The Daily Beast's Eli Lake continues to dig into just what happened before, during, and after the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed in the attack along with three other Americans.
From the outset of the attack, Obama administration officials insisted that the attack was a spontaneous protest unleashed by the YouTube video "The Innocence of Muslims." For weeks after evidence piled up that the attack was in fact a terrorist action undertaken by a group with ties to al Qaeda, Obama spokesmen pushed the spontaneous protest line.
In previous, must-read reports, Lake showed that the administration knew otherwise within 24 hours of the attack (and that they had even gotten warnings about attacks). Now, he's writing an even more disturbing story: That the consulate itself and other Western targets had been subjected to attacks in the months prior to the 9/11 attack and that the State Department had reduced the security operation at the consulate.
On Tuesday, [Rep. Jason] Chaffetz (R-Utah) and the oversight committee's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), disclosed in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton details of an alleged April 6 bombing at the consulate. The letter detailed how in the run-up to the 9-11 assault there was an escalation of military-style attacks on Western targets in Libya's second-largest city. The letter also said U.S. security personnel had requested, and were denied, additional security for the U.S. embassy in Tripoli and the consulate in Benghazi.
Chaffetz went further Wednesday, saying in an interview that the number of American diplomatic security officers serving in Libya had been reduced in the six months prior to the attacks. "The fully trained Americans who can deal with a volatile situation were reduced in the six months leading up to the attacks," he said. "When you combine that with the lack of commitment to fortifying the physical facilities, you see a pattern."
Lake was not able to get a response about these new allegations from the State Department but he notes:
On Tuesday, Clinton wrote in a letter to Chaffetz and Issa that she intended to cooperate with the House committee's investigation. But in the letter she did not promise to turn over all of the cables and documents requested by Chaffetz, saying she had empowered her own accountability review board to find out what had happened in Benghazi. "Nobody will hold this department more accountable than we hold ourselves," she wrote.
The senior State Department official told The Daily Beast that on 9-11 there were five Americans serving as diplomatic security to protect Ambassador Stevens at the consulate. But this official stressed that a group of former Navy SEALs and others with military training who were stationed less than half a mile away at a nearby annex factored into the security plan for the consulate. This official referred to this team as a "quick reaction force," but also acknowledged that their job was not to provide protection for the ambassador.
The whole thing is appalling. First and most important is that a U.S. ambassador and others were killed in a country that we supposedly helped liberate. Then comes the coverup on the part of an administration that seems totally at sea in terms of foreign policy (sadly, they are simply following in the Bush admin's footsteps in this), and now it looks like stonewalling will be the order of the day.
The next two presidential debates are supposed to include foreign policy, right?
There will be plenty to talk about. And between Barack Obama's demonstrated incompetence and willingness to scrap the Constitution (that's how we got into Libya in the first place after all) and Mitt Romney's cliched and played-out sabre-rattling and deference to the military-industrial complex, none of it will be pretty or make much sense.