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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Are We Heading for Benghazigate?

“[A] good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.” — George Washington, letter to Steptoe Washington — 1790

Yesterday during President Obama’s meandering press conference he stated, when asked by a reporter, that he was not aware of any efforts by the government to muzzle the four alleged State Department and CIA whistle-blowers who wanted to testify to Congress as to what they knew of the Bengasi terrorist attack that killed or Ambassador and three others. If yu believe Obama’s statement I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you at a good price.

For months now, Republican lawmakers have been wondering about the status of the survivors of last September’s terrorist attack in Benghazi that resulted in the death of the four Americans, and why it is that Congress has not been afforded more access to them. In March, Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested that the Obama administration was engaged in specifically blocking access to these witnesses, and that the witnesses had even been told to “keep quiet” — a notion that the administration blithely dismissed and Democrats once more pooh-poohed as the mere partisan pish-tosh of those petty Republicans.

When Ambassador Chris Stevens was planning to visit Benghazi last September, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which the State Department had hired to help protect Americans there, delivered a message: They were no longer going to support the movement of U.S. personnel in the city — including the movement of Stevens.

"In addition," said a report released last week by the chairmen of the House committees on Foreign Relations, Oversight, Armed Services, Judiciary, and Intelligence, "on Sept. 8, 2012, just days before Ambassador Stevens arrived in Benghazi, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade told State Department officials that the group would no longer support U.S. movements in the city, including the ambassador's visit."

A footnote in the report attributes this information to an internal State Department email. The footnote says: "Email from Alec Henderson to John B. Martinec, 'RE: Benghazi QRF agreement,' (Sep. 9, 2012, 11:31 p.m.)."

Martinec was then the State Department's regional security officer (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and, thus, the ambassador's top security adviser.

Despite this email, Stevens went ahead with his trip to Benghazi, arriving there on Sept. 10. At the time, there were three State Department diplomatic security officers deployed on temporary duty at the department's Benghazi mission. Stevens brought another two with him from Tripoli — bringing the total State Department security contingent in Benghazi to five people.

“The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice," said the State Department's Accountability Review Board report released on Dec. 18."

“Plans for the ambassador's trip provided for minimal close protection security support and were not shared thoroughly with the embassy's country team, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound," said the ARB report.

On Oct. 10, 2012, the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee took testimony from Eric Nordstrom, who served as the RSO at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli from Sept. 21, 2011, until July 26, 2012 — leaving the country six weeks before the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack. The committee did not take testimony from John Martinec, who was RSO at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli on Sept. 11, 2012.

Nor has any congressional committee taken testimony from the five State Department Diplomatic Security officers in Benghazi with Stevens on Sept. 11, 2012.

Why not? These are American heroes. Why can't America hear their stories?

“The board determined that U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues, in a near impossible situation," said the State Department ARB report.

“While our country spent Sept. 11, 2012, remembering the terrorist attacks that took place 11 years earlier, brave Americans posted at U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were fighting for their lives against a terrorist assault," said a report released on Dec. 30 by the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Last Friday, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa publicly released a letter he sent to Secretary of State John Kerry detailing a number of ways the State Department was interfering with his committee's investigation of Benghazi. These included refusing to give the committee unfettered access to Benghazi-related documents and declining to even advise would-be State Department whistleblowers that they have a legal right to talk to Congress.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has proposed a plan to end State's stonewalling. He is the principal sponsor of legislation to create a House Select Committee on the Terrorist Attack in Benghazi. This committee would be comprised of members of both parties and have full power to subpoena documents and compel testimony from personnel in the State Department and other government agencies.

Already, 134 House Republicans — a majority of the Republican caucus — have joined as co-sponsors of Wolf's legislation.

"It is clear that the administration just wants the issue of Benghazi to go away, but I sincerely hope that Congress will not aid this White House cover-up of the mistakes made by high-level members of the administration that cost four brave Americans their lives," Wolf said Tuesday.

The December 2011 issue of State Magazine — the State Department's in-house publication — proudly named the diplomatic security agents who travelled with Chris Stevens to Benghazi that year when he established a special mission there during the Libyan revolution. Any American with an Internet hookup can look up the identities of these State Department heroes — and even see photographs of some of them.

But, as of today, the State Department has only named four of the Americans who were in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. These are the four the terrorists succeeded in murdering: Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

In a March 16th interview with Fox News Senator Graham said “"the bottom line is they feel that they can't come forth, they've been told to be quiet." The Fox News report goes on:

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, in an extensive interview with Fox News, alleged that the injured survivors of the Benghazi terror attack have been "told to be quiet" and feel they can't come forward to tell their stories -- as he urged the House to subpoena the administration for details if necessary.

