- Special to The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

At Wednesday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Chairman Darrell Issa’s questioning made one thing certain: The Obama administration’s initial explanation — that the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were directly related to Islamic rage over a YouTube video — becomes more troubling with each passing day.

Before questioning began, Army Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, former head of a Special Forces site security team who was closely involved with operational planning for security in the region, testified to the increasing attacks on Western interests in the months preceding the Benghazi attack. He traveled to Benghazi after a successful attack on the British ambassador’s convoy, and was aware of online threats made against Mr. Stevens. And yet, months later, Stevens would die attempting to exit an escape hatch in a smoke-filled room. His would-be rescuers would then perish in a mortar barrage.

Referencing a July 9 cable from Mr. Stevens provided by State Department whistleblowers, Rep. Issa showed that Mr. Stevens requested additional security support but was denied by Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, ostensibly because it wasn’t a formal request. Ms.  Lamb maintained Wednesday that the U.S. Consulate had the “correct” amount of security on the day of the attack, even though, as Mr. Issa pointed out, the compound was overrun within minutes.

Perhaps most telling during Wednesday’s hearing was the moment when Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., asked Ms. Lamb why she now refers to the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi as a terrorist attack but refuses to refer to the actual attackers as terrorists. He asked how it was that the State Department relied on local militia for security even though they were so unreliable that when they knew an attack was “imminent,” they left. Her response was that it wasn’t her place to judge. Regarding the quality of local security in Libya, there wasn’t a clear answer in Wednesday’s testimony.

The Obama administration’s strategy to contain the growing Libya scandal now appears to hinge on the State Department’s ability to play a shell game with timelines, contractors, subcontractors, unclassified documents and semantics as it pertains to the ambassador’s requests for extra security. As it was with Mr. Issa’s handling of the Department of Justice’s Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal, however, his knack for getting to the heart of an issue cut through the obfuscation. When Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy was asked why a single piece of intelligence seemingly led the Obama administration to continue the false narrative that a YouTube video was the root cause of the Sept. 11 consulate attack, he had no answer. Regardless, the picture is becoming clear to the American people.