Refusing to focus on jihadist threats, Team Obama targets all of us for scrutiny The Washington Times
Frank Gaffney Jr.
The revelation that the super-secret National Security Agency
) has been vacuuming up so-called “metadata” from foreign and American communications has lots of us in a full-scale flail.
The libertarian right denounces it as an unacceptable abuse of government power. Sen. Rand Paul
, Kentucky Republican, is inviting millions of Americans to join him in bringing a class-action suit before the Supreme Court
to stop this now-not-so-covert program.
Even the left that normally, reflexively supports whatever [Alleged] President Obama does is up in arms. The original story broke in Britain’s virulently anti-American Guardian newspaper and its flames have been fanned by some of Mr. Paul
’s most liberal colleagues, such as Sens. Bernard Sanders
. Vermont independent, and Ron Wyden
, Oregon Democrat.
Here’s the question that must be addressed: Is this effort to detect and counter patterns of behavior that may be associated with terrorists and their plots legitimate and necessary? All three branches of government have agreed that it is legal and required — provided Team Obama is not doing as it has done elsewhere — namely, abusing its powers for political purposes.
Unfortunately, supporters of this program are being buffeted by growing evidence that the Obama administration
continues to blur — if not actually brazenly to cross — the lines between constitutionally appropriate and legal actions and those that are beyond the pale.
Notably, the Daily Caller uncovered the fact that Douglas Shulman
, the man who as acting Internal Revenue Service
commissioner presided over the IRS
‘ scandalous abuse of conservative, Tea Party
and Jewish organizations seeking 501(c) tax-exempt status, visited the White House
157 times from September 2009 to January 2013. That’s more than any Cabinet officer and far more than his predecessor, who went to the White House
only once in four years.
So much for Mr. Obama partisans’ insistence that there is no connection between the president and this outrageous misconduct. It strains credulity that neither he nor his subordinates were involved in, or at least being kept apprised of, the politicization of the tax-collection apparatus. While we probably won’t know for some time exactly who was responsible — let alone whether they will ever be held accountable, the evidence of such rot in the system inevitably justifies skepticism about other government activities susceptible to abuse.
This is particularly worrisome in light of the extent to which Team Obama has demonstrated, with expert guidance from the same information-technology companies cooperating with the NSA
, technical superiority in using to maximum political advantage personal data that is public or commercially available. “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns” describes how the Obama campaign (both its official and private-sector apparatuses) identified and “nudged” prospective voters with micro-targeting and data-profiling.
In the face of an administration that often refuses to use actual intelligence about our enemies’ intentions (as with alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan) lest they “offend” leftist and Islamist constituencies, the national security-minded are going to see a continuing need for broad data surveillance. This will necessitate continued safeguards and checks and balances, with better-informed congressional oversight from the intelligence committees and judicial review of the nature of and justification for future use of this capability.
-----Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.Read this story at washingtontimes.com ...
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI
The 26-page document in Arabic, recovered by The Associated Press in a building that had been occupied by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu, strongly suggests the group now possesses the SA-7 surface-to-air missile, known to the Pentagon as the Grail, according to terrorism specialists. And it confirms that the al-Qaida cell is actively training its fighters to use these weapons, also called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which likely came from the arms depots of ex-Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi.Read this story at news.yahoo.com ...
Officials use little-known 'military and state secrets privilege' as civil liberties lawyers try to hold administration to accountThe use of the privilege has been personally approved by Eric Holder, the attorney general, and others. The Guardian [UK]
The Obama administration
is invoking an obscure legal privilege to avoid judicial scrutiny of its secret collection of the communications
of potentially millions of Americans.
Civil liberties lawyers trying to hold the administration to account through the courts for its surveillance of phone calls and emails of American citizens
have been repeatedly stymied by the government's recourse to the "military and state secrets privilege". The precedent, rarely used but devastating in its legal impact, allows the government to claim that it cannot be submitted to judicial oversight because to do so it would have to compromise national security.
The government has cited the privilege in two active lawsuits being heard by a federal court in the northern district of California – Virginia v Barack Obama et al, and Carolyn Jewel v the National Security Agency. In both cases, the Obama administration has called for the cases to be dismissed on the grounds that the government's secret activities must remain secret.
The claim comes amid a billowing furore over US surveillance on the mass communications of Americans following disclosures by the Guardian of a massive NSA monitoring programme of Verizon phone records and internet communications
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has written in court filings that "after careful and actual personal consideration of the matter, based upon my own knowledge and information obtained in the course of my official duties, I have determined that the disclosure of certain information would cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States
. Thus, as to this information, I formally assert the state secrets privilege."
