From the President down, the Administration blamed the First Amendment for the September 11th attack on our consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. It was, they said, all about a protest over an amateur film that had been on the internet since July.
Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee opened a hearing into our diplomatic security in Libya.
It’s probably just coincidence that the State Department suddenly claimed yesterday that it had “never concluded” that the September 11th attack that killed Stevens and three others was “a protest gone awry”.
The problem is, anybody who wasn’t in ICU last month heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly attributing the attack to rage over an anti-Muhammad video. As she met the bodies of the four dead Americans at Andrews Air Force Base, for example, she said in her prepared remarks:
We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with.
Now, of course, we know that there in fact was no protest at all–about the movie or anything else–before the terrorist attack that killed Stevens. The State Department finally admitted that little tidbit yesterday as well.
But last month the entire Administration was on-message and highly active in the damage control department: Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice, President Obama.
It couldn’t be a terrorist attack. It just couldn’t. That would contradict the Administration narrative: that we’ve decimated al-Qaeda and thus can afford to cut defense spending and precipitously draw down our forces in Afghanistan.
So: “This was in response to a video that was offensive,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. We heard it repeatedly:
Granted, the State Department may be telling the truth now. But if so, they were lying like a rug all through September.
September 11th attack: Security Support Team Commander testifies
The committee heard testimony today from Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, former head of a 16-member special ops team charged with embassy security in Libya. Wood told ABC Monday that Stevens wanted the team to stay after their deployment was up in August.
The embassy had already asked for and received one 120-day extension of the team’s deployment. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight committee, says there are reports that the State Department told the embassy not to ask for a second extension.
Wood’s team left in August. The State Department, in fact, according to CBS, removed 34 special ops and SWAT team members from the Embassy security detail in the six months before the September 11th attack. This, in spite of increased attacks on Western targets.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told us after the September 11th attack:
We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission [consulate] in Beghazi was planned or imminent.
But surely they knew about:
- the IED thrown into the consulate compound on April 6th;
- the RPG attack on the Red Cross in Benghazi on May 22nd;
- the June posting on a pro-Gaddafi Facebook page of a threat against Ambassador Stevens, with photos of the ambassador on his morning run;
- the IED attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on June 6th;
- the daylight RPG attack on the British Ambassador’s convoy on June 10th hear the British consulate in Benghazi (the British closed the consulate);
- the daylight attack on the Red Cross in Benghazi in June (The Red Cross closed their facility, leaving the U.S. consulate as the last Western outpost in the city).
Issa says whistleblowers have cited 13 attacks and threats against the embassy in the months leading up to the September 11th attack.
September 11th attack: Embassy Chief Security Officer testifies
The committee also heard testimony today from Eric Nordstrom, former Chief Security Officer for U.S. diplomats in Libya. Nordstrom told the committee he cabled the State Department in March and again in July requesting additional security forces for the Benghazi consulate. He says he cited the incidents I’ve listed above as well as others to argue that the situation in Libya was dangerous, but received no response.
Conditions on the ground were chaotic in the days after the Ambassador and three other embassy personnel were killed. I get that. But if you don’t know what happened, Mr. President, you don’t sit down and create a likely scenario to fill the void. You say you don’t know.
And if you bite on a false report and pass on wrong information, Madame Secretary, you don’t wait until the day before the truth is going to start coming out anyway to leak it anonymously in hopes of blunting the impact. You admit you were wrong as soon as you realize it.
At least that’s what people of integrity do.
Just how stupid do you think we are?