Here, you are urged and encouraged to run your mouths about something important.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Issa points finger directly at Obama in letter over Benghazi-gate

There was quite an interesting mass e-mail waiting for me this morning from Darrell Issa's press secretary. In a letter sent to Barack Obama by Oversight Committee chairman Issa and Committee member, Jason Chaffetz, the two Republicans are asking some very hard questions and demanding answers about Benghazi-gate. The implied charge is made fairly early on in the letter that the poor security which existed in Libya was the result of a policy of "normalization" in that country. If true, that would make the deaths of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya along with three other Americans, the likely result of political decisions.

From the very first paragraph of the letter, via Oversight:
Information supplied to the committee by senior officials demonstrates that not only did the administration repeatedly reject requests for increased security despite escalating violence, but it also systematically decreased existing security to dangerous and ineffective levels. We have been told repeatedly that the administration did this to effectuate a policy of "normalization" in Libya after the conclusion of its civil war. These actions not only resulted in extreme vulnerability, but also undermined Ambassador Stevens and the diplomatic mission.
Issa also called Obama on the fact that several members of his administration - to include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and White House press secretary Jay Carney - repeatedly blamed the attack on Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Muhammad video. After factoring in the matter of the video, one can easily connect the dots of plausibility:
...if administration officials indeed reviewed security reports on a daily basis, they would have seen the overwhelming evidence prior to the 9/11 attack that terrorists were actively targeting westerners in Benghazi.
This introduces three variables into the investigation.
  1. Normalization: The administration wanted to 'normalize' Libya after Gadhafi was overthrown, a noble goal to be sure but not one that should be wished into existence for political reasons, especially if an opposite reality is the one that exists. 'Normalization' may just be the key to unlocking much of what happened.
  2. Implausible Deniability: Between the number of catalogued security incidents and the repeated requests for beefed up security, there were far too many red flags for decision-makers in the administration to be able to claim plausible deniability if something happened. Something did happen; four Americans were murdered (not reading reports and memos was an excuse given by Eric Holder in the Fast and Furious investigation).
  3. The Video: If normalization was the goal and denial of security was the means, we're talking major scandal in the wake of four dead Americans. It would point to a political agenda trumping human life (Fast and Furious was about furthering the gun control agenda by putting guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels that resulted in ending many human lives). That's before we get to any sort of cover-up. A consequence (unintended or otherwise) of blaming the video, was that Obama administration actually aligned itself with the Islamists, who pointed to the video as a reason to criminalize any speech critical of Islam. In blaming the video, the Obama administration was facilitating attacks on the first amendment.
Back to the letter...
According to Assistant Regional Security Officer David Oliveira - who was stationed in Benghazi from June 2, 2012, to July 5, 2012 - "they (local guard force) felt that the U.S. was a target and they felt that they didn't want to work overnight... A Facebook posting also called for the assassination of Ambassador Stevens and provided details of his jogging route in Tripoli along with his picture.
Issa points to an unfathomable event in Benghazi that was met with an unfathomable non-response from Washington, smack dab in the middle of that June 2 - July 5 window: Qaeda organized a rally in Benghazi. On or about June 10, 2012, fighters from Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Mali paraded through the streets with weapons and black flags... These events were the subject of an early July country team meeting where Ambassador Stevens and others expressed their concerns about these develeopments and the need for increased security. According to one participant, this "fell like a dead fish on the table" because everyone, including Ambassador Stevens, knew that the Embassy lacked support from Washington, D.C., and could do little about it.
Also within that time frame - on June 6th, in the middle of the night - a white truck approached the compound, an Islamist got out of the truck, and placed a bomb along the consulate's perimeter wall. Check out the first 17 of these 45 photos provided by sent as attachments to the letter. The first three show the white truck approaching the front gate. Photos 4-17 show the hole that was blown through the perimeter wall.

With that as a backdrop, check out this excerpt from Issa's October 19th letter (page 6):
In August 2012, Ambassador Stevens continued to warn Main State of a "security vacuum" being exploited by independent actors. He further noted that "Islamist extremists are active." His warnings culminated with two cables in September 2012 in which he notified the State Department that Benghazi had entered a state of "maximum alert" and that Islamist influence was expanding in Derna. His last notification came on September 11, 2012, the day he was assassinated.
Ranking member of the Oversight Committee, while accusing Issa of playing election year politics with the Benghazi attack, apparently decided to engage in some politicizing of his own. Before I get into the "normalization" aspect of Issa's letter, take a look at what Cummings said at the October 10th hearing. Also take note of the, 'never let a crisis go to waste' dynamic at work here. Cummings alleges that Republicans in the House cut funding for security. Cummings likely saw a two-birds-with-one-stone opportunity.

By pointing to Republicans, he attempted to shift blame for Stevens' murder away from the administration and toward Issa's Party. He was also shamelessly attempting to lay the ground work for increased funding as a direct result of this attack.

There are a few problems for Cummings at this point. First, according to Issa's letter (page 8), the cost of the Security Support Team (SST) in question was absorbed by the Defense Department, not the State Department. Second, the State Department actually increased "danger pay" for its employees in Libya while removing security. Third, Charlene Lamb, the woman who withheld security from Benghazi, testified at the October 10th hearing that lack of funding had nothing to do with the withdrawal of security:

Also on page 8 of Issa's letter, he writes the following:
According to witnesses and documents received by the Committee, the administration made a policy decision to place Libya into a "normalized" country status as quickly as possible. The normalization process... appeared to have been aimed at conveying the impression that the situation in Libya was getting better, not worse.
Before concluding the letter, Issa points a finger directly at the White House National Security Council (NSC), which is chaired by the President of the United States. In essence, Issa is pointing the finger of culpability directly at Obama himself:
These critical foreign policy decisions are not made by low or mid-level career officials - they are typically made through a structured and well-reasoned process that includes the National Security Council at the White House. The ultimate responsibility rests with you as the President of the United States.
To underscore this point, check out this excerpt from about who makes up the NSC and who attends the meetings:
The NSC is chaired by the President. Its regular attendees (both statutory and non-statutory) are the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council, and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence advisor. The Chief of Staff to the President, Counsel to the President, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are invited to attend any NSC meeting. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited to attend meetings pertaining to their responsibilities. The heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are invited to attend meetings of the NSC when appropriate.
I've posted this exchange between Lamb and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) from the October 10th hearing before but it's provides a look into how the Oversight Committee might best proceed in the context of determining the level of culpability the NSC might have had in the deaths. The relevant portion comes in the first minute. Note how Adams asks Lamb if the latter had sole discretion to deny security to the consulate. After being told "no", Lamb is asked to provide names of those who did. She coughs up two names at the 1:00 mark.

If the NSC is responsible, those two men didn't have sole discretion either. Both should be placed under oath and be made to tell the committee if they acted on their own or were instructed to refuse security requests.

Elijah Cummings, member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) caucus (code for Communists) will not be happy:

Cummings: Running interference for Obama is tough business

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