The use of the privilege has been personally approved by [Alleged] President Obama and several of the administration's most senior officials: in addition to Clapper, they include the director of the NSA Keith Alexander and Eric Holder, the attorney general. "The attorney general has personally reviewed and approved the government's privilege assertion in these cases," legal documents state.
In comments on Friday about the surveillance controversy, Obama insisted that the secret programmes were subjected "not only to congressional oversight but judicial oversight". He said federal judges were "looking over our shoulders".
But civil liberties lawyers say that the use of the privilege to shut down legal challenges was making a mockery of such "judicial oversight". Though classified information was shown to judges in camera, the citing of the precedent in the name of national security cowed judges into submission.
"The administration is saying that even if they are violating the constitution or committing a federal crime no court can stop them because it would compromise national security. That's a very dangerous argument," said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer with the New York-based Emery Celli firm who acts as lead counsel in the Shubert case.
"This has been legally frustrating and personally upsetting," Maazel added. "We have asked the government time after time what is the limit to the state secrets privilege, whether there's anything the government can't do and keep it secret, and every time the answer is: no."Read this story at guardian.co.uk ...
CBS News has uncovered documents that show the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks.
The Diplomatic Security Service, or the DSS, is the State Department's security force, charged with protecting the secretary of state and U.S. ambassadors overseas and with investigating any cases of misconduct on the part of the 70,000 State Department employees worldwide.
CBS News' John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General's memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual assaults" on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries" -- a problem the report says was "endemic."
The memo also reveals details about an "underground drug ring" was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.
Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department's internal watchdog agency, the Inspector General, told Miller, "We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases, some of which never became cases."
In such cases, DSS agents told the Inspector General's investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that Fedenisn says is "very" upsetting.
"We were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing," she said.
In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.Read this story at cbsnews.com ...
Center for Security Policy
In making the case for the supply of S-300 missiles to Syria, Russia’s highly experienced foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, tried to make the point that his government was only selling Damascus “a purely defensive system.” The S-300, he said, as was clear from its name, was for purposes of “air defense.”
In other words, he was suggesting that there were weapons systems, like air defense missiles, that were inherently defensive by their nature.
Ironically, by making this argument, Lavrov was undermining one of the main pillars of Moscow’s case against other defensive systems which it has opposed vociferously in the past. If defensive weapons systems should not be opposed because, by definition, they have no offensive applications, then why not accept US missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe or in other countries ringing Asia? For while Russia has been stressing that its air defense systems are not offensive in character, it has been strenuously opposing missile defenses for many years, refusing to see them as defensive weapons alone.
Since President Ronald Reagan first proposed the US anti-missile system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – also called the “Star Wars” program – in 1983, Russian strategists argued to their American counterparts that missile defenses are inherently destabilizing. During the Cold War, stability was based on the maintenance of deterrence and the credibility of each superpower’s retaliatory strike capability. The argument against missile defenses back then was that a robust SDI-type system could neutralize the weakened retaliatory capacity of the side that was hit first.
This strong opposition to missile defenses was maintained by Moscow after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. To some extent it was intensified as the Soviet missiles forces were degraded and even cut by arms control agreements like START. In 2007, for example, when the Bush administration proposed installing missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, the chief of the Russian General Staff declared that Moscow would withdraw from arms control agreements with the West in retaliation.
In that same year, President Vladimir Putin even compared the deployment of Western anti-missile systems to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Russian generals in 2007 spoke about targeting these missile defense systems if they were ordered to do so by the Russian leadership. More recently, the US defense correspondent Bill Gertz reported on Russian military exercises simulating an attack on US sea-based missile defenses deployed on an Aegis cruiser near Japan.
In a speech in late December 2009, Putin laid out the logic behind the Russian opposition to missile defenses: “By building such an umbrella over themselves our [US} partners could feel themselves fully secure and will do whatever they want which upsets the balance.”
In short, according to the Russians’ strategic doctrine, missile defenses were completely destabilizing.
It would take extraordinary political acrobatics to explain why missile defenses in Eastern Europe endanger stability, yet robust air defenses based on the S-300 in Syria somehow contribute to stability.
