After public editor, Margaret Sullivan’s unconvincing arguments about the New York Times coverage of Benghazi, I was expecting the New York Times and other members of the MSM to be out today with editorials spinning yesterday’s testimony in favor of the administration.
— James Taranto (@jamestaranto) May 8, 2013
But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t those running interference for the administration.
— Ken Gardner (@kesgardner) May 9, 2013
How did they miss Joe Klein?
But let’s say the street gang had been casing the joint in advance. Who’s to blame for the lax security? This is the real substance of the case. Could it have been the Secretary of State? Undoubtedly, no. This sort of question is well below her pay grade. Could it have been the person in charge of embassy security issues? More likely, and that person resigned after the subsequent investigations…and even that might have been unfair for two reasons. Security was up to the Ambassador and Chris Stevens was well known for erring on the side of greater public access to U.S. facilities. Or, more plausibly, reason number two…
Could it have been the Republicans who consistently voted against funds for increased embassy security? Hmmm…that makes their current carping seem awfully political, doesn’t it? Again, sins of politics are not mortal. But one does wonder why the Republicans tend to fix on issues like this, which are defined by their absence of substance. (I haven’t noticed the Republicans clamoring to spend more on embassy security–which would be a matter of substance, happily embraced by the Administration.But that would require a budget deal, which would give the President a win.)
But as Ken Sheperd shows (citing ABC News) that a request for security help – in the form of an aircraft – from the Libyan embassy, was rejected by the State Department in Washington. Given that the request came from the security team, one would hope that the State Department would have at least been curious as to why the security situation required the plane.
The Cable at Foreign Policy offers 6 new things the hearing told us. The first two were:
The moment the phrase “Islamic terrorists” first left the State Department’s lips
Today, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) divulged a previously undisclosed e-mail revealing just how early senior members of the State Department concluded that Benghazi was a terrorist attack. In a Sept. 12 e-mail from Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Beth Jones to Amb. Susan Rice and several other top State officials, Jones said, full-stop, “The group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.” The e-mail provides new fodder for Rice critics wondering why she actively rebuffed questions about a planned terrorist attack on TV while her own colleagues had been saying just that for days. In addition to Jones, Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, said he knew immediately that the assault on the compound was a terrorist attack.
Hillary engineered a mass Benghazi coverup, debunked
One of the more interesting flash points today was an exchange between Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism at the State Department. For days, Thompson’s leaked testimony made headlines with the claim that on Sept. 11, Hillary Clinton cut the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of reporting for political reasons. However, when Norton pressed Thompson on the issue, he rescinded the allegation that he was pushed out of the loop for political reasons and confessed to not knowing why he wasn’t included. “The quote isn’t entirely accurate?” asked Norton. “Correct,” said Thompson.
If the State Department knew that it was terrorism from the start and still sent Ambassador Rice out claiming otherwise, isn’t that still a coverup?
Even if Thompson didn’t know for sure why he was demoted, it’s interesting to note that (later in the list of six things) that Gregory Hicks was also demoted. This suggests political considerations were in play.
Jake Tapper interviewed Thomas Pickering of the Accountability Review Board. Tapper writes in his report:
It now appears Ambassador Stevens was sent to Benghazi, despite the increasingly dangerous situation.
“According to Chris, Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post. Timing for this decision was important. Chris needed to report before September 30th, the end of the fiscal year on the political and security environment in Benghazi to support an action memo to convert Benghazi from a temporary facility to a permanent facility,” Hicks testified.
Benghazi was very significant for U.S. interests, said Pickering.
It’s true that this account came from Hicks, but it doesn’t appear to be contradicted by Tapper or Pickering. (Did Tapper read this quote to Pickering? It’s unclear.) But the Accountability Review Board wrote:
The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice. Timing for his trip was driven in part by commitments in Tripoli, as well as a staffing gap between principal officers in Benghazi. Plans for the Ambassador’s trip provided for minimal close protection security support and were not shared thoroughly with the Embassy’s country team, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound. The Ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. Mission in the overall negative trendline of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy, and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments.
Was Stevens sent, or did he go on his own? Was the accountability review board provided with all the necessary information it needed to make its determination (that lower level State Department employees failed)?
Barry Rubin writes that what happened in Benghazi is the result of the administration’s failed foreign policy (and, more generally, the President’s ideology):
And finally, what could be more symbolic than the hiring of Islamist terrorists to guard the consulate, men who deserted or even turned their guns against the Americans there?
It is truly symbolic because the Obama administration has turned to Islamists — in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere — in the belief that they are best suited to guard U.S. interests in the Middle East.
In discussing the Benghazi affair, none of these broader issues should be forgotten. It was not merely an order for the American rescue forces to “stand down” but for the United States to bow down.
Being wrong is not criminal and without lots of dead Americans (a lot more than four) few are likely to notice, so the mistakes will never get corrected.
As always, there’s much more memeorandum.
Also please see Anne Sorock’s analysis from yesterday as well as the testimony.