The pressure surrounding the Benghazi scandal is reaching critical mass, just as Barack Obama prepares for a foreign policy debate that won???t be featuring any last-minute saves from Candy Crowley. The Associated Press reported on Friday that ???the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.???
We already knew the State Department was fully aware there was never any ???spontaneous mob,??? but the standard Obama excuse is that he and Joe Biden were led astray by faulty intelligence reports. It sounds like the intelligence community is not going to roll over and play the scapegoat. Maybe Obama should have attended all those intelligence briefings he skipped, before the Benghazi outrage focused attention upon his delinquency, and he suddenly decided he’d better start showing up for them.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked about this report by a reporter, and responded with a big fat ???no comment,??? prompting the reporter to point out that the Administration is very happy to discuss intelligence issues ???when you want to talk about them, and when it???s in your interest to do so.???
The McClatchy news service put together an interesting timeline of Obama???s changing stories on Benghazi, noting that the Administration didn???t really start pushing the ???spontaneous protest??? nonsense until three days after the attack. For the first two days, they ???strongly alluded??? to some sort of assault, while primarily taking care not to portray it as the kind of well-organized affair they should have seen coming. They didn???t talk about That Damned Video at all until Day Three, when the Benghazi assault was suddenly and universally recast as a movie review gone wild.
???What prompted that pivot remains a mystery,??? muses McClatchy, although they suggest one element of a solution: the Administration???s desire to avoid having the consulate attack seen as a natural outgrowth of Obama???s unilateral strike on Libya, which removed the Qaddafi regime, and released al Qaeda and other militant forces to run amok.
Along those lines, Israeli news sources have reported that last week, Hamas terrorists launched a Russian-made Strela-2 surface-to-air missile smuggled in from Libya, targeting an Israeli helicopter over the Gaza Strip. Fortunately, they missed, but it looks like they???ll get plenty more shots, because ???intelligence officials estimate that approximately 1,000 of the missiles are missing from the Libyan army???s arsenal, and many of them found their way into the hands of terrorists in Gaza and the Sinai.??? Commercial aircraft have been warned to avoid the region.
The House Oversight committee on Friday sent President Obama a letter, backed up by 166 pages of documentation, with some questions about its program of ???normalization??? in Libya. That???s a shorthand term for ???stripping protection from the consulate and entrusting security to local boobs, because it???s important for Libya to be seen as a smashing success by American voters.???
???Information supplied to the committee by senior officials demonstrates that not only did the administration repeatedly reject requests for increased security despite escalating violence, but it also systematically decreased existing security to dangerous and ineffective levels,??? wrote House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and National Security Subcommittee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). ???We have been told repeatedly that the administration did this to effectuate a policy of ???normalization??? in Libya after the conclusion of its civil war. These actions not only resulted in extreme vulnerability, but also undermined Ambassador Stevens and the diplomatic mission.???
???Multiple warnings about security threats were contained in Ambassador Stevens??? own words in multiple cables sent to Washington, D.C., and were manifested by two prior bombings of the Benghazi compound and an assassination attempt on the British ambassador,??? the letter continues. ???For this administration to assume that terrorists were not involved in the 9/11 anniversary attack would have required a willing suspension of disbelief.???
The House Oversight chairmen don???t accept the White House fiction of a ???firewall??? that kept the fabled buck of responsibility from reaching the President???s desk, noting that such critical foreign policy decisions ???are not made by low or mid-level career officials ??? they are typically made through a structured and well-reasoned process that includes the National Security Council at the White House.???
Fox News has an extensive breakdown of the information contained in House Oversight???s 166 pages of documentation, including repeated warnings from Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff to Washington about the deteriorating situation in the Benghazi region. ???The al Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings and training facilities,??? the Ambassador warned. Shortly before the September 11 attack, a Libyan women???s rights activist in Benghazi told American diplomats, ???For the first time since the revolution, I am scared.???
The impression one gets from reviewing all this information is of an Administration rocked to the core by the complete repudiation of the President’s policies, not a crack team of experts dealing with a few “bumps in the road.” They had no idea this attack was coming… and they should have known. It took them a few days to realize just how badly they had bungled, and by that time Obama had already flown off to his Las Vegas fundraiser. The only way to preserve any credibility for the President was to latch onto the “video protest” story spreading out from Egypt, stitching Benghazi into that narrative so it would look like something no one could have anticipated… and something that fit into Obama’s foreign policy narrative of a world that has every right to expect copious apologies from the blind, insensitive, often predatory United States.
This is all deteriorating into the kind of affair that would normally call for putting Barack Obama and other top officials under oath, to find out exactly what they knew, and when they knew it. We’ll have to settle for whatever Mitt Romney can extract from Obama during the final presidential debate. There’s no reason to focus on one Rose Garden speech by Obama, when there are so many questions to ask.