What ultimately gives a weapons system an offensive or defensive character is the strategic context in which it is placed. In 1970, for example, Moscow deployed SA-2 air defense systems in Egypt and then decided to move them up to the Suez Canal, in violation of the US-Soviet Standstill Agreement at the time. By providing the Egyptian Army with an air defense umbrella over the Suez Canal, and in so doing protecting it from the Israel Air Force, Moscow made it possible for the Egyptians to cross the canal three years later and launch the Yom Kippur War. Air defenses were not just for defensive purposes but rather made possible offensive ground operations.
In the Syrian case today, Israel is not likely concerned with a surprise attack by the Syrian army like in 1973, given the state of Syria’s ground forces after two years of fighting against rebel troops. What is changing in Israel’s north is the buildup of Hezbollah, backed by a growing Iranian military presence on the ground that has become engaged in combat operations against President Bashar Assad’s opponents.
The most immediate problem is Syria’s willingness to deliver advanced weaponry to Hezbollah that can upset key aspects of the strategic balance.
Besides the transfer of chemical weapons, Israel has been concerned with Syria providing Hezbollah with long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, like the supersonic Russian Yakhont that can strike targets 300 kilometers into the Mediterranean. Last year, the director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency described the proliferation of such missiles as a concern to the US Navy as well.
Israel has also focused on the supply to Hezbollah of surface- to-surface missiles armed with particularly heavy warheads for striking Israeli cities.
The payload of the Fateh 110 is 30 that of the Grad rockets used by Hezbollah in 2006.
Finally, Israel is monitoring whether Syria is equipping Hezbollah with long-range airdefense missiles like the SA-17.
Using Putin’s own logic, supply of the S-300 by Moscow will create an air defense umbrella over Syria which will provide Assad and his generals in Damascus with the security to make these kinds of weapons transfers to Hezbollah and to “do whatever they want which upsets the balance.”
This is a development which Israeli officials have clearly stated they must prevent.
The next time US officials sit across from Russian negotiators over the deployment of Western missile defense systems, and the Russians charge that missile defenses are destabilizing, Washington should be prepared with all the statements that came out of Moscow insisting that the S- 300 air defense system in Syria is purely defensive and hence threatens no one. President Putin will not accept the application of Lavrov’s statements about the S-300 to the US missile defense deployments, but in taking that position he will be going into important negotiations for Russia with a much weaker hand than he had before.
By JOSH GERSTEIN
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta
revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama Bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by Zero Dark Thirty filmmaker Mark Boal, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report obtained by a watchdog group.
Panetta also disclosed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the CIA awards ceremony, says the draft IG report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.
The report does not make clear whether Panetta was aware that Boal was present at the ceremony, held under a tent at the CIA complex on June 24, 2011. “Approximately 1300” people from the military and the intelligence community were on hand for the event, according to a CIA press release
issued the following week.Read this story at politico.com ...
On Wednesday, Drummer Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, a man who had served Queen and country honorably in the hell of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, emerged from his barracks on Wellington Street, named after the Duke thereof, in southeast London. Minutes later, he was hacked to death in broad daylight and in full view of onlookers by two men with machetes who crowed “Allahu akbar!” as they dumped his carcass in the middle of the street like so much road kill.
As grotesque as this act of savagery was, the aftermath was even more unsettling. The perpetrators did not, as the Tsarnaev brothers did in Boston, attempt to escape. Instead, they held court in the street gloating over their trophy, and flagged down a London bus to demand the passengers record their triumph on film. As the crowd of bystanders swelled, the remarkably urbane savages posed for photographs with the remains of their victim while discoursing on the iniquities of Britain toward the Muslim world. Having killed Drummer Rigby, they were killing time: It took 20 minutes for the somnolent British constabulary to show up. And so television viewers were treated to the spectacle of a young man, speaking in the vowels of south London, chatting calmly with his “fellow Britons” about his geopolitical grievances and apologizing to the ladies present for any discomfort his beheading of Drummer Rigby might have caused them, all while drenched in blood and still wielding his cleaver.Read this story at nationalreview.com ...
...Barack Obama is set to announce a new round of strategic nuclear warhead reductions in the near future as part of a disarmament agenda that could reduce U.S. strategic warheads to as few as 1,000 weapons.
The next round of U.S.-Russian arms talks would follow Obama's expected announcement that the United States' arsenal of strategic warheads can be reduced unilaterally to around 1,000 warheads. That position is expected as part of the Pentagon's long-delayed Nuclear Posture Review implementation study that Obama was expected to sign earlier this year.
