- - Monday, February 17, 2014

Let’s cut to the chase. Thirty-four Americans at the U.S. Special Mission and CIA Annex in Benghazi were attacked by Islamic terrorists in two waves, the first starting at 9:40 p.m. the evening of Sept. 11, 2012.

Murderous thugs carefully planned and executed this attack on American territory — which this space represents — on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11.

First, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his aide, Sean Smith, were brutally killed. Then, long hours of official indecision or cowardice followed, culminating in the heroic rescue during the second attack on the annex.

But for retired Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty courageously fighting to defend the lives of those at the annex at the cost of their own, no one would have lived to tell the tale.

Woods, a CIA contractor stationed at the annex, initially led the delayed rescue effort at the mission, bringing four surviving Diplomatic Security Service officers and Smith’s lifeless body, back to the annex.

Doherty, a CIA contractor stationed in Tripoli, arrived in Benghazi with his team at 1:35 a.m., but Libya Shield Brigade jihadis detained them some for three hours, giving the “final assault team,” including a mortar squad, time to prepare for the attack on the annex.

The sobering reality now is, rather than praising the 31 survivors for their bravery, the Obama administration has muzzled them through extraordinary harassing measures, including nondisclosure agreements and repeated polygraphs vis-a-vis the Benghazi attacks.

Let’s be clear: Terrorists ejected America from Libya that day, ushering in anarchic rule that persists to this day — the same America that gave Libya $1 billion in military assistance during the so-called “Arab Spring” to liberate its people from strongman Moammar Gadhafi, who was captured and killed on Oct. 20, 2011.

Nearly a year later, just after Labor Day as President Obama was bracing himself for the presidential contest that would determine whether he would retain power, this enormous catastrophe occurred in Benghazi.

That the administration sought initially to obfuscate with the patently false video story shows it takes Americans for fools. But, then, we were fools.

Mr. Obama’s team altered the official talking points given to then-U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice (now Mr. Obama’s subpoena-proof national security adviser) for her appearances on five talk shows on Sept. 16, 2012, where she spewed total nonsense.

No one dug deeper, and the president got past the election. Never mind that Michael J. Morell, CIA counterterrorism chief, admitted in hearings before Thanksgiving 2012 to altering the talking points that Mrs. Rice used on those shows.

He altered them in concert with the White House Deputies Committee, which includes key players at the White House and the State Department. This group took out words such as “terrorist attack” and “al Qaeda” and scrubbed all references to the CIA’s documented earlier warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi.

It took some brazen lies.

By Friday, Oct. 26, then-CIA Director Gen. David H. Petraeus was being fingered for blame, prompting his spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood to issue this statement: “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.”

That day, Mr. Obama twice refused to respond to Denver KUSA-TV reporter Kyle Clark’s questions regarding whether Ambassador Stevens and the other three Americans killed in the attack were denied help.

He even had the temerity to suggest “the election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened.”

Mr. Clark wasn’t satisfied, asking, “Were they denied requests for help during the attack?”

The president wouldn’t answer the question — the same question Tyrone Woods’ father, Charles, has repeatedly asked Mr. Obama since shortly after the attack that took his son’s life.

Why won’t he answer this question? More than 17 months later, it’s clear he’s hiding something.

This is America, where we have a system of checks and balances. When the cover-up is big enough, an industrial strength congressional response is needed; namely, a select committee such as the one employed to get answers to the Watergate scandal.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, called for a House select committee in January 2013, although it would only convene for 90 days. He has 186 co-sponsors to date.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, called for a joint select committee last September. He has 24 co-sponsors.

Of course, this raises the question: Why is Congress full of such cowards? Both bills should have had the requisite sponsors within days.

It’s time pull the veil off what I would posit is the biggest cover-up in American history. Adm. James Lyons has a plausible theory, suggesting a staged, botched kidnapping. There are also others.

It’s time to show the courage of Woods and Doherty and convene the select committee.

Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, retired from the U.S. Army, is chairman of Stand Up America and a member of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi.

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