Congressman: Administration message on Benghazi like Abbott and Costello routine
A member of the House Intelligence Committee told Human Events that the pattern of miscommunication and mixed messages following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya remind him of the famous Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine–only worse.
“It almost makes that look like a serious conversation,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), referring to the comedy skit.
New documents have come to light almost daily that give greater depth to an emerging pattern of questionable security calls that may have made the Benghazi consulate more vulnerable to attack.
Foreign Policy reports today that letters and documents recovered by the publication from the rubble around the consulate highlight concerns from American Foreign Service officers about the level of surveillance by members of the Libyan police that had been observed around the consulate–revelations that raise serious questions about whether local officials aided the attackers.
Fox News has uncovered a revealing State Department cable from August that discussed findings that the Benghazi consulate could not defend itself against a “coordinated attack,” and has learned from sources on the ground that CIA operatives may have been told not to go to the aid of those under fire in the consulate, a narrative the agency denies.
Meanwhile, even after finally discarding a weeks-long faulty narrative that tied the attacks to an American-made anti-Muslim YouTube video, the administration has yet to square its story about how the events of Sept. 11 played out and what was known before the attacks took place.
Vice President Joe Biden told America during his debate with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan last month that the administration wasn’t aware of repeated requests for more security for the U.S. embassy in Libya prior to the attacks, a statement that contradicted witness testimony at a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee days before. CIA Director David Petraeus’s account of the attacks happening like a “flash mob” is at odds with FBI and National Counterterrorism Center officials’ testimony citing evidence of Al Qaeda affiliation. And President Barack Obama has cited “clear directives” he gave to secure Americans at the consulate without providing any information or explanation for how those were carried out.
While some have suggested there was ample time during the several hours the consulate was under attack to scramble troops and aircraft from the nearby air base in Sigonella, Italy, to the scene, others are cautioning against coming to that conclusion before more information comes to light.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned against “Monday morning quarterbacking” during a recent media briefing at the Pentagon, saying officials weren’t going to “deploy troops into harm’s way without knowing what was going on.”
Dr. Steven Bucci, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who formerly served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon, told Human Events Panetta’s assessment may be accurate, even if a U.S. surveillance drone was overhead observing the attacks.
“From the minute the first shot is fired, even in the best situations you’re going to have an hour plus where you have ‘holy smoke, what’s going on here,’” Bucci said.
“My personal opinion is it would have been almost impossible to get a military force there in time to prevent the deaths that would have occurred.”
But Bucci said it’s hard not to see the delay in releasing information that might shed light on these unknowns as transparently political.
“The administration has no interest whatever in laying out their decisions-making process and actions until after the election,” he said. “In this case, even though these things normally run slowly, you can bet your bottom dollar that there won’t be much part on the administration to speed it up. They’ll drag their feet as much as possible and hope it all goes away.”
In spite of his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, Westmoreland said information about the attacks has been at a slow trickle.
“We haven’t seen the film, we haven’t heard the audios. I don’t want to guess at what was going on,” he said of the attacks. “It’s just a shame that we don’t know more, really, than we knew a week after this was over.”
Certainly, members of Congress are not through asking questions.
This week, a number of Republican senators followed the lead of House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) in sending a letter to Obama with their own questions about Benghazi.
Though Congress won’t return until after the election, the Senate Intelligence Committee has announced a Nov. 15 closed hearing on the attacks. And Westmoreland told Human Events he expects the House Intelligence Committee to hold its own probe during the Lame Duck session.
“This isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, this is an American issue,” he said. “I do think that we will have a hearing and try to get the answer to some of these questions.”