Benghazi – Enough To Damage Obama, Keep Hillary Out Of 2016?

Benghazi

Something Wicked This Way Comes

It’s clear now that the Obama administration misled America regarding the events that transpired that day in September.  There is no longer any doubt:

 Mark I. Thompson, the acting deputy assistant for operations in the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau, will testify on Wednesday that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton willfully blocked out his department’s involvement on the night of the September 11 Benghazi attacks — and that he has been threatened and intimidated by unnamed State Department officials about saying as much in public, and that al-Qaeda was involved all along. The scoop comes from — where else? — sources close to the congressional investigation speaking to Fox News, two days ahead of testimony by Thompson and two other whistleblower witnesses before Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Fox’s sources characterize Thompson has having “concluded on Sept. 11 that Clinton and Kennedy tried to cut the counterterrorism bureau out of the loop as they and other Obama administration officials weighed how to respond to — and characterize — the Benghazi attacks.”

That charge would seem to suggest that the State Department’s actions that night last summer came straight from the top and allegedly without input from Thompson’s Counterterrorism Security Group at Foggy Bottom. As CBS News reports, we know that the Obama administration “did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource, the Counterterrorism Security Group.” And since a certain segment of Issa’s Washington is (still) looking back and (still) trying to figure out what went wrong when the American diplomatic mission was attacked, one of the big questions heading into Wednesday’s hearing is whether or not CSG involvement would have made a difference. As The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin insists, the two other witnesses — a regional State Department security officer in Libya and a former department deputy chair of the mission — could send the affair “into a whole different level of scandal.”

Not only did the administration fail to handle the situation appropriately the night of the attacks, they covered up that failure.  Additionally, in order to prevent Obama from being embraced in an election year, they administration attempted, and largely succeeded, in mis-characterizing what happened that night:

After a briefing on Capitol Hill by CIA director David Petraeus, Democrat Dutch Ruppersburger, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, asked the intelligence community for unclassified guidance on what members of Congress could say in their public comments on the attacks. The CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis prepared the first draft of a response to the congressman, which was distributed internally for comment at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, September 14 (Version 1 at right). This initial CIA draft included the assertion that the U.S. government “know[s] that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack.” That draft also noted that press reports “linked the attack to Ansar al Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved.” Ansar al Sharia, the CIA draft continued, aims to spread sharia law in Libya and “emphasizes the need for jihad.” The agency draft also raised the prospect that the facilities had been the subject of jihadist surveillance and offered a reminder that in the previous six months there had been “at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy.”

After the internal distribution, CIA officials amended that draft to include more information about the jihadist threat in both Egypt and Libya. “On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the [Cairo] Embassy and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy,” the agency had added by late afternoon. And: “The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al Qaeda in Benghazi and Libya.” But elsewhere, CIA officials pulled back. The reference to “Islamic extremists” no longer specified “Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda,” and the initial reference to “attacks” in Benghazi was changed to “demonstrations.”

The talking points were first distributed to officials in the interagency vetting process at 6:52 p.m. on Friday. Less than an hour later, at 7:39 p.m., an individual identified in the House report only as a “senior State Department official” responded to raise “serious concerns” about the draft. That official, whom The Weekly Standard has confirmed was State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, worried that members of Congress would use the talking points to criticize the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

In an attempt to address those concerns, CIA officials cut all references to Ansar al Sharia and made minor tweaks. But in a follow-up email at 9:24 p.m., Nuland wrote that the problem remained and that her superiors—she did not say which ones—were unhappy. The changes, she wrote, did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership,” and State Department leadership was contacting National Security Council officials directly. Moments later, according to the House report, “White House officials responded by stating that the State Department’s concerns would have to be taken into account.” One official—Ben Rhodes, The Weekly Standard is told, a top adviser to President Obama on national security and foreign policy—further advised the group that the issues would be resolved in a meeting of top administration officials the following morning at the White House.

The only question remaining is how long the administration can contain the damage.

Oh yeah, and if this prevents a Hillary 2016 run.

7 responses to “Benghazi – Enough To Damage Obama, Keep Hillary Out Of 2016?

  1. Get out of the right wing sphere and this issue does more damage to the Republicans than it does to Obama or Clinton. There is anything at all scandalous or damaging, it’s smoke and mirrors, that make it look like the GOP is trying to politicize a terrorist attack. To be sure, some Democrats did that to Bush after 9-11 (and I defended Bush’s response, even as I opposed going to war with Iraq – I disagreed with those who wanted to blame Bush for that). But this is getting to look like a weird Republican fishing trip. Obama’s had the cleanest Presidency for a long time and they really WANT a scandal, even if they have to construct one!

    • Get out of the right wing sphere

      I’ve thought Obama handled Benghazi poorly since the night it happened; nothing Right Wing about it.

      He mishandled the crisis and then lied about the causes.

      I think this is going to be not good for them.

  2. When did he lie? You might see mix ups in communication, but that happens all the time. How did he mishandle the crisis. Be specific. There are a lot of words there, but nothing direct and concrete. That’s because there is nothing. This is political farce, the GOP trying to create a scandal out of nothing. It’s also distracting them from issues that really matter to Americans. In the heat of the first hours after a crisis there is a lot of uncertainty and anyone can knit pick words or whether X should have been done instead of Y. But it’s not a real story.

    • When did he lie?

      When he claimed is was the result of the video.
      When he sent Rice to claim the same.
      When Hillary made the same claim.

      When did he tell the truth?

      How did he mishandle the crisis. Be specific.

      There was no effort to send reinforcements. There were at least two stand-down orders. They talking points were edited at least twice resulting in information that wasn’t true.

      This is political farce, the GOP trying to create a scandal out of nothing.

