Friday, November 9, 2012

Holes in the Benghazi Scandal

The Holes in the CIA’s Benghazi Timeline

In yet another attempt to counter the mounting evidence against the Obama Administration in the handling of the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, the CIA last Friday leaked a timeline of events to foreign policy columnist David Ignatius.
The CIA version makes its actions seem appropriate if insufficient. It did not take long, however, for Fox News reporters to start shooting holes in it.
It should be noted that the CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi performed heroically, coming to the rescue of State Department personnel who ought to have been protected by State Department security but were not. Three of those heroes lost their lives as they fought to protect others.
Specifically, the CIA statement says that at 9:40 p.m., the first call for assistance came from a senior State Department official at the U.S consulate in Benghazi. According to Fox, Blue Mountain Security, in charge of local forces to guard the consulate perimeter, made calls on two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi, warning them of problems an hour before the CIA claims. A source says that the Blue Mountain Security chief seemed “distraught,” saying “the situation here is very serious, we have a problem.” Security experts evaluating the Benghazi security arrangements noted that the security staff had seemed “complacent” and “didn’t seem to follow the normal American way of securing a facility”—specifically, not even fire-proofing the embassy’s safe room or providing proper ventilation, which appears to have been the immediate cause of death for Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
According to the CIA, at 11:11 p.m., an unarmed Predator drone arrived over the consulate compound, providing real-time video of the attack as it was unfolding. No armed aerial support was ever called in, yet Fox reports that both American and British sources say that there were other capabilities in the region that were not used: “There were not only armed drones that monitor Libyan chemical weapon sites in the area, but also F-18’s, AC-130 aircraft, and even helicopters that could have been dispatched in a timely fashion.”
The CIA states that at 1:00 a.m., a team of additional security personnel from Tripoli landed at the Benghazi airport and attempted to find a ride into town. The team from Tripoli finally arrived at the CIA annex at 5:04 a.m. At 5:15, the terrorists launched a second attack against the annex. A Fox source wonders, “Why would they put a ragtag team together in Tripoli as first responders? This is not even what they do for a living. We had a first responder air base in Italy almost the same distance away.” Additionally, British forces were on the ground in Benghazi, with more people than the Americans, frustrated on not being called on to help.
Eventually, the Libyan forces (who were supposed to have come to the aid of the embassy personnel) showed up and led the evacuation of the remaining staff. We now know that Ambassador Stevens cabled the State Department the morning of the attack, telling them of his belief that the Libyans had been infiltrated by the enemy.
At this point, the Obama Administration has lost credibility on Benghazi across the board, as misinformation and contradictions have piled up day after day. The CIA timeline fits into this pattern.

Clinton Asked to Testify on Benghazi by House Committee

By Laura Litvan on November 09, 2012
The Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify at an open hearing next week about the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
While the State Department responded that Clinton will be traveling abroad next week, the invitation to the Nov. 15 hearing signaled a post-election renewal of a politically charged debate over the attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Other State Department officials plan to provide closed- door briefings for lawmakers, including a session with the Senate intelligence committee on Nov. 15, department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters today.
At a House hearing before the Nov. 6 elections, Republicans said President Barack Obama’s administration failed to provide adequate diplomatic security before the Benghazi attack and sought to play down the role of terrorists afterward. Democrats defended the administration’s performance and said Republicans were seeking to exploit the attack for political gain.
Clinton is scheduled to travel next week to Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.

Classified Briefings

Nuland said Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy and Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell will provide classified briefings next week to the Senate intelligence panel as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Republican chairmen and top Democrats of House committees.
Clinton reaffirmed yesterday her pledge to improve security at U.S. embassies and consulates, as a panel she appointed reviews security decisions made before the Libya attack.
“We now have a formal Accountability Review Board investigating the terrorist attack that killed Chris, and we will certainly apply its recommendations and lessons learned to improving security everywhere,” Clinton said during a tribute to Stevens at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington.
Clinton has responded to questions about what may have gone wrong in Libya by saying the answers will come from the board, which is headed by veteran U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering.
“The independent Accountability Review Board is already hard at work looking at everything --- not cherry-picking one story here or one document there -- but looking at everything, which I highly recommend as the appropriate approach to something as complex as an attack like this,” Clinton told reporters on Oct. 24.
Posted at 01:13 PM ET, 11/09/2012

Fox News and Benghazi video: For real?

