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The “fog of war” over what happened in Benghazi, Libya has been up until recently a media-generated smokescreen to cover the ever-shifting official narrative of the Obama administration. But major media news sources, such as the Boston Herald, have begun to break their silence in what may become more frequent open questioning of the president’s decisions regarding the Benghazi attack.
A number of undeveloped stories are available regarding what happened at Benghazi that require more journalists’ attention. The following are some of the questions that need to be asked and stories that need to be pursued.
Jennifer Griffin, a national security correspondent for Fox News, gave a video report (above) of what happened at the Benghazi, Libya consulate on the 9/11 anniversary attacks. The report gives more on-the-ground details than have been provided by other major news media sources.
The Fox News article points out that CIA spokesman Jennifer Youngblood denied the agency turned down requests for support. CIA Director David Petraeus has backed up this statement by affirming, “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been assembling a defense team to exonerate her, should an official investigation call her to provide testimony. Author Ed Klein claims that Mrs. Clinton has documents showing she requested enhanced security at the Benghazi consulate.
Jake Tapper of ABC News reported that Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. embassy in Libya, told congressional investigators that security at the Benghazi consulate was “inappropriately low.” Nordstrom was unsure how much Americans “could rely on members of a local Libyan militia in Benghazi that provided security — the ’17th of February Martyrs Brigade.’” Townhall columnist Diana West described the security situation as welcoming wolves into the fold.
On the night of September 11th, the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia initially claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attack a little over two hours after its first report, according to emails. A spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia made an indirect claim of responsibility, according to an investigation by the Telegraph.
Multiple sources claim Ansar al-Sharia is a spin-off of the February 17th Martyr’s Brigade, which had militia members contracted to supplement U.S. security. Ansar al Sharia has been reported by Reuters and other news agencies to have suspected ties to al Qaeda, which later claimed the torture and murder of Ambassador Stevens was revenge for President Obama’s drone killing of al Qaeda’s second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi.
The 17th of February Martyrs Brigade was composed of former members of the (officially disbanded) State Department-designated terrorist group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The 17th of February Martyrs Brigade is reputed to have carried out the assassination of a general in Libya’s Transitional National Council in July 2011.
Further clarifying the degree to which Islamic radicals have been influential in post-invasion Libya, the terrorist LIFG was headed by the former commander of the Tripoli Military Council Abd al-Hakim Belhaj. The alleged former jihadist Belhaj is now prominent in Libya’s “conservative” Islamist Al-Watan Party, which has been endorsed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the famous spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In nearby Egypt on September 11th, the Cairo embassy was stormed in a protest, adding to the confusion of the separate events. One of the largest Egyptian terrorist groups Jama’a al Islamiya had announced its intention to participate in the protest as early as August 30th. Several jihadists were identified at the Cairo protest, whose assailants waved black al Qaeda flags and some had donned Guy Fawkes masks popularized by the Occupy movement. Interestingly, the Obama administration broke protocol and granted a visa and a White House visit to known terrorist Hani Nour Eldin of Jama’a al Islamiya in June.
More explicitly, Mohamed al-Zawahiri is one potential linkage between the Cairo embassy protest and the Benghazi attack. Spotted at the Cairo embassy protest, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri admittedly helped stage the protest. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. intelligence officials suspect that Mohammed al Zawahiri provided al Qaeda coordination to one of the terrorist attackers at Benghazi.
Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists coordinated an attack on American embassies and on a U.S. Ambassador on the anniversary of September 11th and claimed that the protests that provided them cover were due to a poorly made, previously unwatched anti-Islamist video on YouTube. There were several reasons for protests around the Muslim world that day, including the killing of Osama bin Laden (such as displayed by the chant “Obama, Obama, We are all Osamas”) and even the visit of the Pope in Lebanon. Yet several members of the Obama administration have repeated that the video was the sole reason for the protests, which is tantamount to repeating terrorist “disinformation.”
What is striking about the Cairo protest is the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government’s lack of security around the U.S. embassy, given that the Obama administration has pledged billions of dollars in continuing foreign aid to the government for security purposes. The Muslim Brotherhood, effectively, did “stand down” in much the same way that nearby U.S. military assets were apparently told by higher-ups in the executive branch to “stand down” during the approximately seven hour raid at Benghazi that resulted in the brutal murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the killing of diplomat Sean Smith.
Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty apparently broke orders to perform a perilously outmanned rescue operation at the Benghazi consulate, and were denied close air support through CIA channels. The two men may have killed as many as sixty attackers before succumbing to repeated mortar fire.
The president was notified of the Benghazi attack within minutes and reportedly “went to bed” 90 minutes later, with the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens still missing. The ambassador was reportedly tortured before being murdered over the course of a raid that has been estimated to last up to seven hours. Three intelligence agencies reported to the White House that al Qaeda was behind the terrorist attack.
The White House had access to surveillance video in real-time during the Benghazi attack, throwing into question Secretary of Defense Leon Paneta’s statement “You don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.” The Obama administration classified video footage of the Benghazi terrorist attack, prompting a recent GOP request for declassification.
President Obama refused to answer ABC News reporter Jake Tapper’s question of whether or not the slain diplomats and security personnel were denied requests for support by the White House. Furthermore, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Bing West has pointed out that if the president had given the order to secure the consulate, there would be a paper trail.
The question is: Why would the president have behaved as reported if he did not give the order for U.S. troops to stand down? Statesmen do not leave grave matters of national security unresolved before departing the scene to attend to matters of secondary importance like political campaigning. If the president did give the order for security assets near the Benghazi consulate to stand down, then why? Was it because the president did not want to draw attention to the delicate political situation in Libya ahead of the election?
Furthermore, did part of the Ambassador’s mission entail recovering weapons that had been given to Islamist anti-Qadaffi forces prior and during the United States’ illegal, NATO-led invasion of Libya? Were some of these weapons, including shoulder-fire MANPADS, re-routed through Turkey to Syria, winding up in the hands of the al-Qaeda penetrated Free Syrian Army?
The defense of the Obama administration and several media outlets has been that more time is needed to conduct a thorough investigation, presumably until after the elections. But the administration is stonewalling public investigation and should neither be allowed to dictate what citizens know, nor exonerate itself after an internal investigation.
The American news media used to care about holding the powerful of both major political parties accountable; and hopefully, the Benghazi story provides an opportunity for journalists to recover their recently tarnished reputation.
Kyle Becker has an M.A. in International Studies, and has conducted PhD.-level work in American Foreign Policy, International Relations, and Terrorism.1 2