John R. Houk
© May 10, 2014
A Google+ gentleman that goes by Jim B posted a series of comments to the SlantRight 2.0 post entitled, “Judge Jeanine: IMPEACH OBAMA”. Jim’s comments basically reflect the Dem Party and Obama Administration spin machine that Benghazigate has been fully investigated with documents provided and an exoneration of any wrongdoing by any one person by the so-called Accountability Review Board (ARB) report. The dismayed Dems maintained numerous House Committees examined witnesses and persons that could be found with a subpoena coming up with zero conclusions of any wrongdoing that was not in the ARB report.
In the unclassified version of the ARB report only generalizations were used in pointing a finger at anyone to be held accountable. This is one reason the less gullible Conservatives tend to think there was a whitewash going on SOMEWHERE. Thanks to the lack of specifics no one really knows for sure where the origin or complicit origins of failure proceeded from. The only clarity the ARB report offers is there was an organized terrorist attack and an absence of appropriate leadership both from Embassy personnel in the primary diplomatic mission in Libya’s capital city Tripoli and from State Department personnel. There is an extreme lack of finger pointing on the U.S. military response which would indicate civilian oversight controlled the decision chain of the military. NO ONE is naming specifics in the military. SO FAR among the military the only person offering any real insight was Brigadier General Robert Lovell in public House testimony at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on May 1, 2014.
Under the heading of “Findings,” the ARB Report provides the generalization that I am not comfortable with and that the Dems feel is a done deal ergo let’s move on:
… The Ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. Mission in the overall negative trendline of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy, and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his Judgments.
Communication, cooperation, and coordination among Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi functioned collegially at the working-level but were constrained by a lack of transparency, responsiveness, and leadership at the senior levels. Among various Department bureaus and personnel in the field, there appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.
The Board found the responses by both the BML [Blog Editor: Blue Mountain Libya (security)] guards and February 17 [Blog Editor: February 17 Martyrs Brigade – subcontracted from BML & paid by U.S. Govt.] to be inadequate. The Board’s inquiry found little evidence that the armed February 17 guards offered any meaningful defense of the SMC, or succeeded in summoning a February 17 militia presence to assist expeditiously.
… The Board members believe every possible effort was made to rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith.
The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.
4. The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.
5. The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection. However, the Board did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty. (Bold Emphasis Editors – ARB Report on Benghazi terrorist attack; State.Gov/Documents; unclassified ARB Report released 12/19/12- Fact Sheet Benghazi ARB Implementation – 1/15/14)
The December Benghazi ARB Report is a load of bologna. The House Oversight Committee under the Republican majority (of course the Dems disagree with the majority) issued this report on September 16, 2013. The House Oversight Committee’s interim report is 98 pages long via PDF. Just so you can get an idea of how moronic the Dem contentions that Benghazi has been solved and implying Conservatives must move on, I am cross posting the “Key Concerns,” “Unanswered Questions” and the “Executive Summary” of the Committee’s criticism of the ARB report led by (See Also HERE) Chairman Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Vice-Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen.
Benghazi Accountability Review Board: Key Concerns
o The structure of the ARB and culture within the State Department raised questions about the independence and integrity of the review.
o The ARB blamed systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies within two bureaus, but downplayed the importance of decisions made at senior levels of the Department. Witnesses questioned how much these decisions influenced the weaknesses that led to the inadequate security posture in Benghazi.
o Witnesses questioned whether the ARB went far enough in considering the challenges of expeditionary diplomacy.
o The ARB’s decision to cite certain officials as accountable for what happened in Benghazi appears to have been based on factors that had little or no connection to the security posture at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.
o The haphazard decision to place the four officials cited by the ARB on paid administrative leave created the appearance that former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s decision to announce action against the individuals named in the ARB report was more of a public relations strategy than a measured response to a tragedy.
Benghazi Accountability Review Board: Unanswered Questions
o What specific documentary evidence and witness testimony did the ARB review to reach its conclusions?
o What changes are necessary to eliminate the real or perceived lack of independence in the ARB structure?
o Did Secretary Clinton have views on the need to extend the Benghazi mission, both in the fall of 2011 and summer of 2012? Was she consulted on these questions and what, if any, influence did her opinion have on the Department’s decisions?
o Is the State Department resistant to elevating the importance of security considerations?
o Why did the State Department fail to establish an Under Secretary for Security, as recommended by an external review and approved by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, following the attacks in East Africa in 1998?
o Why did the Best Practices Panel strongly recommend that the State Department establish an Under Secretary for Security? Why did the Benghazi ARB not recommend such a change?
o Why did it take the State Department eight months to evaluate the performance of the four individuals placed on administrative leave? What information did Secretary Kerry and his staff review as part of that process? Who was involved in the process?
o How much did the decision to extend the Benghazi mission as a temporary facility limit the Department’s ability to provide security resources?
o Who should be held accountable for deciding to extend the Benghazi mission as a temporary facility?
