is no longer the place in Libya where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by Islamist militias. “Benghazi” is now just another neutralized buzzword in the bad-mouthing wars of American politics. As a professional cynic aptly noted to Congress, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Forget Benghazi. It’s time to move on to more important matters.

Such as what?

The movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” opened last week, and the cold-water machines have been hosing it. No one cares about Benghazi anymore, the conventional sniffing goes, because the box-office is tepid. At 144 minutes, “13 Hours” is too long and, really, it’s just too political.

I sat through it, and these political faces and names appear nowhere in the movie: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice. But for the last 75 minutes, I could think of only one thing: the Obama administration’s YouTube coverup, the story—or “talking points”—about how an obscure anti-Islamic video made in California caused Benghazi to happen.

“13 Hours” is a graphic, reasonably accurate depiction of the events on Sept. 11, 2012: the consular assault, Chris Stevens’s death, an escape under heavy fire to the CIA annex a mile away, and the successful, nightlong defense of the annex. With apologies to the politically delicate, “13 Hours” makes the memory of the government’s tall tale, which it insisted on repeating for more than a week, hard to stomach.

And one other, impossible-to- flinch conclusion: There ought to be a political reckoning over this with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who, her emails revealed, was complicit in a White House concoction she knew the night of the attack was untrue. She is now asking the American people to let her succeed Mr. Obama into the White House. Benghazi is toward the top of the list of reasons they should say “no.” From the looks of it, many are doing so already.

The CIA military contractors who fought there and survived have said the story is not about politics but about valor and courage. It is that. The director of “13 Hours,” Michael Bay, told Bill O’Reilly this week it is wrong to call his film political. It is indeed mainly the account of a hard running battle with heavily armed jihadists.

But the only reason there is political controversy about Benghazi is that the Obama administration persisted in the false story that a You-Tube video caused a spontaneous assault on the consulate. In fact, President Obama built his Sept. 25 speech to the U.N. around Chris Stevens’s death, citing the video six times.

Had the administration told the truth, Benghazi would have been a legitimate, if difficult, dispute over the nature of the terrorist threat and consular security in northeastern Libya. But with the 2012 presidential vote less than two months away, the White House tried to displace reality with the preposterous YouTube story.

Political? What those six CIA contractors and several State Department security officers did by stopping a probable bloodbath of American deaths or a hostage crisis in Benghazi was save Barack Obama’s presidency.

Two months after the election, this is what Sec. Clinton told Sen. Ron Johnson at a congressional hearing: “The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”

It was neither of those random thoughts. The plainest account of what did happen that night may be read in the Nov. 1, 2013, indictment by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia of Ahmed Abu Khatallah, commander of “an Islamist extremist militia.” In June 2014, U.S. Special Forces captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah, and he now awaits trial in the District of Columbia.

The indictment states that the purpose of the conspiracy led by Ahmed Abu Khatallah was to violently attack the mission and annex, to kill U.S. citizens there, to destroy buildings and to plunder property and sensitive information from the buildings.

The indictment says that at about 11:15 p.m. on Sept. 11, Khatallah and the militia forces “launched a violent attack on the Mission using firearms, to include handguns, semiautomatic rifles, that is, AK-47-type rifles, and destructive devices, that is, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.”

At 12:30 a.m., they carried out the same armed assault against the CIA annex a mile away. At 5:15 a.m., a mortar attack killed Tyrone Woods, the team leader, and Glen Doherty, who had flown from Tripoli with a small but successful rescue group.

Political? A Clinton campaign ad in Iowa says, “She’s got what it takes to do the toughest job in the world.”

No, they did. She doesn’t.

Write to henninger@wsj.com

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Doesn’t Hillary Clinton Know the Law?

Mrs. Clinton and President Obama must have had the same US Law professor.
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Victoria Toensing – June 17, 2014 7:22 p.m. ET

In her interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer last week, Hillary Clinton said “I was not making security decisions” about Benghazi, claiming “it would be a mistake” for “a secretary of state” to “go through all 270 posts” and “decide what should be done.” And at a January 2013 Senate hearing, Mrs. Clinton said that security requests “did not come to me. I did not approve them. I did not deny them.”

Does the former secretary of state not know the law? By statute, she was required to make specific security decisions for defenseless consulates like Benghazi, and was not permitted to delegate them to anyone else.

The Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999, or Secca, was passed in response to the near-simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998. Over 220 people were killed, including 12 Americans. Thousands were injured.

Bill Clinton was president. Patrick Kennedy, now the undersecretary of state for management, was then acting assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security. Susan Rice, now the national security adviser, was then assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

As with the Benghazi terrorist attacks, an Accountability Review Board was convened for each bombing. Their reports, in January 1999, called attention to “two interconnected issues: 1) the inadequacy of resources to provide security against terrorist attacks, and 2) the relative low priority accorded security concerns throughout the U.S. government.”

Just as U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens did in 2012, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, had made repeated requests for security upgrades in 1997 and 1998. All were denied.

Because the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania had been existing office structures, neither met the State Department’s security standard for a minimum 100 foot setback zone. A “general exception” was made. The two review boards faulted the fact that “no one person or office is accountable for decisions on security policies, procedures and resources.”