The South Carolina senator said he’s “had contact” with some of the survivors, calling their story “chilling.” He told Fox News that "the bottom line is they feel that they can't come forth, they've been told to be quiet."

The White House is denying any attempt to exert pressure on the surviving victims.

"I'm sure that the White House is not preventing anyone from speaking," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, when asked about the survivors.

But Graham said he thinks the administration is “trying to cover it up,” citing the valuable information the survivors hold.”

The latest update from Fox News, however, reports that at least four career officials from the State Department and CIA are lawyering up as they prepare to provide “sensitive” information about the Benghazi attack to Congress, and that Obama administration officials have served some of these witnesses with not-so-subtle hints about the consequences of coming forward: Nice career you’ve got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it. The Fox News report states:

“Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official and Republican counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, is now representing one of the State Department employees. She told Fox News her client and some of the others, who consider themselves whistle-blowers, have been threatened by unnamed Obama administration officials.

“I’m not talking generally, I’m talking specifically about Benghazi – that people have been threatened,” Toensing said in an interview Monday. “And not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA.”

“It’s frightening, and they’re doing some very despicable threats to people,” she said. “Not ‘we’re going to kill you,’ or not ‘we’re going to prosecute you tomorrow,’ but they’re taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over [if they cooperate with congressional investigators].” …

Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican from California who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday to complain that the department has not provided a process by which attorneys like Toensing can receive the security clearances necessary for them to review classified documents and other key evidence.”

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy said on Sunday that more Benghazi hearings are coming in short order — and that he thinks they’re likely showcase some “explosive” revelations (if, that is, the media should condescend to take notice in any other capacity than the ever-dismissive, “My, these Republicans are certainly determined to discredit Hillary Clinton!”):

“There are more Benghazi hearings coming; I think they’re going to be explosive,” Mr. Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Fox’s Uma Pemmaraju.

Mr. Gowdy wasn’t able to give out too many details, but he hinted that the public for the first time might hear from witnesses to the terror attack that left four Americans dead. …

Mr. Gowdy added that in a trial, “direct evidence, direct testimony by eyewitnesses is always the most compelling.”

“Trust me when I tell you you will want to follow the hearings that are coming up,” he reiterated.”

This kabuki dance has been going on for 8 months since Ambassador Stevens was brutally murdered in Bengasi during a planned terrorist attack that was blamed on a YouTube video. While Obama was campaigning for his reelection and Hillary Clinton was trying to cover her behind the main stream media gave both of them a pass.

A special operations member who witnessed the attack on the U.S. Mission unfold inScreen-Shot-2012-11-18-at-3.58.54-PM-620x414 Benghazi, Libya on September 11 last year, as well as debriefed those who took part in the response, spoke with Fox News’ Adam Housley on Monday night and revealed information that directly contradicts the administration’s insistence that there was not enough time nor resources to send to Benghazi to help State Department employees, contractors, and intel operatives who were under a terrorist attack. FNC kept their source’s identity hidden, as witnesses to the Benghazi attack have reportedly been intimidated by the administration into silence. The assault left four Americans dead, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.

“I know for a fact that C110 was doing a training exercise not in the region of northern Africa but in Europe and they have the ability to react and respond,” the special ops member told FNC.

The C110 is a 40-man special operations commanders and extremists force. They are capable of rapid response and deployment and are specifically trained for Benghazi attack-like incidents. The night of the attack, according to the special op, they were training 3 & 1/2 hours away in Croatia.

“We have the ability to load out, get on birds, at a minimum stage. C110 had the ability to be there, in my opinion, in 4 to 6 hours from their European theater to react. They would have been there before the second attack,” he said, adding, “And you hear a whole bunch of advisers say, ‘We wouldn’t have sent them there, because the security was an unknown situation.’ If it’s an unknown situation, at a minimum, you send forces there to facilitate the exfill—medical, injuries. We could have sent a C130 to provide medical evacuation for the injured.”

All true — but consider that what we think of as the attack on the Benghazi consulate was actually two separate attacks. The first on the consulate began at 9:30 pm, when the first shots were fired, and was over by 11 pm. Security reinforcements from Tripoli arrived at the fallback annex at 1:45 am, about 4 hours after the first attack began and slightly under 3 hours after it ended. Shortly after, a second attack hits the annex and lasts for a little over an hour, when Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed.