The September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya resulted in a tragic and unnecessary loss of American life. The attacks also raise a number of important and substantive questions about U.S. foreign policy, with which policymakers will have to grapple for some time. A key area for further discussion and analysis is the balance between the U.S. Department of State’s policy imperative of operating diplomatic outposts abroad and the security realities of doing so in dangerous and unstable environments such as Libya.
Pursuant to statutory requirement under the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Terrorism Act of 1986, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board (ARB) shortly after the attacks to address these questions. The five-member Board comprised distinguished public servants, including Chairman Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to six countries and the United Nations, and Vice Chairman Michael Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The ARB operated under significant time pressure, completing its work and issuing a final report in just over two months. The State Department widely supported the ARB’s recommendations, and sought to implement them without hesitation. For some, including the Department itself, this report represented the final word on the internal failures that contributed to the tragedy in Benghazi. For others, however, the report overvalued certain facts, overlooked others, and failed to address systemic issues that have long plagued the State Department.
In order to address these concerns, the Committee held a hearing on May 8, 2013, entitled, “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage.” Not only did the testimony of three State Department officials—Mark Thompson, Eric Nordstrom, and Gregory Hicks—provide important information to Committee Members about the fateful attacks, it raised additional questions about the attacks as well as the ARB’s work. In light of these questions, the Committee initiated a comprehensive investigation of the ARB procedures, findings, and recommendations. Understanding how the ARB reached its conclusions informs the Committee’s interest in ensuring that this process remains efficient and effective, and that U.S. diplomats are able to avoid situations that compromise their safety or their mission. This effort supplements and informs the Committee’s ongoing, independent evaluation of the facts and circumstances of what transpired before, during, and after the attacks on Benghazi.
Since the May 8 hearing, the Committee has taken a number of steps to advance the Benghazi investigation. During that time, the Committee has obtained testimony from more than a dozen witnesses, conducting more than 50 hours of transcribed interviews. The Committee has requested additional interviews, including of survivors of the attacks. The Department has thus far declined to make these individuals available, despite the fact that these individuals were made available to the ARB and media outlets. Committee investigators have reviewed more than 25,000 pages of documents. The Department continues to identify new material responsive to numerous requests from the Committee. The Department’s failure to produce responsive materials has left the Committee with no alternative but to issue subpoenas. Overall, despite many Committee attempts at accommodation, the State Department has been exceedingly uncooperative with the Committee’s investigation of the attacks on Benghazi. Still, the Committee has been able to learn a great deal about the ARB’s work.
While identifying positive and productive aspects of the ARB’s review, witnesses interviewed by the Committee raised a number of significant concerns with the ARB process, findings, and recommendations. Most notably, several witnesses questioned the ARB’s findings regarding the four Department employees held “accountable” for Benghazi. In some cases the ARB appeared to hold individuals accountable for actions which had nothing to do with security in Benghazi. In other cases, the ARB correctly identified poor individual decisions while apparently failing to take into account decisions made by more senior Department officials. Such senior-level decisions played an equal if not greater role in the vulnerability of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. In particular, the ARB did not adequately address the decision by Department leadership to operate the Benghazi mission as a temporary and particularly ill-defended outpost of what it calls “expeditionary diplomacy.” Nor did the ARB hold any individuals accountable for that decision.
The State Department’s response to the ARB’s findings on accountability is equally troubling. Secretary Clinton immediately relieved the four employees identified by the ARB of their duties and subsequently placed them on administrative leave – an ambiguous status akin to bureaucratic limbo. The Department misled these employees about what administrative leave entailed, did not allow the employees to challenge this decision, and further prohibited them access to the classified ARB Report, which contained the evidence against them. Moreover, the ARB failed to question these employees on the very topics for which they were held accountable. Last month, after eight months of paid administrative leave, Secretary of State John Kerry reinstated these four employees to Department service. Therefore, one year after the Benghazi attacks, no one at the State Department has been fired for their role leading up to the Benghazi attacks. It appears increasingly likely the Department’s primary objective was to create the public appearance of accountability.
