It remains to be seen who will be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016. After this week’s congressional hearings on Benghazi it is certain that Hillary Clinton—the worst Secretary of State in American history—will not be that person. If this country’s political system has some spark left, the Libyan scandal will also come to define the Obama presidency.
The Department of State and the White House did their utmost to conceal the true nature of the attack last September 11, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. It was a brazen act of Islamic terrorism, carried out by hard-core jihadists, of course, but the Administration was understandably loath to admit that its former Libyan protégés were the culprits. The result was an elaborate, conspiratorial subterfuge. It entailed penalizing a senior career diplomat—Gregory Hicks, the Deputy Mission Chief in Tripoli—who refused to go along with the Administration’s patently absurd claim that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration sparked off by an “anti-Islamic” video posted on YouTube.
Last Wednesday, Hicks testified before the House Oversight Committee that he called an acting assistant secretary to dispute Susan Rice’s claim—made on Sunday news shows five days after the attack—that the outrage was caused by the clip. He said he was “stunned” by the claim, because he knew that the video was actually a “nonevent” in Libya. “My jaw dropped,” he said. “I was embarrassed.” Hicks was immediately rebuked for his misgivings, and told in no uncertain terms to drop that line of questioning. He got a call from Beth Jones, an acting assistant secretary to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to stop doubting Washington’s stance that the attack was spurred by a protest: “The sense I got is that I needed to stop my line of questioning.” All efforts to get military help to the consulate were rebuffed, according to Hicks, and special forces in Tripoli wanting to help were “furious.”
Hicks further said that, within weeks, his performance was criticized by superiors: he received a “blistering critique” of his management style. This was a classic case of punishing the potential whistle-blower, not for speaking out—Hicks had remained silent until the hearing—but for doing his job. Hicks also revealed that Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, told him that he could not speak to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)—who went to Libya on a fact-finding mission—unless a State Department attorney was in attendance. Hicks called the attorney “the minder,” send to monitor what was being said.
The end result was a demotion of Hicks. As Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) noted, his testimony provided proof conclusive that Hillary Clinton was personally involved in trying to suppress information about the true nature of the attack.
Mark Thompson, under-secretary at the Department of State’s counterterrorism bureau, provided evidence that supported Hick’s account—and then some more. He testified that the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST), was not allowed to respond to the attack. Thompson noted that FEST was specifically created to respond to just such attacks. This tallies with Hicks. “Is anything coming?” he asked a defense attaché at the embassy in Tripoli as he worked to coordinate a response during the attack. “Will they be sending us any help? Is there something out there?” There was nothing, by the will of Washington.
Following Hick’s testimony House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asked the White House and State Department to release all emails related to the attack which House committees were able to see, but not keep or share, during their investigation: “Last I remember, the President said, and I’ll quote, ‘Would be happy to cooperate with the Congress in any way the Congress wants.’ Well, this is his chance to show his cooperation so that we can get to the truth of what happened in Benghazi.” Boehner is asking for two sets of emails which show that the White House tried to change the initial characterization of the attack in Benghazi from a potential terrorist attack by Islamic terrorists to a spontaneous demonstration in reaction to the amateur film: “The truth shouldn’t be hidden from the American people behind a White House firewall.”
The first set of emails, sent one day after the attack, provide evidence that a senior State Department official told her superiors that in his final message Stevens said the attack “was conducted by Islamic terrorists.” This was four days before Susan Rice said went on Meet the Press and other Sunday news shows to claim that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration. The second set of emails concerns frantic exchanges between the White House and State Department officials, where the former “insisted on removing all references to the terrorist attack to protect the State Department for providing inadequate security.”
According to Boehner, “somebody clearly decided they didn’t like the references to Islamic terrorism and made changes in this document.”
Contrary to administration claims that the mistaken description of the nature of the attack reflected “the best intelligence at the time,” we now know that the talking points that led to Susan Rice’s statement were revised 12 times. Early drafts contained references to Al Qaeda but they were later deleted. Especially damning is the fact that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland pressed the CIA to delete references to the agency’s earlier warnings. As ABC News reported on Friday, the original paragraph read:
The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April [2012[, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.
Nuland wrote that the lines “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned …” The offending paragraph was duly deleted. It is now also known that then-CIA Director David Petraeus voiced surprise when he learned three days after the attack that officials had deleted all prior references to Al Qaeda and jihadists, leaving only the word “extremists.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney nevertheless maintains that “what we said and what remains true to this day is that the intelligence community drafted and redrafted these points.” He stood by claim that White House involvement was minimal: “the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and non-substantive. They corrected the description of the building or the facility in Benghazi from consulate to diplomatic facility and the like.” On the same day State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell asserted that Rice’s comments were based on the intelligence community’s “best assessment that there was not any evidence of months-long pre-planning or pre-meditation, which remains their assessment.”
This is no mere spinmaster’s misrepresentation, it is a lie. On the basis of numerous off-the-record conversations with those in the know, I can aver that it never was the intelligence community’s true assessment, and it is not its assessment now.
The truth of the matter is that Obama and his team remain hell-bent on constructing user-friendly jihadists, and they will not allow the reality to get in the way of their construct. Egypt, the pivotal Arab nation, has already paid the price, as well as Libya and Tunisia. Syria may be next. Boston was but a minor sideshow, in terms of blood but not in terms of impact, in the unfolding tragedy. We have the most jihad-friendly administration the non-Muslim world has ever known.