The Benghazi hearing this Wednesday and two pieces by The Weekly Standard and ABC News have established that there was a coordinated effort to scrub the initial public reports on the attacks of politically damaging information. They reveal that people in the State Department and, in all probability, the White House knew the attacks were pre-planned and well coordinated by al Qaeda linked terrorists. They reveal that the State Department knew from the beginning that there were long outstanding requests for additional security in Libya and that disclosure of this fact would be damaging.
ABC News has obtained the precise edits made to talking points to be disclosed to the public. The important point to be had here is that the person with the most fingerprints on these edits, so far, is career Foreign Service Officer and Ambassador Victoria Nuland. This is critical because Nuland is not a Democratic political appointee or White House staffer. In fact, Nuland served under various administrations and was a close adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. While Nuland’s own politics are not yet clear it’s not without reason to note that she’s married to well known neoconservative intellectual Donald Kagan, the founder of the Project for the New American Century, putting her in close political and social proximity to Bill Kristol, the founder of The Weekly Standard, the same magazine calling for investigations and performing the first reporting on the talking points cover-up. This reveals two things, first that the cover up was systematic in the State Department; Nuland was seeking to cover for the Sate Department itself. Second it shows the non-Fox media’s initial indifference to the Benghazi investigations as partisan politics were more indicative of their own inherent biases than any grounding in fact. The partisan effort was not in investigating the attacks but instead in the Democratic Party’s circling of the wagons and “nothing to see here” routine. The true partisan politics were in the cover-up, a divide then sold to the public as a Republican witch hunt.
The cover-up, while seemingly starting at State, doesn’t end there. Reporting so far also fingers two high level White House staffers, Ben Rhodes and Jay Carney. Ben Rhodes is a White House Speech writer and close confidant to Barack Obama. He’s well known for helping craft the White House’s public positions on Middle East policy. In fact, Rhodes wrote Obama’s now infamous 2009 Cairo speech. Jay Carney is the White House Press Secretary, the same man who recently couldn’t find the moral clarity to reject the notion that U.S. troops in Afghanistan are terrorists. Both men seem to have been aware of, or participated in, the changes. Despite this Carney has been insisting from the beginning that the attacks were of the nature portrayed by the false edits instead of the nature indicated by the truthful intelligence reporting scrubbed from the release, something he knew to be a lie.
Of course the three people everyone is watching now are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the President himself. There still remains the unanswered questions of how and why a Special Forces CIF team in Italy was left waiting on the tarmac, why no armed air support was scrambled, why a four man Special Forces detachment in Tripoli couldn’t get permission to fly in on a Libyan C-130, why CIA Global Response Staff at the nearby CIA Annex was refused permission to provide back up, why in the aftermath of the attacks Greg Hicks was told not to talk to visiting Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz and what instructions the President left as he delegated the handling of the attack before going to bed that night. Gregory Hicks, the State Department’s number one in country after Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death has already testified he was actively seeking the Tripoli detachment’s help and coordinated their airlift but that the team was denied permission to go. We also know that the CIA GRS, despite being denied permission to aid the Ambassador and his staff in Benghazi, saddled up and went anyway. Who exactly refused, or declined to provide, permission to send aid remains to be seen. The President, Panetta and Clinton are so far avoiding answering these questions, deflecting by leaning on the fog of bureaucracy surrounding the response.
The important thing to watch and demand accountability for now is that the media shines the light on the partisan obstruction of the investigation and that the House continues to seek answers to who, exactly, made the changes, was aware of the changes, was aware of requests for help, denied or refused to grant permission to help and what the President knew and when. Why did Jay Carney continue to lie to reporters about the nature of the attack? What was his motivation and who did he believe these lies helped? For those of us who expect leadership from our President perhaps most important of all is a personal explanation of why the President thought that having dinner with his family and getting rested up for a political fund raiser the next day was more important than dealing with an American Consulate under attack and one of our Ambassadors going missing.