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Monday, May 6, 2013

What Will The Next Round Of Hearings On Benghazi Reveal?

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd they go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” — Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, January 23, 2013.

On Wednesday the next round of hearings on the terrorist attacks of our consulate in Benghazi, Libya killing our Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, and former U.S. Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty on September 11, 2012. (For a comprehensive time-line of the attack click here.)

So what will this latest round of hearings reveal? Hopefully with the clearance give to the three latest State Department whistle-blowers the hearings will reveal truths that have been obfuscated by the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton to protect their political reputations, and in Hillary’s case her political future.

As in all political scandals the cover-up is worse than the issues that required the cover-up. This goes back to Tea Pot Dome, Iran-Contra, Watergate, and the Clinton sex scandal. All could have been nipped in the bud by the principals involved simply telling the truth. If you recall Bill Clinton was not impeached for having sex with Monica Lewinsky but for lying about it under oath and committing perjury when he emphatically said “I did not have sex with that woman.”

As Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier" stated:

"If it turns out there are people who were material witnesses [concerning the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya] who could have known stuff who were turned away -- rather than perhaps ignored or negligence involved -- but if there was active turning away as a way to protect the administration, then you have a scandal on your hands."

An old-time trial lawyer once said, “When your case is weak, shout louder!”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shouted louder when asked about the Obama administration’s story last fall that the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. ambassador’s quarters in Benghazi was due to an anti-Islamic video that someone in the United States had put on the Internet, and thereby provoked a protest that escalated into violence.

She shouted at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Students of propaganda may admire the skill with which she misdirected people’s attention. But those of us who are still old-fashioned enough to think that the truth matters cannot applaud her success.

Let’s go back to square one.

After the attack on the American ambassador’s quarters in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the Obama administration immediately blamed it on the anti-Islamic video.

Moreover, this version of what happened was not just a passing remark. It was a story that the administration kept repeating insistently. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice repeated that story on five different television talk shows on the same Sunday. President Obama himself repeated the same story at the United Nations. The man who put the anti-Islamic video on the Internet was arrested for a parole violation, creating more media coverage to keep attention on this theme.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Secretary Clinton now asks. What difference did it make at the time?

Obviously the Obama administration thought it made a difference, with an election coming up. Prior to the attack, the administration’s political theme was that Barack Obama had killed Osama bin Laden (with an assist from the Navy SEALs), vanquished Al Qaeda and was now in the process of putting the terrorist threat behind us.

To have the attack in Benghazi be seen as a terrorist attack — and a devastating one — would have ruined this picture, with an election coming up.

The key question that remains unanswered to this day is: What speck of evidence is there that the attack in Benghazi was due to the much-discussed video or that there was ever any protest demonstration outside the ambassador’s quarters?

If there is no evidence whatever, then the whole attempt to say that a protest over a video escalated into an attack was a deliberate hoax by people who knew better.

There is no point in the administration saying that they did not have all the facts about the attack immediately. All the facts may never be known. But the real question is: Did you have even a single fact that would substantiate your repeated claims that some video led to a protest in Benghazi that got out of hand and led to the attack?

Interestingly, Hillary Clinton herself was not featured in this campaign, even though as Secretary of State she was a key figure. Hillary was not about to create video footage that could come back to haunt her if she runs for president of the United States in 2016.

Until now the Obama administration, with the help of a sympathetic media, has been able to keep the Benghazi attack on the back burner. And as press secretary J. Carney recently stated: “that was a long time ago.”

So who are the whistle-blowers and who are the White House and State Department officials who prepared the talking points for the hapless Susan Rice and were pressuring the State Department officials who knew what happened on 9/11/12 to keep their mouths shut.

Let’s begin with the “whistle-blowers:”

  • Gregory N. Hicks, a Foreign Service officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/ChargĂ© d’Affairs in Libya
  • Former Marine Mark I. Thompson, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism for the State Department.
  • Diplomatic Security Officer Eric Nordstrom a former Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Libya. He was the top security officer in the country in the months leading up to the attacks.

