A political firestorm
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of initially attributing the attack to spontaneous protests over a U.S.-made anti-Islam video in order to maintain the president’s foreign policy image before Election Day and not undermine his campaign message that al Qaeda had been decimated.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice became the lightning rod for criticism because she trumpeted that line on the Sunday TV talk shows five days after the attack.
At the end of September, the director of national intelligence, in an unprecedented public comment on the intelligence process, noted that initial assessments “continue to evolve” and that the attack in fact was likely organized hurriedly by extremists, including al Qaeda supporters. The statement did not mention the Internet video.
The issue, which sputtered during the election campaign, was reignited last month after Mrs. Rice was mentioned as a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Several former officials said the years-old and publicly available information exposing Benghazi and Darnah as hotbeds of al Qaeda-linked activity raises more serious national security questions that deserve the attention of Congress.
Intelligence and investigation
“There was certainly more than enough evidence that there were extremist and al Qaeda groups that were operating in eastern Libya,” said Nick Dowling, who served on President Clinton’s National Security Council and now runs the consulting firm IDS International LLC.
“The key question from an investigation standpoint is how was that information shared and fused within the U.S. government and in what form did it filter into the State Department Regional Security Officer’s plan for its posture at the Benghazi consulate,” said Mr. Dowling. “I think that’s a very fair question to ask in considering how we could have done that more effectively.”
Former officials note that, unlike in Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S.-backed campaigns resulted in regime change and a new government proved unable to stabilize security, there was no major U.S. military presence in Libya.
Eric Nordstrom, who was in charge of diplomatic security on the ground in Libya, told a pre-election congressional hearing that pleas for additional security in Tripoli and Benghazi were rejected at State Department headquarters.
How much security?
Several former diplomatic and military officials expressed skepticism to The Times that anything short of a large-scale U.S. military presence in Benghazi would have been able to stop the consular compound from being overrun on Sept. 11.
“There’s not much you can do, if 80 or 100 [extremists] attack a small facility with mortars and [rocket-propelled grenades],” said Michael B. Kraft, a former State Department counterterrorism adviser. “In my view, this [attack] would have overwhelmed any reasonable security presence.”View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
The young drop coverage to avoid higher premiums
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
In a world that is increasingly complex, we need to seek greater awareness of the blending of cultures and America's changing role in a global community.
A look at what’s new and what’s worth driving, no matter the budget.
Finding health and health care is not easy. It is changing. Know what's on the rise.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc