A searing new Interim Progress Report released by the GOP chairmen of five House committees reveals the disturbing extent of the Obama administration’s deceit and manipulation over the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As the 43-page document details, not only was gross incompetence to blame for the success of the attack that cost four Americans their lives, but a concerted effort at the highest levels of government was undertaking to cover up the debacle, deceive the public and shield officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, from responsibility.
Ranking Democrats on the same five committees, who said they were not included in writing the report, dismissed it as politically motivated. “You are sacrificing accuracy in favor of partisanship,” they said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
Hardly. Dividing the timeline into three sections — before, during and after the attack — the report paints a damning picture of the Hillary Clinton-led State Department, which knew “the threat environment in Benghazi was high and that the Benghazi compound was vulnerable and unable to withstand an attack, yet the Department continued to systematically withdraw security personnel.”
The smoking gun revealed in the report — contrary to Hillary Clinton’s congressional testimony that requests for additional security in Benghazi never reached her — was that “an April 2012 State Department cable bearing Secretary Hillary Clinton’s signature acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz’s formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned.” A Senate report, “Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi,” released on December 31, confirmed the lack of security, citing ”extremely poor security in a threat environment that was ‘flashing red.’”
President Obama was blamed for the lack of security as well, in that he “failed to proactively anticipate the significance of September 11 and provide the Department of Defense with the authority to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense.” The report noted that the Intelligence Community was not to blame for anything, in that they “collected considerable information about the threats in the region, and disseminated regular assessments to senior U.S. officials warning of the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi, which included threats to American interests, facilities, and personnel.”
The 2013 report’s most scathing assessments concern the post-attack response by the Obama administration that “willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video.” The report excoriated the administration’s so-called “talking points,” revealing that
after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks… removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya, including information about at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi.
Furthermore, the report states, “Senior State Department officials requested–and the White House approved–that the details of the threats, specifics of the previous attacks, and previous warnings be removed.”
The timeline following the attack reveals a carefully orchestrated disinformation campaign that began with the president, Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice peddling the YouTube video story, even as government emails surfacing six weeks later revealed that both the State Department and the White House were told during the attack that terror group Ansar al-Sharia took credit for it. The video charade continued until September 19, when Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, became the first administration official to label Benghazi a terrorist attack, even as Obama continued to push the video lie a day later. On September 24, during a taping of “The View,” the president still refused to label Benghazi a terrorist attack. “We’re still doing an investigation,” he said.
As the facts became known, Clinton blamed ”the fog of war” for her initial lies, while White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed the White House was giving out the best information it had at the time, but the information had “evolved.”
Other lies by the administration are also forcefully rebutted in the 2013 report, including claims that the talking points were altered to protect classified information of the FBI investigation, noting that the FBI itself “approved a version of the talking points with significantly more information about the attacks and previous threats than the version that the State Department requested,” and that even “limited due diligence” of an Intelligence Committee (IC) report would have made it clear that “the situation was more complex than the narrative provided by Ambassador Susan Rice and others in the Administration.”
The final post-attack conclusions noted that the administration’s decision to conduct an FBI investigation, as opposed to one by military or other intelligence sources, “contributed to the government’s lack of candor” and “significantly delayed U.S. access to key witnesses and evidence and undermined the government’s ability to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice in a timely manner. ”
That delay was underscored by the reality that 15 days after that attack, it was reported by CNN that the FBI was still waiting to get access to the area. That would be the same CNN that found ambassador Christopher Stevens’ journal on the floor of the unsecured compound — three days after the attack.
Unsurprisingly, the White House pushed back Wednesday, accusing Republicans of creating a political distraction. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden claimed that the report goes over old ground and that some of its conclusions conflict with those reached during an internal investigation conducted by the State Department itself. “The State Department’s Accountability Review Board–the independent body charged with reviewing the attacks and evaluating the interagency response–released its report which specifically found that the interagency response was ‘timely and appropriate’ and ‘helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans,’ while also making important recommendations to improve security that we are in the process of implementing,” she said.
Hayden is, unfortunately for the Obama administration, misrepresenting reality. The thrust of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board’s report was completely different. “Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department … resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” it said.
Hillary Clinton supposedly took ”full responsibility” for those deficiencies –responsibility best described by Clinton herself in a testy exchange with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, when he accused her of blaming non-existent protests for the deaths of four Americans. “What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton asked.
Furthermore, the four officials ostensibly terminated because of their mistakes leading up to the attack remained on the State Department payroll. And while spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton “has accepted [Assistant Secretary of State] Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as assistant secretary for diplomatic security, effective immediately,” she neglected to mention that Boswell gave up only the presidential appointment as assistant secretary, not his other assignments. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) illuminated reality. “State Department officials proclaimed …that heads would roll…Now we see that the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs.”