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. ...
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
. ... (2)
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. ... (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 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.
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
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. (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.