Recent press reports have indicated that...Obama may make the cuts -- fully one-third of the nation's arsenal -- by executive action and without Congressional authorization.
Specialists on nuclear deterrence say further cuts beyond the 1,550 deployed warheads mandated by the 2010 New START arms treaty could undermine the United States' ability to deter nuclear powers like Russia and China, who have significant modernization programs for their nuclear arsenals underway.
Further cuts also are likely to embolden other non-nuclear states, including Japan, to consider building their own nuclear arsenals, analysts say.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said the administration is seeking to unilaterally disarm U.S. nuclear forces, something that is "the most dangerous thing I have ever seen an American president attempt to do."
"This is not the time to embark on such a dangerous path, with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasing their nuclear forces," he said.
A U.S. official familiar with strategic nuclear policy said the delay in signing the implementation study may be the result of concerns among military commanders in charge of nuclear deterrence that China's nuclear arsenal is expanding more rapidly than anticipated, Read more at newsmax.com ...
The best evidence of the unlamented death of the Arab Spring (2010-2013) was the nervous response in Washington D.C. to the Syrian crossing of the Red Line.
The Red Line had been set up so that Assad would eventually run afoul of it, whether by using chemical weapons or by taking the blame for chemical weapons use by the rebels; as the UN alleges happened. Once the Red Line was crossed, the Liberators of Libya would use the opportunity to enforce the will of the people; at least those people with Qatari RPGs and Turkish machine guns.
But instead of carving out a No Fly Zone and then telling the American people about it three days later, Obama blinked. No sooner did Assad supposedly cross the Red Line than Obama aides rushed out to explain that paying attention to the colorful line was misreading what Obama had really meant to say.
“How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense,” one official asked, with no sense of irony. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”
Two years ago, Obama had declared that he was the defender of Benghazi, protecting it against a massacre that was never going to happen. And once Benghazi was liberated to be under Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood rule, the man who had sent in the air force to protect Benghazi Islamist militias against Gaddafi, couldn’t be bothered to send in the planes to protect his diplomats against the militias.
The Arab Spring may have died on that September 11. Or it may have died when Obama’s aides rushed to retreat across the Red Line. But one thing is certain; it’s deader than Monty Python’s blue parrot.
Obama looked into the Syrian abyss and pulled back. Maybe the timing of the war would have been a distraction from amnesty and gun control, but more likely the responsibility-to-protectors just couldn’t sell anyone on their happy ending.
There is not one single place where a major Arab Spring transformation has led to a happy ending.
Egypt is a political, social and economic disaster. Obama had been counting on Islamists transforming Egypt into another Turkey on a slow and sensible schedule. But Morsi had a little too much in common with Obama. Like Obama, he couldn’t wait a decade to crush his opponents and enact repressive policies that would fracture the country. He could barely wait a month.
Egypt isn’t unique. Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is just as shattered, and one Islamist government has already gone down to be replaced by another. The same tensions between liberals and Islamists are playing out in Morocco. Meanwhile countries like Bahrain or Yemen in the Saudi sphere of influence either suppressed domestic protests or engaged in ritual transfers of power.
The Arab Spring was truly tested in Libya. NATO went in and left behind a country overrun by terrorists whose instability endangers its diplomats, the entire region and the world. Most of the advocates of intervention in Libya understand that the same thing will happen in Syria, but on a much larger scale.
Assad may be the prisoner of Damascus, but so is everyone else. The Syrian Civil War has stalemated all the powers leaving them stuck in a holding pattern. Russia is stuck helping Assad, even though it wishes that a transition could be arranged at the negotiating table, and the NATO powers are stuck trying to arrange some sort of Syrian rebel alliance, even though they know it will just be a gang of militias using Sharia courts and RPGs to fight over bakeries and oil wells.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, sounding more desperate than ever, has argued that the only way to keep the Al Nusra Front from winning is to arm the moderate opposition. But Cameron knows that there is no moderate opposition. The only options are to choose from a palette of Islamist militias and hope that works out better than it did in Libya or to let Russia control a transition that will put one of its own allies into power. And for the moment, it looks as if Obama and Cameron are going along with that plan.
Whatever happens next, the Syrian Civil War isn’t going anywhere.
Western politicians and pundits completely misread the Arab Spring as a series of popular uprisings. In fact they were austerity protests hijacked by political activists backed by Western democracy establishment NGOs and Islamist plotters backed by Qatar and its Al Jazeera propaganda network.
