Obama's Libyan debacle followed by cover up debacle
In his United Nations speech on Tuesday, President Obama talked about the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and declared that "there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice." What he didn't say is how relentless he'll be in tracking down the security lapses and intelligence failures that contributed to the murders. Let's say there's some doubt about that.
None of the initial explanations offered by the White House and State Department since the assault on the Benghazi consulate has held up. First the Administration blamed protests provoked by an amateurish anti-Islam clip posted on YouTube. Cue Susan Rice, the U.N. Ambassador and leading candidate for Secretary of State in a second Obama term: "What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction . . . as a consequence of the video, that people gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent."
Administration officials also maintained that the diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt, the site of the first attacks this September 11, were properly defended and that the U.S. had no reason to prepare for any attack. "The office of the director of National Intelligence has said we have no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week, calling the security measures in place there "robust."
Cell phone video footage and witness testimony from Benghazi soon undercut the Administration trope of an angry march "hijacked" by a few bad people. As it turned out, the assault was well-coordinated, with fighters armed with guns, RPGs and diesel canisters, which were used to set the buildings on fire. Ambassador Chris Stevens died of smoke inhalation. Briefing Congress, the Administration changed its story and said the attacks were pre-planned and linked to al Qaeda.
You'd think this admission would focus attention on why the compound was so vulnerable to begin with. But the Administration wants to avoid this conversation. The removal of all staff from Benghazi, including a large component of intelligence officers, would also seem to hinder their ability to investigate the attacks and bring the killers to justice.
Journalists have stayed on the case, however, and their reporting is filling in the Administration's holes. On Friday, our WSJ colleagues showed that starting in spring, U.S. intelligence had been worried about radical militias in eastern Libya. These armed groups helped topple Moammar Ghadhafi last year but weren't demobilized as a new government has slowly found its legs. As we've noted since last winter, the waning of American and European interest in Libya could have dangerous consequences.
Deteriorating security was no secret. On April 10, for example, an explosive device was thrown at a convoy carrying U.N. envoy Ian Martin. On June 6, an improvised explosive device exploded outside the U.S. consulate. In late August, State warned American citizens who were planning to travel to Libya about the threat of assassinations and car bombings.This is a scandal that so far has not generated the sense of outrage it deserves. There is no excuse for the lack of a defensible facility and people to defend it. Who at the State Department was responsible for the security of our Libyan mission? No one has stepped up and declared themselves, but I am sure we can count on Obama to accept 10 percent of the responsibility. I am not sure what percent Hillary was responsible for, but surely she delegated that to someone in the department and that person needs to be asked why more was not done.
It is going to take more than a media body guard who can stir up outrage against questions raised this time. It worked against Michelle Bachmann and to some extent Romney, but the media got burned in that mess and they will not be so eager to launch a firestorm in defense of what happened in Libya and those responsible for it, if they have a shred of integrity remaining.