- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2013

For Charles E. Woods, mystery still shrouds the death of his son and of three other Americans in the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

“It’s been almost a year, and very few questions have been answered,” said Mr. Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, one of two former Navy SEALs who died that day.

Outnumbered by militants, Woods and Glen Doherty fought to protect diplomats and other personnel until three terrorist-fired mortar rounds killed them. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his aide Sean Smith were killed during an earlier onslaught.

“Even fewer questions have been answered truthfully,” Mr. Woods said. “What we have so far is basically limited access, withholding even the names of people who were on the ground and had firsthand knowledge and pretty much any answers that we have had are just smoke and mirror without any substance.”

For example, there has been little public testimony from the American personnel in Benghazi on exactly what happened as extremists attacked them. Did they make calls for help and, if so, what did the U.S. military tell them?

There is no evidence that the White House National Security Council met as the crisis lingered into the night of Sept. 11 and the next morning, and there was virtually no communication between the White House and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Mr. Panetta considered military intervention, then rejected it because commandos were too far away and he lacked real-time knowledge of events on the ground.

A Washington lawyer said the State Department harassed would-be whistleblowers. State balked at providing Congress all the names of U.S. employees who were rescued from Benghazi early Sept. 12.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, when asked at a hearing about who conducted the attack under her watch as secretary of state, famously answered, “What difference does it make?”

The State Department has punished no one over security lapses in Libya long before the Benghazi attack. The terrorists who assailed the U.S. diplomatic mission remain at large despite the Obama administration’s pledge to arrest them.

There also has been no detailed explanation for why the White House blamed the incident on a mob’s reaction to an obscure anti-Islam video when evidence pointed toward a planned, coordinated attack.

Questions still abound

It was a year ago Wednesday that well-armed terrorists linked to al Qaeda stormed a weakly defended diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.

Most of the liberal press, and the Obama administration, have downplayed the incident. The White House labeled it a “phony scandal.”

But not Republicans, who in the ensuing months searched for answers. Why did the State Department ignore warnings from the CIA on dangers in Benghazi? Why did State refuse requests for more security guards and, in fact, remove them from the country?

As the November election neared, why did the White House issue “talking points” about the attack that proved to be highly inaccurate? The CIA, which early on said the attack was the work of terrorists, never cited spontaneous rioting over the U.S.-produced video.

Saying the attacks were perpetrated by an angry mob, not al Qaeda, fit into President Obama’s campaign theme and absolved the State Department of charges that it failed to protect its ambassador.

But the “talking points” began to unravel almost from Day One.

The Washington Times reported that the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency said the next day that terrorists conducted the attack.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing in which State Department witnesses said no one in Benghazi ever heard of the anti-Islam video. They told of wrenching conversations with Washington in a failed effort to obtain more security personnel.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and committee chairman, issued a series of subpoenas over the summer demanding staff access to a dozen State Department officials and documents relating to how its accountability review board conducted its investigation of the attacks. The board never interviewed Mrs. Clinton.

In August, State seemed to further dismiss the incident by saying that four officials placed on leave over botched security will keep their jobs.

Earlier this summer, the Justice Department filed charges against Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala. He remains in Libya — living in the open. The FBI has identified other suspects but has arrested no one.

‘Wasn’t a statistic’

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, delivered a series of floor speeches this summer on unanswered Benghazi questions. His last of 12 speeches asked why, according to CNN, did the CIA repeatedly polygraph survivors on whether they had talked to Congress and the news media.

Mr. Wolf, who has been unsuccessful in persuading Republican leaders to appoint a Watergate-style investigative committee, also has asked what actions the White House took that night.

Mr. Woods said he supports the convening of a special committee with subpoena power.

“The other committees have really not come up with very much new information,” he said.

“The four people who were there, Ty defending the consulate and the others. They really do deserve truthful answers,” the grieving father said. “A year later, we really don’t know that much more than we did a year ago. Obviously, they are really afraid of something. It may be a lot deeper than what we suspect on the surface. Otherwise, they would not be working so hard to withhold information that really is necessary to bring closure.

“Ty just wasn’t a statistic. He came from a normal American family that people can relate to,” Mr. Woods said.

In his letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Mr. Issa said: “The survivors of the attacks are the only people who can give testimony to the committee about what happened on the ground in Benghazi. Details provided by the survivors will not only help the committee determine what took place during the attack, but will also help the committee and other interested parties determine ways to prevent future tragedies.”

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