- - Thursday, September 19, 2013

Secrets about how the tragedy happened still remain hidden

A year has gone by since the catastrophic attacks on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, and the Obama administration has yet to provide any answers to the families of the four Americans who were killed, or to the American people.

What really happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012? More importantly, why?

We know one thing for sure: The initial story put out by the administration — that it began as a demonstration over an Internet video — is simply not true.

Far more astonishing is the fact that everyone in the chain of command — from President Obama on down to the duty officers at the Department of State and the Pentagon who were following video and audio feeds from Benghazi as the attacks unfolded — knew that the cover story provided to the ambassador to the U.N., Susan E. Rice, for talk shows the following Sunday was an utter fabrication. Even the State Department’s own Accountability Review Board admitted last December, “there was no protest prior to the attacks.”

Why did the administration take the risk of putting out a fabricated cover story? What does it tell us about what really happened, and why?

These are questions that Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, needs to ask the members of the review board when they testify at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing he will chair on Thursday.

The White House cover-up first sought to disguise the identity of the attackers. They wanted us to think the attackers were just a flash mob, not an organized terrorist group.

What did that hide? For starters, that an Iranian-backed brigade, run by a former Gitmo detainee who knew Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens personally, claimed responsibility for the attack. This came at a time when the administration was deep in discussions with the Iranian regime over a “grand bargain” to bring Iran back into the concert of nations.

Also missing was any mention of Muslim Brotherhood operatives from Egypt whose presence during the attack has been documented in YouTube videos and subsequently by a Libyan government investigation.

Why was that embarrassing? Because the Muslim Brotherhood, and specifically Egypt’s president, Mohammad Morsi, were supposed to be our friends. Instead, Mr. Morsi’s agents apparently took part in the killing of four Americans.

Second, the cover-up sought to disguise the motivation of the attackers. The administration wanted us to believe that the attack was a spontaneous response to an Internet video that Muslims found offensive — in other words, that it was our fault.

We still don’t know for sure the motivation of the attackers, other than they were well-organized terrorists hell-bent on killing Americans. However, sources I have interviewed in this country and abroad with firsthand knowledge of the events in Libya have raised several theories I continue to investigate:

The attackers were retaliating for the targeted killing of Islamists by a CIA-Joint Special Operations Command teams working out of the Benghazi CIA annex.

They were seeking to loot surface-to-air missiles gathered up by the CIA and State Department contractors that were being stockpiled at the annex, or to prevent the transfer of those weapons to Syrian rebels;

They were seeking to acquire the classified communications codes used by the intelligence teams at the annex and the diplomatic cipher used at the Special Mission Compound.

They initially planned to kidnap the ambassador and exchange him for convicted Egyptian terrorist Omar Abdul Rahman, the so-called “blind sheik” imprisoned in the United States since 1994 for plotting to blow up the Lincoln and Holland tunnels in New York. In this theory, the attack got out of hand and the ambassador died.

The simplest explanation for the cover-up is the most familiar: President Obama was determined to cling to the fiction that he had defeated al Qaeda, in the hopes this would pull the rug out from under his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in November. If the cover-up unraveled after the elections, so be it.

However, from what I have uncovered so far, I think this story goes much deeper, and gets much darker.

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was ready to “run to the gun,” but his request to rescue Mr. Stevens was denied three times that night. When he ultimately disregarded the stand-down order and reached the Special Mission Compound an hour after the attack began, it was too late.

“This is the first time in our history that the military hasn’t come to the rescue when called,” his father, retired lawyer Charles Woods, told a Citizens Commission on Benghazi on Monday. “There are only two people who can issue an order to stand down, to not rescue. It would have to be either the secretary of defense, or the president. Only one of those two.”

So who was it? Americans — starting with the families of the four brave souls who perished that night — deserve the answer.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of “Shadow Warriors: Traitors, Saboteurs and the Party of Surrender” (Three Rivers Press, 2008).