They will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by California Republican Darrell Issa.

Nordstrom previously testified before the oversight committee, which is chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in October 2012. Of the three witnesses, he is the only one who does not consider himself a whistle-blower. At last fall's hearing, however, Nordstrom made headlines by detailing for lawmakers the series of requests that he, Ambassador Stevens, and others had made for enhanced security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the period preceding the attacks, requests mostly rejected by State Department superiors.

"For me the Taliban is on the inside of the [State Department] building," Nordstrom testified, angry over inadequate staffing at a time when the threat environment in Benghazi was deteriorating,

The other two witnesses have not been heard from publicly before.

Hicks is a veteran Foreign Service officer whose overseas postings have also included Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and committee member, said Hicks was in Tripoli at 9:40 p.m. local time when he received one of Stevens’ earliest phone calls amid the crisis.

“We’re under attack! We’re under attack!” the ambassador reportedly shouted into his cell phone at Hicks.

Chaffetz, who subsequently debriefed Hicks, also said the deputy “immediately called into Washington to trigger all the mechanisms” for an inter-agency response.

“The real-life trauma that [Hicks] went through,” Chaffetz recalled to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, “I mean, I really felt it in his voice. It was hard to listen to. He’s gone through a lot, but he did a great job.”

According to the State Department website, Thompson “advises senior leadership on operational counterterrorism matters, and ensures that the United States can rapidly respond to global terrorism crises.”

Five years before the Benghazi attacks, he lectured at a symposium hosted by the University of Central Florida and titled “The Global Terrorism Challenge: Answers to Key Questions.”

Joe DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney, and wife Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee — Republicans — disclosed this week that in their private practice in the nation’s capital, they now represent pro bono two career State Department employees who regard themselves as “whistleblowers” and would be testifying before Issa’s committee at its next Benghazi hearing, on May 8.

The lawyers said their clients believe their accounts of Benghazi were spurned by the Accountability Review board (ARB), the official investigative body convened by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to review the terrorist attacks, and that the two employees have faced threats and intimidation from as-yet-unnamed superiors.

According to a Fox News report on the night of Sept. 11, as the Obama administration scrambled to respond to the Benghazi terror attacks, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a key aide effectively tried to cut the department's own counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of reporting and decision-making, according to a "whistle-blower" witness from that bureau who will soon testify to the charge before Congress:

“That witness is Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine and now the deputy coordinator for operations in the agency’s counterterrorism bureau. Sources tell Fox News Thompson will level the allegation against Clinton during testimony on Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California.

Fox News has also learned that another official from the counterterrorism bureau -- independently of Thompson -- voiced the same complaint about Clinton and Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy to trusted national security colleagues back in October.”

Thompson considers himself a whistle-blower whose account was suppressed by the official investigative panel that Clinton convened to review the episode, the Accountability Review Board (ARB). Thompson's lawyer, Joseph DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney, has further alleged that his client has been subjected to threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his cooperation with Congress.

Sources close to the congressional investigation who have been briefed on what Thompson will testify tell Fox News the veteran counterterrorism official 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.

"You should have seen what (Clinton) tried to do to us that night," the second official in State's counterterrorism bureau told colleagues back in October. Those comments would appear to be corroborated by Thompson's forthcoming testimony.”

The Fox report by James Rosen continues:

The counterterrorism officials, however, concluded that Clinton and Kennedy were immediately wary of the attacks being portrayed as acts of terrorism, and accordingly worked to prevent the counterterrorism bureau from having a role in the department's early decision-making relating to them.

Also appearing before the oversight committee on Wednesday will be Gregory N. Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya at the time of the Benghazi terrorist attacks. Like Thompson, Hicks is a career State Department official who considers himself a Benghazi whistle-blower. His attorney, Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, has charged that Hicks, too, has faced threats of reprisal from unnamed superiors at State. (Toensing and diGenova, who are representing their respective clients pro bono, are married.)

