On Benghazi, More Than Meets the Issa

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If there’s an upside to the President’s Syrian debacle, it’s that the administration’s latest incompetence helped take the spotlight off of the White House’s other spectacular failure:Benghazi.

 

While the President was busy drawing his “red line,” the first anniversary of the Libyan attack came and went without so much as a formal State Department ceremony for the four Americans brutally killed.

At State’s headquarters in Washington, a couple dozen staffers gathered to remember the victims in a makeshift memorial service that didn’t include Secretaries John Kerry or Hillary Clinton. Together staffers paid tribute to the men who would still be alive today were it not for serious failures on the administration’s part. And one year later, Americans are no closer to understanding the reasons for the security lapses than they were on that tragic night. All signs point to senior State officials, who worked for Hillary Clinton and knew the embassy was vulnerable, but continued to downgrade security assets when the threat levels were highest.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), at times the lone wolf in keeping the light on Benghazi, is still trying to get at the heart of the matter. His cause is about to get new legs in a series of hearings set to kick-off tomorrow in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. With the help of Chairman Ed Royce, House conservatives plan on putting Patrick Kennedy, Undersecretary of State for Management (and the man many fault for the embassy’s substandard security) in the hot seat. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will take over from there, hosting its own hearing on Thursday with Ambassador to the U.N. Thomas Pickering, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullins, and relatives of the fallen.

Benghazi lead investigator, Congressman Darrell Issa
Benghazi lead investigator, Congressman Darrell Issa

One of the topics of conversation will be the latest Accountability Review Board (ARB) report, which was supposed to pull back the curtain on what the administration really knew before and after the attack. The 100-plus pages, Issa says, are more of the same. Without talking to key State Department officials, all the report seems to do is feed the State Department’s narrative that mid-level decision making was to blame for the September 11 attack. After barely two months of investigating, “The panel did not exhaustively examine failures, and it has led to an unacceptable lack of accountability,” Issa criticized.

Part of the problem is the State Department, which is so desperate to cover its tracks that it refuses to let two security agents testify who were at the compound during the raid. Even CNN wouldn’t give the agency a pass on that one. “Dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and… the agency is going to great lengths to make sure that whatever it was doing, remains a secret.”

More eyebrows shot up on Monday, when Congressman Wolf announced that the CIA had suspended an agent who wouldn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement barring him from talking about Benghazi. He’s been advised to get an attorney. And the President says this is a “phony scandal?” The only thing phony is the White House’s response.

“What difference,” Hillary Clinton argued, “at this point, does it make?”

Well, it makes a lot of difference to the families of the fallen — and to the American people, who deserve to know if they have a national security policy they can trust.