Now, if the C110 group had been called to Benghazi from Europe right at 9:30 pm, they might have arrived in time to fight the second attack on the annex — but only just barely, based on the estimate of this survivor/witness; 4 hours would have been 1:30 am. The security detail from Tripoli, which was much closer, had only just arrived in time for the second firefight, at 1:45. Bear in mind, though, that the Tripoli detachment came on their own rather than waiting for orders from State, which were not forthcoming anyway:

Instead, seven men who were American reinforcements in Tripoli, along with Agent Glenn Doherty, commandeered a jet and flew to Benghazi. Ultimately, Doherty and Tyrone Woods would be killed on the roof of the CIA annex.

The special op member told Fox News, “If it wasn’t for that decision, I think we would be talking completely different about this situation. I think you would be looking at 20 plus hostages captured by AQ or you would be looking at a lot of dead Americans in Benghazi.”

In other words, they weren’t even calling Tripoli, let alone Europe.

The better question in this case isn’t the status of response forces in Europe. It’s why the State Department ignored multiple security warnings from the late Ambassador, why the Obama administration couldn’t figure out that the anniversary of 9/11 would be a critical day to prepare against attacks, and why the US ignored the warning signs that had led all other Western nations to leave Benghazi before our consulate got sacked. By the time of the actual attack on 9/11, it was too late in more ways than one for the US to respond. The red lights had been flashing for weeks or even months, and everyone ignored them almost to the last moment.

The better question in this case isn’t the status of response forces in Europe. It’s why the State Department ignored multiple security warnings from the late Ambassador, why the Obama administration couldn’t figure out that the anniversary of 9/11 would be a critical day to prepare against attacks, and why the US ignored the warning signs that had led all other Western nations to leave Benghazi before our consulate got sacked. By the time of the actual attack on 9/11, it was too late in more ways than one for the US to respond. The red lights had been flashing for weeks or even months, and everyone ignored them almost to the last moment.

Former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova appeared on the radio show “Mornings on the Mall” on WMAL-FM in Washington, D.C. Monday, where he told hosts Larry O’Connor and Brian Wilson that the U.S. Department of State is preventing Benghazi whistle-blowers from getting adequate legal representation.

And if the whistle-blowers don’t have attorneys, many of them are unlikely to speak out.

DiGenova explained:

“Victoria Toensing, my partner, has just been retained by one of the Department of State whistle-blowers who are going to appear before the Issa committee. On April 26, Congressman Issa sent a letter to the new Secretary of State John Kerry demanding that the lawyers who are going to represent these whistle-blowers be given clearances so they can talk to their clients in the committee about classified information. The Department of State is refusing to grant clearances to Victoria and other people who want to represent the whistle-blowers in an attempt to prevent the testimony. There’s going to be a constitutional showdown here. Congress is going to win. The administration’s effort to cover up what happened at Benghazi is going to fail.

“The whistle-blowers are out there. These are great Americans; they are heroes. They were on the ground in Benghazi, they want to tell their story, and the administration is going to do everything it can to stop them from testifying under oath in public. They want to protect Hillary [Clinton] and the president, that’s what this is all about.”

Amazingly, DiGenova says, Toensing has received top secret clearance from other high-profile cases as recently as this year, but the government will not clear her on Benghazi.

“This is so outrageous,” DiGenova said, arguing there would be mass outrage if the president were Republican.”

On Tuesday, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) called for a Senate select committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi terrorist attack. Their press release criticized the administration for alleged intimidation of witnesses from the incident:

“Revelations about witnesses being afraid to testify and military assets that could have been deployed in a timely fashion justify appointing a joint select committee. In light of these new revelations it is imperative that we learn everything we can from what happened before, during and after the attacks. We cannot allow those who serve our nation to feel abandoned when under attack, or by Congress afterwards.”

In his press conference on Tuesday President Obama said he was “not familiar” with reports of intimidation and threats to such witnesses. According to Toensing, the attorney for one of the State Department employees, “her client and some of the others, who consider themselves whistle-blowers, have been threatened by unnamed Obama administration officials I'm not talking generally, I'm talking specifically about Benghazi — that people have been threatened. And not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA.”

According to an interview on Fox and Friends on Tuesday morning Toensing declined to name her client. She also refused to say whether the individual was on the ground in Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, when terrorist attacks on two U.S. installations in the Libyan city killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

However, Toensing disclosed that her client has pertinent information on all three time periods investigators consider relevant to the attacks: the months that led up to the attack, when pleas by the ambassador and his staff for enhanced security in Benghazi were mostly rejected by senior officers at the State Department; the eight-hour time frame in which the attacks unfolded, and the eight-day period that followed the attacks, when Obama administration officials incorrectly described them as the result of a spontaneous protest over a video.