Portions of the forthcoming testimony of Hicks -- who was one of the last people to speak to Stevens, and who upon the ambassador's death became the senior U.S. diplomat in Libya -- were made public by Rep. Issa during an appearance on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

Hicks told the committee that he and his colleagues on the ground in Libya that night knew instantly that Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and that he was astonished that no one drafting the administration's talking points consulted with him before finalizing them, or before U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice delivered them on the Sunday talk shows of Sept. 16.”

So who is Patrick Kennedy, a name this is not too well known to followers of this developing scandal? According to the Department of State web site:

“Patrick F. Kennedy, a Career Minister in the Foreign Service, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Under Secretary of State for480px-Patrick-F-Kennedy_2002 Management on November 6, 2007. As Under Secretary for Management, he is responsible for the people, resources, budget, facilities, technology, financial operations, consular affairs, logistics, contracting, and security for Department of State operations, and is the Secretary’s principal advisor on management issues. He is chair of the department-wide Greening Council, responsible for overseeing implementation of the Secretary’s Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI), to improve the sustainability of the State Department’s facilities and operations.

Prior to assuming his position as Under Secretary for Management, he was Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation from May 2007; Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Management from April 2005 to May 2007; and from February 2005 to April 2005, he headed the Transition Team that set up the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence.”

The State Department was at fault for failing to have a clear emergency response plan in the hours following the Benghazi attack, which might have otherwise saved the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans who died in the incident on Sept. 11, 2012.

That is the conclusion of Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL after reviewing Fox News’ claims that a special ops team wasn’t called in to help even though it was stationed less than six hours away.

“I don’t disagree with anything that that anonymous special operations operator said on Fox News. The issue is all along that the State Department is at fault,” said Webb, co-author of “Benghazi: the Definitive Report.”

In his role as Under Secretary of State for Management Kennedy is a virtual czar over the operations and personal at the State Department. According to interviews I have heard on various talk radio shows with people who are familiar with the operations of the State Department Kennedy rues with a iron fist and views his role as protecting the reputation of the State Department no matter what.

According to a Newsmax report Rep. Darrell Issa of California charged on Sunday that the Obama administration made a political decision to deny that terrorists were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

“Gregory Hicks, who was second in command at the Benghazi mission, will testify along with Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism, and Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya.

"I thought is was a terrorist attack from the get-go," Hicks was quoted as telling investigators. "I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning."

But U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday morning news shows five days later blaming the attack on a spontaneous protest that erupted after a similar protest in Egypt. The Egyptian protest was blamed on an anti-Muslim video made in the United States.

Prior to Rice’s appearance on "Face the Nation" at that time, Libya's newly elected president Mohamed Magarief had just told host Bob Schieffer that the attack was caused by terrorism.

For Rice to immediately contradict him was a "loss of face" in his own country and throughout the world, Hicks said. "The net impact of what has transpired is the spokesperson of the most powerful country in the world has basically said that the president of Libya is either a liar or doesn't know what he's talking about.

"My jaw hit the floor as I watched this," Hicks told investigators. "I've never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career, as on that day. I never reported a demonstration; I reported an attack on the consulate. Chris' last report — if you want to say his final report — is 'Greg, we are under attack.'"

"You can't insult a foreign leader in a greater way than happened literally here just those few days later," Issa told Schieffer on Sunday.”


One of the issues Issa's committee will focus on is why talking points were changed in the days after the attack.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had expressed fear that the talking points would be used by members of Congress to criticize the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings about the need for more security, according to Schieffer.

"We know one thing," Issa responded. "The talking points were right, and then the talking points were wrong."

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should have been "on the same sheet of music with the Libyan government," Issa said, "and she wasn't."

Hicks himself hasn't been given access to the classified report, Issa said, so his assertions that the report is wrong are based on the public report.

