A former U.S. ambassador with extensive knowledge of terrorist operations in North Africa warned Thursday that the Benghazi debacle will hurt the State Department’s ability to recruit diplomats for dangerous duty if they fear Washington will ignore their concerns about security.
“It is dereliction, incompetence, a cover-up and plenty of lies,” John Price told Embassy Row about the revelations from Wednesday’s congressional hearing into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Mr. Price added that all ambassadors know that classified cables are routinely forwarded to the State Department’s “Seventh floor,” where the secretary of state and top aides have their offices. The cables also are sent to the White House, the National Security Agency and “at least 20 other” bureaus.
“Everyone knew in real time what was transpiring,” Mr. Price said.
President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly blamed an anti-Islamic YouTube video for the Benghazi assault on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.
But Gregory H. Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Tripoli, was in constant and desperate communication with the State Department, warning that the mission was being attacked by terrorists.
Mr. Price linked the cover-up in Washington to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign and his narrative that al Qaeda was on the run after Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden.
“It was obvious for political reasons that the ‘blinders’ were put on and no support was forthcoming,” Mr. Price said. “No one wanted to admit it was a terrorist attack.”
Mr. Price was a political appointee under President George W. Bush and served as ambassador to Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Comoros Islands. He is a regular contributor to The Washington Times.
NO NEWS FROM LIBYA
The U.S. Embassy in Libya carried nary a word on its website Thursday about the explosive testimony in Washington during a congressional hearing on Benghazi.
The hearing featured Gregory H. Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli at the time of the Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Eric Nordstrom, the State Department regional security officer for Libya, and Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for counterterrorism, also shocked official Washington with their accounts of the failure to send help to the besieged ambassador and his comrades.
A visitor to libya.usembassy.gov would have found nothing on the hearing.
Instead, the embassy website posted a statement by the U.S., British and French embassies about the latest threat to Libya’s fledgling democracy. Armed gangs that occupied several government ministries forced the parliament into passing a law to bar any official who had served under dictator Moammar Gadhafi from holding any position in the new Libyan administration.