The Arab Spring was a campaign by Sunni Islamist countries to overthrow the governments of secular countries. With most of those governments overthrown, with two notable exceptions, it has moved into its next phase as a religious war between Sunni Islamists and the Shiite alliance of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Only an idiot would mistake Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Qaeda shooting it out in the ruins of Syrian cities for any kind of popular indigenous uprising. There are still calls to arm the moderate opposition, but how can there be a moderate opposition when Turkey and Qatar, the two big players of the war, are not moderate except in the imaginations of New York Times columnists?
And how then could the Arab Spring be moderate and democratic when its backers and planners were neither moderate nor democratic?
The dividing lines in the Middle East were never between democracies and dictatorships. They are the sectarian lines that divide Sunni from Shiite and the ethnic nationalisms that divide the old Persian and Turkish empires from the ragged bands of Arab conquerors.
The Arab Spring was not new. It was very old. It was as old as the Islamic conquests that transformed more open Arab cultures into Islamist tyrannies and then repeated the process in historical cycles. The pattern continued with the clashes between Islamists and Arabs giving way to fighting between Sunni and Shiite. And that fighting must inevitably give way to the next phase of Islamist infighting.
This isn’t a new phase of history that will transform the Middle East into some ethnic copy of Europe. It is the same old history of the region repeating itself again and again like footprints in the sand.
The Arab Spring is dead. It was dead a thousand years ago. It isn’t a new idea, but a very old war whose adherents are cursed to battle each other for eternity over the same power struggles.
The desert air breathes out mirages and generations of Westerners have found themselves caught in astonishing vistas of lost kingdoms and flourishing oases, but the harsh realities of war have a way of dissolving illusions.
The Western nations that bought the myth of the Arab Spring from the wily Qatari shopkeeper thought that they were purchasing democracy and stability, when they were actually buying a piece of an old civil war. Now they have a choice between fighting one more war in the hopes of saving an Arab Spring that never existed… or stepping back from the abyss.
Much of the media and liberal establishment simply ignored yesterday's Benghazi hearings. They were content to see, hear, and speak no evil -- which is typically the fastest way to kill a story in Washington. Others framed the proceedings as just another quixotic, partisan effort to hype a long-resolved story. Selling that template requires adherence to two fallacious assertions: First, that no major questions remain regarding the 9/11 terrorist assault on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya -- and second, that no new information emerged from the whistle-blowers' hours-long testimony. The former claim is outright insulting
. The latter betrays either aggressive ignorance or wishful thinking. House Oversight Committee Republicans' focused questioning extracted quite a few nuggets of relevant information. For their part, many committee Democrats were focused on unseemly efforts to attack, distract and smear -- all employed as they cynically groused about Republicans
"politicizing" the investigation. Cutting through the nonsense and dissembling, here's what we now know:(1)
Murdered US Ambassador Chris Stevens' second in command, Gregory Hicks, was instructed
not to speak with a Congressional investigator by Sec. Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills
. Hicks said he'd "never
" faced a similar demand at any point during his distinguished
22-year diplomatic career. When he refused to comply with this request, the State Department dispatched an attorney to act as a "minder," who insisted on sitting in on all of Hicks' discussions with members of Congress (higher quality video is available here
When Hicks began to voice strenuous objections to the administration's inaccurate talking points with State Department higher-ups, the administration turned hostile
. After being lavishly praised by the president and the Secretary of State for his performance under fire, Assistant Secretary of State Beth Jones instantly reversed course and launched into a "blistering critique" of Hicks' leadership. He was subsequently "effectively demoted
." Hicks called Rice's talking points "stunning" and "embarrassing.(3)
Secretaries Clinton and Rice (the president's hand-selected messenger on Benghazi to the American people) repeatedly stated
that the attack arose from "spontaneous protests" over an obscure YouTube video. This was never true. Hicks called the YouTube a "non-event
" in Libya. He and others on the ground -- including Amb. Stevens -- recognized the raid as a coordinated terrorist attack from the very beginning
. Hicks testified that he personally told Sec. Clinton
as much at 2 am on the night of the attack, along with her senior staff. [UPDATE - Rep. Trey Gowdy also revealed an email sent on 9/12
in which Assistant Sec. Jones confirmed to a Libyan official that the attack had been carried out by terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia]. Days later, Rice recited bogus talking points on five American television networks, and Clinton denounced
