A possible presidential hopeful in the 2016 election, former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, recently gave an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News about the September 11, 2012 attack in Libya on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the attack.
An investigation disclosed that the assault on the Consulate was well planned, well equipped, and consisted of two separate waves lasting several hours into the night. The Obama administration has been plagued by accusations of incompetence and cover up from the onset, immediately after Susan Rice, former Ambassador to the United Nations, went public on five different Sunday TV talk shows, proclaiming as fact, that the origin of the attack was a spontaneous demonstration to a YouTube video. In addition to Ambassador Stevens, the other Americans who were killed were identified as Sean Smith, the Ambassador’s aide, and Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two retired Navy SEALs who engaged the attackers and died defending the compound.
During Sawyer’s interview, Clinton defended her role by reiterating that she called for the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) to take a comprehensive look into the attack. She ordered the ARB to submit a report to identify deficiencies in security and make recommendations for remedies. Clinton stated that she has accepted every recommendation made by the ARB. However, Sawyer continued to press Hillary Rodham Clinton on one aspect of the ARB report that documented a systemic failure, citing several flaws in the physical security of the Benghazi facility. Clinton’s response was to say, “Well it was, with respect to that compound.”
The journalist also pressed her on the communications from Ambassador Stevens requesting additional security measures in the weeks and months prior to the attack. She reminded Clinton that there had already been a string of assassinations, two separate attacks on the Red Cross, and an attack on the British Ambassador’s convoy that caused the British to close their post and leave Benghazi the following week. Sawyer then read an excerpt from Ambassador Stevens’ last diary entry that stated: “Never ending security threats.” She also remarked that Stevens was there on 9/11 prompting Clinton to interject, “And of his own choosing.”
The former diplomat went on to acknowledge that there were security threats, but added that there is a “long list of countries where there are security threats to American interests.” The journalist dug deeper suggesting that the threat to the Benghazi Consulate was among the highest. Clinton initially conceded that it was in the “top 25,” only to be questioned further, and subsequently admitting a moment later that Benghazi was actually considered in the “top 10” highest threat locations.
In the months prior to the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, a report by the New York Times revealed that intelligence reports from both American and European officials were provided to the Obama administration that Islamist terrorist groups were operating training camps not far from the city. These reports also indicated the terrorists were slanted towards Al Qaeda.
State Department officials have attempted to defend the security preparations at the Benghazi compound by claiming that any large scale attack would be unprecedented and unsupported by specific evidence. However, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), stated she found it to be inexplicable that security at the compound was not increased given the large number of Western targets that had already been attacked in Benghazi.
It was also reported that by early September 2012, the same security warnings that were relayed by Ambassador Stevens to the State Department in Washington D.C. were also being made by Libyan officials in Benghazi. Questions from lawmakers and Americans alike have remained largely unanswered. Just eight weeks before the 2012 Presidential election and on the 11 year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attack, the ramifications of another terrorist attack against American sovereignty were viewed by some pundits as having potentially severe political consequences. The proximity of the attack in relation to the election as well as its occurrence on the anniversary of 9/11 has added momentum to allegations of a White House cover up. The administration, however, has summarily dismissed them as partisan fodder.
Another New York Times article referenced a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that was sharply critical of the State Department. The report disclosed that following reports of an escalating threat in the area, the C.I.A. believed it to be credible enough to quickly fortify its own annex that was approximately a mile from the attacked Consulate. Also highlighted were the questions, still unanswered, of why the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi, and the repeated requests from Ambassador Stevens for additional security, were not addressed by then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On January 20, 2013 President Barack Obama was sworn in to begin his second term as president. On February 1, just 12 days later, Clinton submitted her resignation as Secretary of State.
By Mark Politi