Issa called the State Department's probe "questionable" in that it clearly meets the statutory requirement to do an investigation, but "it doesn't answer any real questions, or place blame on people who were involved in this failure."

He described the effort by the Obama administration "a misinformation campaign at best, and a cover-up at worst."

So who is the man behind the cover-up and who changed the CIA talking points for U.N Ambassador Susan Rice — an action that ultimately caused her to withdraw her nomination as Secretary of State. His Name id Ben Rhodes.

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has a must read column regarding the Benghazi cover-up by White House officials.

CIA career officials clearly and repeatedly identified Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-linked Islamic terrorists as the culprits behind the murder of four Americans.

Of course, this would cause embarrassment for the Obama team, especially in the few weeks before the election. They had been boasting for years that Al Qaeda had been decimated, the "tide of war" was receding; they had been on a mission to whitewash the prospect of Islamic terrorism as a threat to America (see Lauri Regan's superb column ("Can a President who has promised to stand with Muslims protect America?). Obama's Cairo speech before an audience that included Muslim Brotherhood officials that he compelled Egypt to include, was a paean to Islam. It was also, to a great extent, a work of fiction that included grandiose and subsequently disproven claims about the positive contributions Islam has made to America and the world.

According to the L.A. Times that speech was written by Obama's foreign policy speechwriter and now National Security Council team member, Ben Rhodes.

That is the man who Hayes "outs" as a key person behind the Benghazi cover-up. (You can see how the original CIA report was changed by Rhodes in Hayes’ article)

He reportedly altered the CIA talking points to delete references to Islamicben_rhodes terrorists, "attacks" (they became "demonstrations") and other negative references to Islamism. Also, someone at the White House level apparently dreamt up the idea of blaming an inconsequential video for triggering a spontaneous protest, that in the frenzy of events, led to the murder of Americans. These CIA talking points were eviscerated to whitewash the role of Islamic terrorism.

There was a White House whitewash that should not be dismissed over events that occurred a 'long time ago;" contrary to Hillary Clinton saying that responsibility for the deaths of Americans serving their nation does "matter." And despite Secretary of State's John Kerry's dismissiveness towards the Benghazi murders — "we got a lot more important things to move on to" — justice for the America's dead demands we find who is responsible.

Ben Rhodes should be called to account for trying to divert blame away from Islamic terrorists and the Obama team members whose feckless negligence led to the Benghazi massacre.

Rhodes earned a master's degree in fiction-writing from New York University just a few years ago. He did not have a degree in government, diplomacy, national security; nor has he served in the CIA, or the military. He was toiling away not that long ago on a novel called 'The Oasis of Love" about a mega church in Houston, a dog track, and a failed romance.

Carol Lee of Politico wrote in May, 2009, that”

“Not long ago, Rhodes was one of the obscure guys who wrote Obama’s campaign speeches in Starbucks and played video games into the early morning hours. Now he attends national security meetings and takes writer’s refuge in a secret office on the third floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Rhodes is still largely unknown compared to Jon Favreau, Obama’s 27-year-old chief speechwriter and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. But he has come a long way in a few years — from mulling over that novel, about a megachurch in Houston, a dog track and a failed romance, to writing a closely watched president’s most significant speeches.”

Wow — what a meteoric rise! What qualifies him to have been given such power to lie to the American people? Why does he have so much influence with Barack Obama?

Maybe it is just his avid willingness to do the bidding of his bosses, regardless of truth.

Why do I make this claim? Well, for one reason, Hayes notes he did it regarding Benghazi. But there is a pattern here that he puts his education as a fiction writer to work for political purposes.

Years ago, Democratic Senator and Obama-mentor Lee Hamilton plucked him from obscurity to write what became the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report. That report was rightly criticized for many reasons, among them was the stacking of its "expert list" with various pro-Arab apologist. Incidentally, the commission ignored its mandate to focus on Iraq and instead devoted a lot of words to attack Israel. Some of the experts who were interviewed were appalled by the final written report because they felt it did not reflect facts, their testimony, or reality.

