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.
The website included an embassy statement condemning an April 23 attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli and an announcement from January that a new U.S. charge d'affaires had arrived.
Deborah Kay Jones, the nominee to replace Mr. Stevens as ambassador, was still waiting for Senate confirmation.
The website included warnings for Americans to avoid traveling to Libya and for Libyan students to apply for a Fulbright scholarship, even though the deadline to submit applications passed in November.
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations widely criticized for spreading false information about the Benghazi attack, was honored this week with the Louis E. Martin Great American Award from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Ms. Rice received the award Tuesday, the day before the congressional hearing on the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. The center praised her “work in advancing U.S. interests, strengthening the world’s common security and prosperity and promoting respect for human rights.”
Five days after the Sept. 11 attack, Mrs. Rice appeared on five Sunday TV news shows and blamed the assault on a spontaneous riot by protesters outraged over an anti-Islamic YouTube video.
• Embassy Row is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. James Morrison can be reached at email@example.com or @Embassy Row.
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