To ensure accountability in the future, the review boards recommended “[f]irst and foremost, the Secretary . . . should take a personal and active role in carrying out the responsibility of ensuring the security of U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad” and “should personally review the security situation of embassy chanceries and other official premises.” And for new embassy buildings abroad, “all U.S. government agencies, with rare exceptions, should be located in the same compound.”

Congress quickly agreed and passed Secca, a law implementing these (and other) recommendations. It mandated that the secretary of state make a personal security waiver under two circumstances: when the facility could not house all the personnel in one place and when there was not a 100-foot setback. The law also required that the secretary “may not delegate” the waiver decision.

Benghazi did not house all U.S. personnel in one building. There was the consulate and an annex, one of the two situations requiring a non-delegable security waiver by the secretary of state.

In October 2012 the Benghazi Accountability Review Board convened, co-chaired by Amb. Thomas Pickering (Ms. Rice’s supervisor in 1998) and Adm. Michael Mullen. It failed even to question Mrs. Clinton for its report about the attacks. It also obfuscated the issue of her personal responsibility for key security decisions by using a word other than “waiver,” the passive voice, and no names. Recognizing that the Benghazi consulate (like the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam embassies) was a previously nongovernmental building, the Benghazi review board reported that this “resulted in the Special Mission compound being excepted [my emphasis] from office facility standards and accountability under” Secca. No Hillary fingerprints revealed there.

Mrs. Clinton either personally waived these security provisions as required by law or she violated the law by delegating the waiver to someone else. If it was the latter, she shirked the responsibility she now disclaims: to be personally knowledgeable about and responsible for the security in a consulate as vulnerable as Benghazi.

Ms. Toensing was chief counsel for the Senate Intelligence Committee and deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration

Victoria Toensing: Doesn’t Hillary Clinton Know the Law? – WSJ.

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The Missing Benghazi Email

I thought we had “all the facts”?
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New evidence that Ben Rhodes told Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton to blame the video.
April 30, 2014 7:05 p.m. ET

Most of the media refuses to cover what happened in Benghazi in 2012, and Congressional Republicans have been less than skillful in their probes. But the story isn’t going away despite the best efforts of the Obama Administration and the Hillary for President campaign.

The latest revelation comes from White House emails in the days after the September 11, 2012 terrorist strike on the U.S. mission in Libya’s second largest city. These emails weren’t included last year in what the Administration claimed was a complete set of documents about its handling of the attack and its aftermath. They were released Tuesday after the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request. We can see why the Administration tried to keep them under wraps.

Opinion Video
Editorial Board Member Matt Kaminski on newly uncovered emails which show that the White House prioritized political spin over truth-telling after four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya. Photo credit: Getty Images.

A September 14, 2012 email from Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, sets out the Administration’s view of the cause of the Benghazi attacks. He wrote it to prepare U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and current national security adviser Susan Rice for her appearances on the Sunday news shows two days later. As Mr. Rhodes wrote, the Administration wanted her “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

In fact the attack on the diplomatic compound and CIA annex was a planned and well-coordinated assault by Islamist groups with ties to al Qaeda that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Within hours, State and CIA officials at the Embassy in Tripoli, Libya’s president and video footage made that clear. Yet the Administration settled on deceptive spin and stuck to it for over a week.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, on Sept. 14 blamed the attack on a spontaneous protest against an obscure anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. Two days later, Ms. Rice returned repeatedly to the video in her appearances on the Sunday shows, saying on Fox News that “what sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also pushed the video fiction, telling the public on Sept. 14 at Andrews Air Force base as the remains of the four dead were returned that, “We have seen rage and violence directed at American Embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

The White House also found a scapegoat in the intelligence community, blaming the CIA for drawing up the faulty “talking points” used by Administration officials. Last May it released drafts of emails from the CIA, with input from State and the White House, that spontaneous protests had “evolved into a direct assault.” Yet those talking points never mentioned a video, and earlier this month former acting CIA Director Mike Morell said he didn’t understand why Ms. Rice had mentioned it.

Mr. Rhodes’s email provides the answer. The message directive came directly from the White House and was followed to the word. Mr. Rhodes alluded to the video in five spots in his email. On Wednesday, Mr. Carney still insisted Ms. Rice had “relied on points about the Benghazi attack that were produced by the CIA.” He must think the press corps is stupid.

The Rhodes email shows a White House political operative trying to protect his boss two months before Election Day. Mr. Obama’s campaign said al Qaeda was on the run and it was time for “nation-building at home.” The terror attack on Americans in Benghazi didn’t fit this story. It did, however, expose the “broader failure of policy” (to use Mr. Rhodes’s phrase) in North Africa in the wake of the Arab political upheavals in 2011.

After the election, the Administration was slow to cooperate with congressional investigations. The “talking points” emails were released last May only after parts were leaked to the press. The Rhodes email was subpoenaed last August, but the White House blocked release until it seemed obvious it would lose its attempts to keep them secret.

All of this bears directly on Mrs. Clinton’s qualifications to be President. Her State Department overlooked repeated warnings about a growing militant threat in Benghazi, denying requests for improved security. And the father of a CIA contractor told media outlets that Mrs. Clinton tried to comfort him by promising that the maker of the YouTube video would be “prosecuted and arrested,” though the video had nothing to do with his son’s death.

The several congressional investigations into Benghazi have been undermined by turf battles and shoddy work. We long ago advised that a select committee could focus the effort and bring overdue clarity to a shameful episode in American history. It still could.

The Missing Benghazi Email – WSJ.com.

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