Loose Canons

Still Digging Into Benghazi

Will Boehner’s select committee do real digging?

By 5.5.14

UPI
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Between the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 and the presidential election on November 6, there were only fifty-six days. What followed in those fifty-six days was a calculated effort by the president, his administration, and the media to conceal what happened in Benghazi before, during, and after the attacks. That effort was motivated with one goal: to manipulate the news before the election to protect the Obama campaign.

Bob Tyrrell and I outlined the events that surrounded the Benghazi attacks — and the administration’s unbounded efforts to conceal the facts and control the flow of information — in our article in the March issue of TAS. Thanks to the January 2014 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigative report, we know that from March to August 2012, Western targets — people and facilities — suffered twenty terrorist attacks. We know that beginning in March, State Department security officials in Benghazi made repeated requests for reinforcements (the requests later joined in by Amb. Christopher Stevens) that the State Department ignored.

Our article also showed that there were ten terrorist camps in Benghazi itself operating at the time of the attacks. We showed that there were no protests before the terrorist attacks and that the attacks were known to be just that from the time they began according to the reports flowing from Benghazi to the State Department and the CIA. And we showed that no American forces were put on alert to come to the rescue in Benghazi or any of the other likely terrorist targets on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.

Last week, more White House emails were released showing how the facts were twisted over the five days between the attacks and the Sunday morning television appearances by UN Ambassador Susan Rice in which she falsely blamed the attacks on an obscure anti-Muslim video. How that assertion got into the infamous talking points shows how desperate the White House was to manipulate the news before the election.

The talking points were drafted in the days between the attacks and the Friday before Rice’s television appearances. Previously released redacted copies of the emails in which the talking points were drafted show one thing very clearly: there was absolutely no mention of the anti-Muslim video. Throughout the drafting process, the attacks were (also falsely) linked only to the previous protests at the Cairo embassy. The draft talking points first showed that the attacks were believed to have been perpetrated by Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya. Those facts were expunged.

Now we know how the highly obscure video — which the intelligence community hadn’t even mentioned — got to be the primary cause of the attacks according to Susan Rice.

On Friday, September 14, there were 53 days to the election. On that day, Assistant to the President Ben Rhodes sent an email to Obama campaign managers including David Plouffe, Dan Pfieffer as well as White House press secretary Jay Carney, Jennifer Palmieri and others scheduling a preparation session for Susan Rice the following afternoon. In that email, Rhodes set four goals for the prep session:

• To convey that the United States is doing all that we can to protect our people and facilities abroad;

• To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy;

• To show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests;

• To reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges. 

These four goals — which are all flatly false — became Susan Rice’s mantra repeated on five Sunday morning political television shows on September 16. They were not based on the “best intelligence available”; in fact they resolutely disregarded that information.

Last week White House press flak Jay Carney laughably said that these “objectives” and the prep session had nothing to do with Benghazi, just the alleged protests that were occurring at the time. There was no reason other than the Benghazi disaster for Rice to be on television that Sunday.

And by the time of the second Obama-Romney debate on October 16, there were only 21 days left until the election. When an unprepared Romney challenged Obama on the issue of whether he’d called it a terrorist attack in his Rose Garden press conference on the morning after the attacks (he had not), Candy Crowley body-slammed the Republican nominee. Romney whiffed, and the election went on without further challenge on Benghazi.

As Bob and I also wrote in March, the massive cover-up of the events before, during, and after Benghazi demanded passage of Rep. Frank Wolf’s HR-36, which would have established a House Select Committee with full investigative powers to investigate the Benghazi scandal. Wolf introduced the bill on January 23, 2013. It had 190 cosponsors, just short of the number to pass the House.

Speaker Boehner refused to allow a vote on the bill. It would easily have passed but Boehner, as usual, didn’t want to do anything that might discomfit Obama. With the revelation of the Rhodes email last week, Boehner finally gave in. But not entirely.

Instead of passing Wolf’s bill, Boehner announced that he would form a House select committee to investigate Benghazi. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is rumored to be Boehner’s choice to head the investigation. Which may be a good start because Gowdy — elected in 2010 — is a former federal prosecutor. If he peoples his committee with others of like credentials and staffs it with hard-nosed investigators, he will be able to dig into the White House’s records, the CIA’s, and the Pentagon’s and get the sworn testimony of those, such as former Secretary of State Clinton, who were highly involved in the critical events.

For example:

  • Who ordered Ben Rhodes to prep Susan Rice to blame the anti-Muslim video?
  • What was the involvement of other White House advisers, Attorney General Holder, and key Obama operatives such as Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod?
  • What did the president know, when did he know it, and what did he do about the attacks in Benghazi?
  • Perhaps the most important question is what was the CIA doing in Benghazi? Several unconfirmed reports have it gathering weapons including MANPADS — shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles — and sending them to the Syrian rebels through Turkey. We have seen a State Department letter to a GOP congressman that flatly denies any shipment of arms from Libya to Syria, but what really happened? The SSCI report leaves this subject entirely uninvestigated. If illegal activity was taking place, the public should know.

But will he? We don’t know and because we don’t know, we should be very nervous. Speaker Boehner isn’t someone conservatives are likely to trust.

So we have a lot of questions, and Mr. Gowdy — or whoever Boehner picks — should ask the same questions before he agrees to take on the job.

First, what is the committee’s charter? Will it have full investigative powers, with the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents? If it decides to hold anyone in contempt for failing to respond to questions or document demands, will its contempt resolutions be given privileged treatment in the House, brought up for votes immediately?

Second, Boehner has stalled for so long — fifteen months — on Wolf’s bill, that there’s not a lot of time left in the congressional session. It’s almost certain that the Republicans will control the House in 2015. If, as seems equally likely, Boehner is still the speaker, will he promise now to again create the committee so that it can continue its investigation through 2016? He must, because the deep investigation that is required can’t be done quickly.

It can’t be done quickly because we know — from its stonewalling on “Fast and Furious,” the IRS scandal, and on Benghazi itself — that the Obama administration will stall, delay, and do everything in its power including make risible claims of executive privilege as it did in “Fast and Furious” to continue covering up everything it did on Benghazi.

The manipulation of news and a cover-up intended to affect the result of a presidential election, is — if proved — an impeachable offense. Mr. Boehner may have to face that fact if he allows the kind of investigation that is essential. That fact is enough to leave us very skeptical until he publishes the committee’s charter and the list of members he chooses for it.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.