"It's frightening, and they're doing some very despicable threats to people," she said. "Not 'we're going to kill you,' or not 'we're going to prosecute you tomorrow,' but they're taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over [if they cooperate with congressional investigators]."

If Benghazi is "old news" and congressional hearings are "a partisan witch hunt," why the threats? Why keep the 34 men and women who were in Benghazi and evacuated after the attacks from talking to Congress?

Benghazi isn't the only bloody disaster being covered up by the Obama administration. As I reported in two blog posts (9/27/2012 and 10/26/2012) last fall, three days after the deadly siege on our consulate in Libya, the Taliban waged an intricately coordinated, brutal attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Two heroic U.S. Marines — Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell — were killed in the battle. Many surviving Marines have been honored for their brave, quick-thinking actions to save their comrades and civilians caught in the crossfire.

As Michelle Malkin reports in her latest column:

“Family members are angry that military brass are still trying to suppress details of the fateful budget and strategic decisions that led to the attack. But they won't stay silent. "This is political," one Camp Bastion relative told me this week. "Just like Benghazi, they don't want people to know."

In case you were sleeping or had forgotten: The meticulously coordinated siege at Camp Bastion by 15 Taliban infiltrators -- dressed in American combat fatigues and armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons -- resulted not only in two deaths and nearly a dozen injuries, but also in the most devastating loss of U.S. airpower since Vietnam. Camp Bastion is Britain's main military base in Afghanistan; it's adjacent to our Marines' Camp Leatherneck.

Eight irreplaceable U.S. aircraft were destroyed or put out of action during the raid. A trio of refueling stations was decimated; a half-dozen hangars were damaged. The attack came exactly six months after a failed jihadi suicide attack targeting former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Camp Bastion family members are hearing that U.S. and British military leaders left their loved ones vulnerable to attack by outsourcing watchtower security on the base to soldiers from Tonga, who were known to fall asleep on the job. Deborah Hatheway, aunt of Sgt. Atwell and the family's spokesperson, is naming names and mincing no words. She says Major General Charles "Mark" Gurganus, who recently returned to the U.S. after commanding coalition forces in Afghanistan, was ultimately responsible for skimping on security patrols. "He might as well have made it easier for the Taliban by cutting the perimeter fence himself and putting out the welcome mat," Hatheway told me.

This is the same Gurganus who ordered Marines to disarm -- immediately after the failed jihadi attack on Panetta last year -- because he wanted them "to look just like our (unarmed) Afghan partners."

The question isn't whether the Obama administration's narrative about what happened before, during, and after the attacks is unraveling. It is. The question is does anyone in the rest of the media care about the truth?

When Rep. Trey Gowdy said over the weekend that new hearings on Benghazi by the Government Oversight Committee would be "explosive," he apparently wasn't exaggerating. There is also the special operations member who has claimed that the Obama administration could have flown military assets to Benghazi within 4 hours — plenty of time to deal with the second attack on the safe house.

This is why the administration just wishes Benghazi would just go away. So much of what they said about it has been contradicted or shown to be false, that getting to the truth is now a necessity. Americans died and Congress wants answers. This next round of hearings should give us some interesting ones.

Of course Obama said that he "will look into it." Or as Hillary Clinton coldly stated in testimony in front of the Senate Committee, “there dead now, so what difference does it make.” I am sure Democrats challenging her in 2016 (if she runs) will use this phrase over and over again.

In both of these cases the mainstream media has been silent as to the potential of a cover-up. Harken back to 1972 when several persons were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s Headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. It did not take the press long to determine that these burglars were employed by the White House and thus began the scandal known as Watergate, a scandal that would lead to weeks of Congressional hearings and the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon from the Presidency. Suppose for a moment the reporters has called the White House and Nixon’s Chief of Staff had told them he knew of no such event and he would look into it and the reporters accepted that reply and went on chasing other stories. The difference between then and now is that the MSM, especially the Washington Post and New York Times, did not like Richard Nixon and the same MSM has too much invested in Barack Obama to push the Benghazi or Camp Bastion cover-ups.

With the majority of House Republicans co-sponsoring Wolf's legislation for a special committee, the only thing standing between the American people and the real story of Benghazi is a leadership decision from House Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner must impanel this special investigative committee so it can compel the administration to tell the full truth about Benghazi — the American people, especially the families of the fallen and wounded deserve it.

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