In addition, witnesses questioned whether the ARB properly addressed the challenges of increasing reliance on “expeditionary diplomacy.” Some witnesses and stakeholders suggested that the ARB’s recommendations improve on past failures but do not go far enough in striking the right balance between policy objectives and security realities. While the U.S. cannot advance its national interests from concrete bunkers and there is no such thing as 100 percent security, the highest levels of the Department must establish a clear line of responsibility for balancing foreign policy objectives with diplomatic security. One of the ARB’s recommendations was that the State Department convene an independent best practices panel, comprised of security experts. The Panel identified a number of areas for improvement that the ARB did not address.
This interim report focuses exclusively on the ARB and its shortcomings. While the Committee presents current observations about the ARB gleaned through its investigation, it has also identified areas for further inquiry. Indeed, many serious questions surrounding Benghazi have gone unanswered. The Committee will continue its investigation wherever the facts lead. (Benghazi Attacks: Investigative Update Interim Report on the Accountability Review Board; Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Staff Report Prepared for Chairman Darrell Issa; House – 113th Congress; 9/16/13)
Jim B’s point one contention is this:
1. There was no "cover up of what happened". It’s been fully documented what happened. 4 Americans died during a terror attack on a U.S. Consulate.
From what I have read there is NO clarity that “there was no ‘cover up of what happened’.”
Jim B’s point two contention is this:
2. The talking points were created by the CIA based on assessment of conditions on the ground at the time. (If you research it, the region was froth with demonstrations over that silly Youtube video. The assessment at the time was that someone used a demonstration as cover for a terror attack. That assessment was upgraded after more information was gathered. Which I believe is pretty standard and appropriate given the conditions.) All of that information was presented at all of the Issa hearings.
Were the White House talking points sent out by Ben Rhodes (Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting – The Patriot Post) to Susan Rice created by the CIA?
Jim B is blatantly incorrect. Or worse, he is following the Dem propaganda of twisting facts to fit his contention. The CIA produced a memo that said NOTHING to do with an insulting Mohammed Youtube video in its intelligence talking points pertaining to the organized Benghazi Islamic terrorist attack that killed FOUR Americans. IN FACT in House Committee questioning then CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell testified that then Ambassador (now NSA Advisor) Susan Rice told five Sunday news talk shows that an Internet video caused rioting in Benghazi which led to a spontaneous attack. Did the CIA frame some talking points? Yes. Did the CIA tell the White House a spontaneous attack of Muslim rioters attacked and killed FOUR Americans in Benghazi? NO!
Jim B and the Dems like to emphasize the Talking Points were based on the best assessment from the best information the White House had at the time. YOU HAVE TO SEE this contention is completely false! So why did the White House desire to spin blame on an Internet video insulting to Muslims? Ben Rhodes or someone at a higher pay grade wanted to mislead voters that President Barack Hussein Obama’s Foreign Policy decisions were working and good for America. Why? Because the national election date was a mere month and a half away from the Benghazi attacks on November 6, 2012. The assessment was only upgraded to a terrorist attack when it was obvious the Mohammed Internet video could no longer be spun as a spontaneous reason for Muslim rioters to attack the Benghazi diplomatic mission. Take note the upgrade came weeks later when the White House ALREADY KNEW the attack at Benghazi was orchestrated and organized. As to the Issa hearings bearing out the Dem contention, the hearings actually cast doubt on the integrity of the Obama Administration rather than concur with the White House, State Department and Benghazi ARB report spin. This is what you can actually tell from Issa’s Committee report partially quoted above.
Here is Jim B’s third contention:
3. That "stand down order" story has been debunked sooo many times I'm shocked that it’s still alive. There hasn't been one Military commander that has come forward to support this claim. Once again, all of this was presented during all of those Issa hearings.
Jumping first to the last sentence, the Issa hearing DOES NOT support much of the Dem spin effort. Now let’s check out the “’stand down order’ story has been debunked sooo many times.”
The Issa hearings show someone is lying in the military by using the old Dem strategy of twisting facts. You can see what I mean from this March 28th (2014) article of actual Issa hearing investigations:
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last June that personnel in Tripoli were never told to “stand down” and top Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee reported in February that no such order was given.
In the meantime, Issa’s panel, along with staff from the House Armed Services Committee, continues a full-scale investigation, with additional interviews scheduled for next month. The chairman maintained last month that the question of a “stand down” order remains unresolved.
It first emerged last May when Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission who was in Tripoli, told the committee that four members of a special forces team in Tripoli wanted to go in a second wave to assist Americans but were told to stand down.
Fielding questions at a fundraiser in New Hampshire, Issa said: “Why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset? I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon (Panetta) to stand down, and we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel. That order is undeniable. They were told not to get on - get off the airplane and kind of stand by - and they’re going to characterize it wasn’t stand down. But when we’re done with Benghazi, the real question is, Was there a stand-down order to Leon Panetta or did he just not do his job? Was there a stand-down order from the president, who said he told them to use their resources and they didn’t use them? Those questions have to be answered.”