      I have the distinct feeling that even if we find Obama lied you wouldn’t care. Clinton lied and nothing happened to him after all.

      But it’s not a real story.

      I would imagine the families of the victims would have a different opinion.

      • When did he claim it was the result of the video? He said on Letterman that the video angered Muslims, but that extremists “used it as an excuse” to justify their attack. So it sounds like even in the statement the right wants to claim shows him blaming the video that he clearly notes the extremists wanted to use terror in any event. So I have yet to see any lie from Obama. I do think in the early days people thought – and maybe it’s true – that the video was related to the terror attack, given the timing. That’s a logical conclusion. So to say they were lying simply is wrong.

        In the fog of an attack, we don’t know what was possible or why orders were given (and even the stand down orders may have been necessary – no one has shown evidence that they were somehow misplaced). In short this is, as the Jon Stewart clip so beautifully points out, a bunch of speculation designed to use a tragedy for political purposes. For all the claims of “cover ups” or “mishandling” what you really have is quibbles about wording (with Obama early and forcefully calling it terrorism) and “what ifs” about what might have been done different during the very confusing event. And Obama is dependent on CIA and military experts for those choices anyway.

        Seriously, I find it disgusting to try to turn this tragedy into some kind of partisan fishing trip – especially when there is still only “what ifs” and speculation and no evidence. During the Bush years when there were clear errors and missteps in response to terror attacks and planned attacks, the Democrats refused calls from the extremists to try to make that a partisan attack. That would be contrary to what this country is about. It’s sad to see the GOP in its weird anti-Obama hysteria making fools of themselves over Benghazi. Watch the Stewart clip.

        All that said if real evidence of a scandal emerges, I’ll change my mind. But given the track record of the right wing scandal seeking machine and the lack of evidence (and how things get twisted into claims Obama said things he didn’t) I am almost 99% confident that the charges from the GOP are bogus. They’re ignoring real issues to try to somehow manufacture a scandal. That is outrageous.

        Here’s what they should do: join a bipartisan effort to look at what we could do better and learn from this, without turning it into an effort for partisan attacks. That would be patriotic and get all sides together. Alas, they’re hatred of Obama prevents that.

  3. Going by Fox News, which I presume is the most bombastic propagandist of Issa’s agenda, here are the major scores for the GOP:
    * Because Obama didn’t say it was a terrorist attack, the Libyan government was offended and wouldn’t let the FBI investigate the crime scene. This, of course, runs counter to the actual facts:
    “But three months after the assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the investigation into the attacks has been hobbled by the reluctance of the Libyan authorities to move against Islamist extremist suspects who belong to powerful militias, officials briefed on the investigation said.”

    The president was saying it wasn’t simply a protest 14 hours after the attack. He called it an act of terror the next day. That seems about as fast as can reasonably be ascertained. And Libya arrested related people within four days of the attack, so they couldn’t have been that offended.

    * The youtube video was an implausible explanation for the attack, because no one in Libya cared. “Hicks said the only information coming out of his team was that there was an “attack” on the consulate. “The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya,” he said.” This, of course, runs counter to the news stories from the time:
    “Throngs marched through Sanaa, Khartoum, Tunis and other cities after Friday prayers as part of the ongoing wave of demonstrations against the trailer of a film made in the US that is said to insult Prophet Muhammad.”
    “Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Benghazi, said: “There is a lot of tension in Benghazi people are confused. “They want to protest but after what took at the US consulate, people are apprehensive, Libyan authorities still believe it was a planned attack at the embassy.””

    * They could have deployed more special forces during the attack. Yep, agreed. That was a huge mistake that I’m sure everyone involved wishes they could take back. But they had limited knowledge and would have had to pull those forces from the embassy in Tripoli, which probably seemed like a more vulnerable target. We don’t know why they did what they did, and I would love to know what happened. We do know that the State Department pays for security and that their budget is being cut year after year by Congress. Needless to say there was less bitching about the security overhauls this year, but Congress deserves some blame for an underfunded State department.

    • This, of course, runs counter to the actual facts:

      From the same story:

      Since first visiting Benghazi in early October, F.B.I. agents have returned to the city at least twice, accompanied by small United States military and Libyan security teams, to interview witnesses and collect other information related to the attack. Libyan witnesses have identified suspects caught on surveillance cameras at the mission and in photos taken during the attacks, American officials said.

      Parts of the hearing that I watched included testimony that the failure of the United States to agree with the Libyan President that this was an act of terror resulted in the FBI being delayed to the scene by days numbering in the double digits.

      “Throngs marched through Sanaa, Khartoum, Tunis and other cities after Friday prayers as part of the ongoing wave of demonstrations against the trailer of a film made in the US that is said to insult Prophet Muhammad.”

      The Friday they are talking about was 3 days after the attack in Benghazi. By that time the whole world was whipped into a lather.

      Yep, agreed. That was a huge mistake that I’m sure everyone involved wishes they could take back. But they had limited knowledge and would have had to pull those forces from the embassy in Tripoli, which probably seemed like a more vulnerable target.

      As I mentioned earlier in another post, crisis management is a learned skill and one that Obama doesn’t have. Further, it’s not for everyone; you have to love to live it. With that being said, there are specific teams designed to handle such things. The hearings focused on just such a team: FEST:

      http://definitions.uslegal.com/f/foreign-emergency-support-team-fest/

      The manager of the team spun them up and then was told to stand down. The whole point of that team is to insert, asses and understand. In fact, when you don’t have complete understanding, you send FEST.

      The only way this is truly going to hurt anyone is if there is a smoking gun that points to a politically motivated cover up story. And that’s gonna be hard to find I’m imagining.

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