The truth won’t change despite a determined urge to ignore it. Those words should be somewhere in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report regarding the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. The truth is security measures should have been higher at the diplomatic compound and the appropriate Washington officials knew it. They simply refused to respond. The assault left three Americans and U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens dead.
The report overflows with concerns expressed by the military and intelligence community regarding security. It does not reflect well on the Obama administration. Whether it will have a negative impact on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s anticipated presidential campaign will depend upon whether the public considers this issue ancient history or a serious matter that calls Clinton’s judgment and sense of duty into question.
The report establishes: “In the months before the attacks … the IC (intelligence community) provided ample strategic warnings that the security situation in eastern Libya was deteriorating and that U.S. facilities and personnel were at risk in Benghazi.”
The Aug. 19, 2012 intelligence report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned, “There are no near-term prospects for a reversal in the trend towards a terrorist safe haven in Libya, and areas of eastern Libya will likely become a broader safe haven by the end of 2012.”
The report concluded, “The State Department should have increased its security posture more significantly in Benghazi based on the deteriorating security situation on the ground and … reporting on the prior attacks against Westerners in Benghazi — including two incidents at the Temporary Mission Facility on April 6 and June 6, 2012. …there were at least 20 security incidents involving the Temporary Mission Facility … and diplomats in the Benghazi area in the months leading up to the September 11, 2012 attacks.”
Security concerns expressed by Ambassador Stevens went largely ignored. “In the months prior to the attack,” the report said, “Ambassador Stevens and other State Department officials in Libya outlined concerns via cables to State Department headquarters about the security of the Mission compound in Benghazi and made several requests for additional security resources.”
The report said, “Despite the clearly deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and requests for additional security forces few significant improvements were made by the State Department…” Incredibly, the report confirmed, “There were no U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend the Temporary Mission Facility and its Annex on September 11, and 12, 2012.”
One would think, given the instability of the region combined with the worsening security situation, the administration would have positioned a suitable response team close enough to Benghazi to address a crisis.
The report reflects poorly on President Barack Obama. It is the president’s responsibility to guarantee American interests are secure throughout the world. When the nation’s military and IC identify security challenges where Americans are conducting the nation’s business, the Oval Office must emphasize to the appropriate cabinet officials that he expects safety to be a priority — especially when a date as significant at 9/11 is approaching.
This report should carry heavy consequences for former Secretary Clinton. During her previous run for the presidency she emphasized foreign policy expertise. A 2008 campaign ad featured a ringing telephone with a voice informing the viewer ours is a “dangerous world.” The voice says, “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Who do you want answering the phone?”
Given her incompetence at State and caustic, defensive demeanor during questioning, the correct answer is: “Not Hillary Clinton.”
In January 2013, when asked during a Senate hearing whether the Benghazi attack was the result of a protest, Clinton (temper flaring) shouted, “What difference at this point does it make?”
Presumably that was her response to Ambassador Stevens when he requested more security. Clinton has taken responsibility for the tragedy, but that means nothing if the consequences of failure include a run for the White House — perhaps successfully.
The Obama team has been wrong about every major challenge facing America. It was wrong regarding the economic situation, wrong about health care and wrong in its handling of foreign policy. The last thing Clinton deserves is a promotion to the presidency. The Senate committee report reveals sloppy decision making at State. That’s a fact and, as Aldous Huxley warned, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
Joseph Bell was communications director for former Congressman Rob Simmons, Conn.-2nd District.