The February interim report from the Republicans on the Armed Services Committee, including panel chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said Army Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson wanted to take three special operators from Tripoli to Benghazi after the first attack. Military commanders were concerned about the safety of Americans in the capital city, fearing a wave of attacks and the possibility of hostage taking.
According to testimony, Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the Africa commander, told Gibson to remain in Tripoli to defend Americans there. In addition, six U.S. security personnel were already en route to Benghazi on a chartered Libyan aircraft to evacuate Americans. The plane with the evacuees on a return flight to Tripoli would have crossed paths with Gibson and three others if they had left for Benghazi.
In committee interviews, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., asked Gibson whether he agreed that his team was ordered to stand down.
“I was not ordered to stand down,” Gibson testified. “I was ordered to remain in place. ‘Stand down’ implies that we cease all operations, cease all activities. We continued to support the team that was in Tripoli.”
Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Issa’s panel, said the panel understands that Gibson doesn’t perceive the order he received as fitting the military definition of a “stand down” order.
“But at the same time the committee does remain concerned about why the decision was made for Lt. Col. Gibson to not be allowed to go to Benghazi to assist Americans who were fighting at the time there but instead was given a different task to do in Tripoli and trying to understand fully, with all different circumstances existed at that time why the priority was for him to stay in Tripoli and not assist Americans under fire,” Hill said. (Bold Emphasis Editors - House GOP pursues Benghazi ‘stand down’ probe; By DONNA CASSATA; Associated Press – Washington Times; 3/28/14)
Jim B the “stand down order” rather than being debunked is thrown into the area of cover-up wording.
Jim B’s contention number four causes incredulity to suggest that President Bush reading of a children’s story to an Elementary School class is something similar to the suggestion President Obama was snoozing at night when FOUR Americans were being murdered by Islamic terrorists. Yes, about 3000 died in the Twin Towers, BUT that attack was a Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack. The FOUR murdered Americans was preventable if security protocol was followed and perhaps two of the four dead may have been rescued if Special Forces were allowed to be dispatched from Tripoli to Benghazi in which Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods managed to kill 60 attackers over a seven hour period.
4. The attack happened at night U.S. time, I would imagine the president was in bed. I'm struggling to figure out why this is even relevant. If this point is relevant then President Bush should have been investigated for sitting through the remainder of "My Pet Goat" while the twin towers were under attack. (Didn't he care that 3,000 Americans were about to lose their lives?)
When I read Jim B’s contention-point four, the first thing that came to mind was the Hillary Clinton 2008 Presidential campaign ad:
Was Obama snoozing at 3 AM? Was Hillary snoozing at 3 AM? Worse! What if neither were snoozing at 3 AM and they were thinking of their political futures rather than doing whatever was possible to alleviate security mistakes?
5. Secretary Clinton asked Congress for more money to increase security at embassies and consulates. She was rebuffed and had to make due with the security details that were available to the state dept. To hold her accountable and hold Congress blameless for refusing her request seems like a myopic approach to an investigation.
Even the ARB report does not blame Congress for the lack of security at the Benghazi diplomatic mission. But let’s look at that tiring Dem position of blaming Republicans in the House for not providing the proper funding for security in Benghazi.
Does anyone think it was stupid to spend money on Benghazi security to the February 17 Martyrs Brigade which has been proven to have the same Islamic ideals as al Qaeda? I’m just saying, that is EXACTLY what the State Department did while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State! How much sense does it make to pay Islamic terrorist sympathizers for security protection of U.S. diplomats when they could have paid the salaries of Marines or whoever is typically tasked to defend U.S. Embassy personnel? If Benghazi security was cut for budget reasons, WHY in the world would the State Department not scale back Embassy funding in Western nations in which there is more dedication by the host nations’ to Embassy sovereignty and Diplomatic Immunity AND not increase funding security in less stable nations such as Libya?
In full disclosure Jim B was not the only Google+ commenter on Judge Jeanine Pirro implying that Obama should be impeached, but he was the detractor that offered the most specific defense for the Dem Party line that Benghazi is a phony scandal and that the GOP should just move on and quit politicizing the FOUR Benghazi murders. Every time I hear that “GOP politicizing” accusation I scoff in the extreme! It was Obama and the Dems that politicized Benghazi in the first place by successfully manipulating the 2012 national voters. Voters need to know just how nefarious the Dem leadership is in maintaining political control of America to continue the Obama Change-Transformation of Americans in a stealth Marxist manner a la F.M. Davis-Alinsky-et all.
So does Benghazigate matter? You are down tootin’ it matters!