Saturday, October 13, 2012

Benghazi and the Obama Administration

The Benghazi security scandal has become a major problem for the Obama Administration. Not just in a political sense, but also in terms of honesty. After the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans, the Administration was quick to suggest that the assault had simply been a mob reaction to the 'Innocence of Muslims' youtube video. Incidentally - the fact that the 'Innocence of Muslims' is still on youtube and yet the protests have now halted, provides strong evidence to support the suggestion that the video was not the underlying factor in the protesters motivation.

In reference to Benghazi, the problem with the Obama Administration is clear. In the aftermath of the attack, Administration officials ran to affirm that the attack was not a terrorist attack. Susan Rice, Obama's UN Ambassador, was the most senior official to do so. Even after intelligence sources were pointing to an prior organized attack, Rice persisted in arguing that the intelligence she had seen suggested that a random mob was responsible. There is a serious problem inherent in accepting the full veracity of this proposition.

As former CIA Director, Michael Hayden, explains, faced with a full scale armed attack on a high threat environment US diplomatic facility on 9/11, it is almost inconceivable to believe that the intelligence community would have been comfortable with the easy labeling of the act as video rather than terrorist connected. As Haden notes, the Obama Administration had an obvious political interest in purveying confidence of mob rather than terrorist responsibility. 

As anyone with knowledge of the intelligence process understands, intelligence assessments are predicated on the 'intelligence cycle'. This cycle relies upon a comprehensive process of collection, evaluation, analysis and application. In essence, intelligence officers seek to maximize their range of sources and conduct a varied, intensive analysis of any material available. In this sense, it seems almost certain that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence briefers would have disclosed to their consumers (senior Administration officials) at least the possibility that the Benghazi attack was far more than a mob action. Indeed, the fact that we now know the attack was terrorist related, provides strong circumstantial evidence that any original intelligence briefings which suggested a possible mob reaction as responsible, would have been graded as 'low confidence' assessments. 

I would submit that it is evident that Obama Administration officials mischaracterized the original intelligence.
      Sadly the story doesn't end here. In the Debate earlier this week, Vice President Biden stated that the Administration had not been made aware of cable requests from Libya for greater security. Security requests that were turned down. It is true that the President and Vice-President may not have been aware of these concerns. However, if there was any doubt about authorizing more security, the requests should have been pushed up the chain of authority. Again in the least worst scenario, the Administration was incompetent.

The reason that the Benghazi attack is so important is obvious and profound. Americans serving their country requested more security and didn't get it. And then they were killed. From the first days following the attack, the Obama Administration has reacted with false certainty, confusion and attempts at distraction (Biden changing Benghazi topic to Iraq during VP debate). The questions that need to be answered are clear. What did senior Administration officials (including the President/Vice President) know? When did they know? Was/is there a deliberate attempt to hide the full truth as it became/becomes clear? 

We know that the President has a flexible attention to his intelligence briefings, he didn't attend a single one in the week before the attack. Thus, the simple question remains- has the Administration behaved with incompetence or deception? The American people deserve honest answers.

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