the video while standing next to the flag-draped coffins of the fallen. Hicks said there he never mentioned any "spontaneous demonstrations" related to a video in his phone call with Clinton:
Questions: How, why, and by whom did the administration's talking points get scrubbed and re-written
? Why did the president refuse
to identify the attack as terrorism in an interview with CBS News on September 12, and why did he allow Sec. Rice to disseminate patently false information on his behalf? (4)
A small, armed US force in Tripoli was told it did not have the authority
to deploy to Benghazi in the midst of the attack. Twice
. Flight time between the two cities is less than an hour. Members of the would-be rescue contingent were "furious
" over this obstruction. The witnesses said they did not know who ultimately gave the "stand down" orders, or why
. If it was not the Commander-in-Chief calling the shots, why not, and where was he? Whistle-blower Mark Thompson, a career counter-terrorism official at State, said he called the White House to request the immediate deployment of a Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) to Benghazi. He was told it was "not the right time
" to do so, then was cut out of the communications loop. (5)
The US' security chief in Libya, Eric Nordstrom, averred that Sec. Clinton "absolutely
" would have been briefed on his (and Stevens') repeated requests
for an increased security presence in Libya. This claim undercut committee Democrats' nitpicking over whether Clinton's signature appeared on the memo denying those requests:
Furthermore, the Benghazi compound was operating below the bare minimum
global security standard for US diplomatic missions -- despite being in an exceedingly dangerous place, and having been subjected to previous attempted attacks
. Only the Secretary of State
has the authority to grant exemptions for minimum security requirements. (6)
Amb. Stevens was stationed at the vulnerable Benghazi compound on a dangerous symbolic date at the behest
of Sec. Clinton, who wished to make that diplomatic mission a permanent outpost
. This detail should only intensify questions as to why the consulate was so poorly protected (see item #7).(7)
Nordstrom stated that elements of the lightly-armed Libyan militia group tasked with protecting the consulate were "certainly" complicit
in the attacks. No US Marines were present
at the time. Hicks estimated that at least 60
terrorists swarmed into the compound during the attack. Eight months later, zero arrests
have been made.
A mortally wounded Amb. Stevens was taken to a hospital controlled
by the Islamist extremist group (Ansar Al-Sharia) primarily responsible for the assault. Administration officials initially pointed to locals rushing Stevens to a local hospital as evidence of local goodwill from protesters who didn't approve of the mob spinning out of control. Hicks said the American contingent did not go to retrieve Stevens from said hospital during the fight because they were fearful that it was a trap
The US government did not seek
permission from the Libyan government to fly any aircraft into Libyan airspace, aside from a drone. The witnesses testified that they believe the Libyan government would have complied with any such request. The fact that none was even made indicates that there was never a plan or intention to rush reinforcements to Benghazi. This renders the "would they have made it on time?" argument largely irrelevant -- the facts in item #4 notwithstanding. Another important point
about the "they wouldn't have made it" defense: The assault lasted for eight hours and took place into two waves at two different compounds. How could anyone have known how long the fighting would last? How could they have anticipated that ex-Navy SEALs Woods and Doherty wouldn't have been able to stave off the enemy for a few more hours? Help was not on the way. It was never sent. (10)
Despite committee Democrats' repeated claims and leading questions, reduced funding or "austerity" had absolutely nothing to do with the inadequate security presence on the ground. The State Department itself made this fact crystal clear
at previous hearings, as did the administration's internal "ARB" review. Why did multiple Democrats flog an obsolete, thoroughly-debunked explanation, if not to muddy the waters? (11)
Oversight Democrats tried to cast doubt on Mark Thompson's credibility, suggesting that he'd declined to participate in the administration's ARB probe. Thompson corrected the record, noting that he "offered his services
" to those investigators, who in turn did not invite him to testify. Democrats also claimed that the House hearings were slanted because the leaders of the ARB investigation were not invited to participate. In fact, Chairman Issa explicitly did invite them, as confirmed
by letters obtained by ABC News. They chose not to participate. Democrats were dead wrong on both counts. (12)
During her Congressional testimony on Benghazi, Sec. Clinton memorably asked, "what difference does it make
?" in regards to the provenance of the administration's incorrect talking points. Gregory Hicks and Eric Nordstrom both attempted to answer that question. Hicks did so in granular detail
(the false explanation opened a nasty rift between the US and Libyan governments, impeding the FBI's investigation for weeks). An emotional Nordstrom
was more general (we lost friends; the truth matters):
One of the few points of bipartisan agreement
was that the number of unresolved issues merit additional hearings on Benghazi.