Who wrote this whitewash? Who was responsible for hitting the delete button of some of the expert testimony? Who tried to divert responsibility for terrorism away from where it belongs?

None other than Ben Rhodes — a man who has finally found a use for his fiction-writing education (since he failed as a novelist); to whitewash Islamists and the Obama administration.

I hope the House calls Rhodes as a witness in this week's hearings regarding the Benghazi massacre and the miscarriage of justice in Washington. Will his fiction-writing on behalf of Obama come to light?

He bears responsibility for a great deal of what has gone wrong in American foreign and national security policy for the past few years.

Obama cautioned against rushing to judgment and said that he and his team's mistakes were no cover up but rather the result of the fog of war, or something like it. An inquest would be conducted. The bottom of this would be gotten to.

The slow walk was on.

Romney subsequently shied from the subject. The one time he made mention of the attack in a debate with Obama, the president caught him on a technicality and moderator Candy Crowley of CNN helped to humiliate the former Massachusetts governor.

The press, mostly either cowed or uninterested on the subject, let the issue drop too. Obama's strategy was successful. Political disaster was averted.

But having been re-elected, the election strategy re: Benghazi is causing something of a hangover for the president.

Now that we have had the first large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, public anxiety about Islamists and terrorism is way up. With that backdrop, Republicans are re-opening the inquest into the Benghazi attacks. This time the questions aren't so much about non-existent riots or why Americans in an Islamist country weren't on higher alert.

This time it's about allegations of a cover-up. Did Obama officials muzzle critics in service of the president's re-election goal? Was the inquest full and fair? What did the president know, and when did he know it?

Given it all to do over again, Obama likely would repeat his pre-election approach to Benghazi: denounce critics, go slow and minimize any broader significance of the attack. After all, he did win a second term.

But that does not mean he will not pay a price for it.

I will be watching the hearings, as I watched the Watergate hearings, on Fox or C-Span with interest. I hope that the House Committee will do the same job that the Senate did with Watergate and build a case in the manner of a prosecutor. I would also like to see Patrick Kennedy called to testify as to his actions in muzzling the whistle-blowers. The State Department needs a very thorough house cleaning.

Unlike the Senate 1973 Watergate Hearings, chaired by that “old country lawyer Sam Ervin and covered by a friendly press, this House Committee will have to deal with a hostile media and Obama’s celebrity personality. Chairman Issa, who I have met several times, will have to be on the top of his game it the truth be known. Issa, a high-tech business entrepreneur, is no country lawyer so he will need a staff that is extremely qualified to did to the bottom of the bureaucratic barrel. Also, you must keep in mind that the Republican members of the Senate Select Committee were not there to defend Nixon — they were there to get at the truth no matter who got damaged. This is not the case today with the Democrats. Like good progressive leftists they will attempt to cover for Obama.

The media is interested, now that silence is not necessary to get President Obama re-elected. Congressional Democrats seem nervous. Will these hearings drain even more political energy from a second Obama term that has already been described as "dead in the water?" Will they seal the political fate of Hillary Clinton? Or were Obama and Clinton correct in their gamble that public consternation over deadly incompetence and outrageous dishonesty would quickly fade once the public pardoned Obama and his team by re-electing him?

Once the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi is seen for what it was — a highly coordinated and highly successful operation by terrorists who were said to have been vanquished — that calls into question the Obama administration’s Middle East foreign policy.

As Debra Saunders wrote in Real Clear Politics on January 24, 2013:

“So here's what matters. It matters if al-Qaida-inspired terrorists planned this attack. It matters if the same group was involved in the Algeria killings. It doesn't matter if a few guys angry about a video somehow found themselves in the company of armed militants intent on killing a U.S. ambassador.”

That is why it still matters.

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