With the presidential election behind us, it’s now time for the 10th in a series about Fox News’s Oct. 26 story on Benghazi, Libya.
On Oct. 26, Fox News published a big story on the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks on a diplomatic installation in Benghazi. Beset by incompetence and slow-footedness, the Central Intelligence Agency failed to capably defend U.S. personnel against the Libyan attackers, alleged the piece by Fox’s Jennifer Griffin. Four U.S. personnel died in the clashes.
The U.S. military had surveillance technology in place to capture a portion of the conflict. Griffin’s story explains:
Fox News has learned that there were two military surveillance drones redirected to Benghazi shortly after the attack on the consulate began. They were already in the vicinity. The second surveillance craft was sent to relieve the first drone, perhaps due to fuel issues. Both were capable of sending real time visuals back to U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. Any U.S. official or agency with the proper clearance, including the White House Situation Room, State Department, CIA, Pentagon and others, could call up that video in real time on their computers.
That’s from the Web story published on Notice how carefully Griffin articulates her reporting; she doesn’t make any representations about who was watching these “visuals,” but rather reports only that the video was available.
There are two Fox Newses, however. One is the Fox News that Griffin inhabits. The other is the one that Sean Hannity inhabits.
On “Hannity,” Griffin’s reporting on video surveillance has gotten the elastic treatment. On the night of Oct. 29, right around the time Superstorm Sandy was greeting the Jersey shore, Hannity was interviewing Charles Woods, the father of fallen Benghazi defender Tyrone Woods. He said to Hannity:

CHARLES WOODS: Let’s say I don’t want to point any fingers, but obviously people in the White House were watching this happen real-time. Someone in the White House or many people in the White House watched the events unfolding and knew that if they gave the order to stand down that my son would die. They watched my son die.
Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, tells the Erik Wemple Blog, “No one at the White House watched live footage of the Benghazi attacks from the situation room or anywhere else in the White House.”
Hannity himself has tuned his video attacks to a different channel. On Wednesday night, in a chat with author Bob Woodward, Hannity began inveighing against the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi:
HANNITY: But let me ask you this: We don’t know where the president was on the night of 9/11, when this happened. We don’t know what he knew. He denied for two weeks what was — what we know our State Department watched in real-time, according to this woman [State Department official Charlene] Lamb, who testified [before Congress on Oct. 10].
Bolded text added to highlight Hannity’s version of a campaign theme. On Friday, Nov. 2, with Liz Cheney, he said:
HANNITY: There is no food in some places. And [the president] is gone. He is out back to Vegas. He seems but not a photo op of what he did with Benghazi. Was he in the situation room? Was he aware that the State Department was watching this in real time?
On Oct. 31, with Newt Gingrich, he said:
HANNITY: Well, there are three aspects to this from my perspective, before during and after the ambassador requested extra security. He was denied. They reduced the force at one point so who made that decision?
Then it’s during this entire episode, we know that according to Charlene Lamb, our government, our State Department was watching this in real-time. Where was president?
And on Oct. 30, with Fred Thompson, he said:
HANNITY: Why two weeks after the attack were you still denying it was a terrorist attack when we now know that our State Department and intelligence knew and were watching this in real-time? So you’re offended, Mr. President?
When asked whether the State Department was indeed watching the Benghazi attacks in real time, a State official responded, “Nobody at the Department had the ability to watch either of the attacks in real time.”
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Drone secrecy, Benghazi cover-up and phony Iran deal?

Unlike domestic policy, Congress has a limited role to play in foreign policy. The power of the purse is key, as are oversight and confirmation hearings, but the president is essentially in the driver’s seat when it comes to national security.
In the Obama administration there is no more essential task than in working to make the administration more transparent about its missteps and more definitive about its policy choices.
In what seems like a movie plot, we learn the Iranians a week before the election took a shot at a U.S. drone, a fact withheld from the public until after the election. The New York Times reports: “Iranian warplanes shot at an American military surveillance drone flying over the Persian Gulf near Iran last week, Pentagon officials disclosed Thursday. They said that the aircraft, a Predator drone, was flying in international airspace and was not hit and that the episode had prompted a strong protest to the Iranian government. The shooting, which involved two Russian-made Su-25 jets known as Frogfoots, occurred on Nov. 1 and was the first known instance of Iranian warplanes firing on an American surveillance drone.” Even the Times concedes the problem here:
[T]he failure to disclose a hostile encounter with Iran’s military at a time of increased international tensions over the disputed Iranian nuclear program — and five days before the American presidential election — raises questions for the Obama administration. Had the Iranian attack been disclosed before Election Day, it is likely to have been viewed in a political context — interpreted either as sign of the administration’s weakness or, conversely, as an opportunity for President Obama to demonstrate leadership.
Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies calls the Iranian move “a provocative act, a stick in the eye.” May notes it is a test of sorts, an effort to see if President Obama is desperate for a deal on nuclear weapons development. Will he put the brakes on widely reported secret talks? “If not, he wants the negotiations more than they do – that kind of thing is helpful to know and to reinforce,” May cautions. He adds: “Killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, plotting terrorism right in the U.S. capital – they [the Iranians] like to remind themselves, us and the world that they can do these things with impunity.”
read more....By   |  10:13 AM ET, 11/09/2012 

Panetta: Aircraft not close to stop Benghazi attack

Published Friday, November 9, 2012

By DONNA CASSATA Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is telling Congress that the military did not have armed aircraft near Libya that could have helped defend against the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
In a letter to Republican Sen. John McCain on Friday, Panetta specifically addressed the claim that the military could have dispatched armed unmanned aerial vehicles, AC-130 gunships or fighter jets to thwart the attack.
The Pentagon chief said these aircraft weren’t near Benghazi and they were not an effective option.
Panetta insisted that the U.S. military did everything “they were in position” to do to respond to the attack and spared no effort save the four American lives.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

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