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NAPOLITANO: Obama is responsible for the mess in Libya

Intelligence community knew ¿attacks were deliberate

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How many times have you heard the truism that in modern-day America the cover-up is often as troubling as the crime? That is becoming quite apparent in the case of the death of J. Christopher Stevens, the former U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Stevens and three State Department employees were murdered in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month, on September 11th. About an hour before the murders, the ambassador, who usually resides in the U.S. embassy in Tripoli but was visiting local officials and staying at the consulate in Benghazi, had just completed dinner there with a colleague, whom he personally walked to the front gate of the compound. In the next three hours, hundreds of persons assaulted the virtually defenseless compound and set it afire.

Around the same time that these crimes took place in Benghazi, a poorly produced, low-grade, 15-minute YouTube clip was going viral on the Internet. The clip shows actors in dubbed voices portraying the prophet Mohammed and others in an unflattering light. The Obama administration seized upon the temporary prevalence of this clip to explain the assault on the consulate. Indeed, the administration sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to represent it on five Sunday morning TV talk shows on September 16th, to make the claim that the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous reaction to the YouTube clip, that it could not have been anticipated, and that the perpetrators were ordinary Libyans angry at the freedom moviemakers in America enjoy.

Soon, U.S. intelligence reports were leaked that revealed that the intelligence community knew the attack was not as described by Ms. Rice. The intelligence folks on the ground in Libya reported before September 16th that the attack was well organized, utilized military equipment and tactics, and was carried out by local militias with ties to al-Qaida. In response to these leaks, the State Department, for which Ms. Rice works, acknowledged that the assault was an organized terrorist attack.

The Obama administration has publicly rejected the intelligence leaks and insisted as recently as last week during the vice presidential debate that "we" did not know the assault was an act of terrorism against American personnel and property. The word "we" was uttered by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, whose credibility hit a new low when he insisted that the government did not know what we now know it knew. A day after the debate, the White House claimed that the "we" uttered by Mr. Biden referred to the president and the vice president, and not to the federal government or the State Department. This is semantics akin to Bill Clinton's "it depends what the meaning of 'is' is."

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in one of her rare forays into domestic politics, backed up the White House. She actually claimed that the White House was kept in the dark by the State Department.

What's going on here?

What's going on here is the unraveling of a value-free foreign policy and its unintended consequences. The whole reason that the streets in Libya are not safe and the country is ruled by roving gangs of militias is because the U.S. bombed the country last year. In an unconstitutional act of war, the president alone ordered the bombing. It destroyed the Libyan military, national and local police, roads, bridges, and private homes. It facilitated the murder of our former ally Col. Gadhafi and ensured the replacement of him by a government that cannot govern.

The consulate attack defies the claims of the president, articulated loud and long during this presidential campaign, that because he killed Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida is dead or dying, and the terrorists are at bay. Thus, in order to be faithful to his campaign rhetoric, the president has been unfaithful to the truth. I personally have seen excerpts from intelligence cables sent by American agents in Libya to Washington on September 12th, the day after the attack and four days before Ms. Rice's TV appearances, acknowledging the dominant role played by al-Qaida in the attack.

So, who is to blame here? The president. He is responsible for destroying the government in Libya, and he is responsible for the security of U.S. personnel and property there. He is accountable to the American people, and he is expected to tell the truth. Instead, he has leaked the possibility of more bombings in Libya. These bombings would be more than a month after the Benghazi consulate attack and would attack the very government that Obama's 2011 bombs helped to install.

Is it any wonder that Bill Clinton, in an unguarded private moment, referred to Obama as an "amateur"?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. He is author of "It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom" (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

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