On Oct. 27, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” led its program with a fresh look at what happened in the run-up to and during the nighttime attack on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi. The leitmotif of the report was a statement made by the jihadists as they beat hapless, unarmed Libyans who were, somehow, supposed to have protected the interior of the so-called “Special Mission Compound”; namely, “We’re here to kill Americans.”
And kill they did. Four Americans were slain — including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who had warned superiors repeatedly about the inadequate security of the installation in which he died — by some accounts after being tortured and raped. More of our countrymen would likely have met a similar fate but for the unauthorized intervention and heroics of two former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who subsequently were killed in action.
Stevens was not the only one who had warned about the dangerous vulnerability of an American outpost in a city increasingly manifesting the presence of al Qaeda elements — including by the flying of the terrorist group’s black flag on government buildings. In fact, similar warnings were also sounded by several others interviewed for the “60 Minutes” segment; notably, a British security contractor tasked in the five months leading up to the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, with managing the impotent Libyan “security force” inside the wire; Stevens’ No. 2 in Tripoli, Deputy Chief of Mission Greg Hicks; and Lt. Col. Andy Wood, a Green Beret who was charged at the time with protecting U.S. personnel in Libya.
As Col. Wood put it: “We had one option: Leave Benghazi, or you will be killed.” He told “60 Minutes” that he had recommended to the embassy’s senior staff known as the “country team” in Tripoli that they “change the security profile [in Benghazi] . Shut down operations. Move out temporarily. Or change locations within the city. Do something to break up the profile because you are being targeted.” The reason: “You are gonna be attacked in Benghazi.”
Mr. Hicks added that a “particularly frightening piece of information” compounded his concerns about security when the embassy learned, as “60 Minutes” put it, that “senior al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi was in Libya, tasked by the head of al Qaeda to establish a clandestine terrorist network inside the country.”
The “60 Minutes” report adds texture to the astounding malfeasance of the Obama administration as it ignored these warnings in the months leading up to the attack and set up Americans for killing at the hands of jihadists. However, it failed to even ask, let alone answer, several of the most pregnant outstanding questions. These include:
• Why were the Special Mission Compound and CIA annex placed in Benghazi in the first place, let alone in such an insecure status? Was it to facilitate the collection and onward shipment to Syrian “rebels” — known to include al Qaeda and elements loyal to it — of arms recovered after Moammar Gadhafi’s weapons caches were “liberated” by jihadist “rebels” in Libya?
• Why was Stevens in that exposed facility in a city awash with al Qaeda on a particularly dangerous day for Americans? Why especially since al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, had called on his followers the day before to retaliate for a U.S.- engineered assassination of a top member of the group, Libyan jihadist Abu Yahya al-Libi?
• If, as has been widely reported, Stevens was in Benghazi because a gunrunning operation from there to Syria had been compromised and he needed to perform damage control, why would al Qaeda have attacked the facilities from which it was being armed? The Iranians would have had a motive, but not al Qaeda. Was the attack initiated by Tehran and the Sunni jihadists went along with it just so they could “kill Americans”?
• Where were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during this seven-hour battle in Benghazi?
These are the sorts of questions that will, at this point, probably only be answered by a select House committee — something sought by Rep. Frank Wolf, Virginia Republican, and 176 other members of the House of Representatives. It is scandalous that they have not been satisfactorily addressed before now by the five standing committees that have, to date, been conducting desultory and inconclusive inquiries. Since the jihadists are “here to kill Americans,” we are on notice that persisting in such willful blindness and a lack of accountability is an invitation to disaster.
Worse yet, as Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Jason Chaffetz of Utah have learned, the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to “lift the long-standing prohibition on Libyans to come to the U.S. to work in aviation maintenance, flight operations, or to seek study or training in nuclear science.” Why on earth would they do that? Evidently, to show that U.S.-Libyan ties have been “normalized.” Does this sound familiar?
If we don’t want jihadists literally here to kill us, we better stop them elsewhere. Getting to the bottom of Benghazigate is a necessary step toward doing that.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (www.SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.