BY: Russ Latino @RussLatino
On September 11, 2012, exactly eleven years after the worst terrorist attack in our history, a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya came under siege from hostile forces. The resulting melee ended with the deaths of four Americans—Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, information officer Sean Smith and former Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. The heroism and sacrifice of Doherty and Woods saved the lives of many more.
At the time of the attack, President Obama was deeply engaged in his re-election efforts. In the immediate aftermath, administration officials, including then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, portrayed the incident as an unforeseen and spontaneous uprising in response to an amateur video insensitive to the Muslim faith. In essence, the official government line was that a right-wing depiction of Islam had incited a murderous riot. As questions mounted and the controversy became campaign fodder, the administration doubled down on this line, time and time again—even going so far as to arrest the “dastardly” filmmaker.
Mounting evidence makes clear that the attack in Benghazi had nothing to do with a cut-rate YouTube flick and everything to do with forewarned, organized Islamic extremism in the region. Moreover, the evidence strongly suggests that the administration was well aware of these facts even whilst Susan Rice danced through the Sunday talk shows toting the unlikely government story.
We now know that leading up to the September 11, 2012 attack, there were multiple acts of violence directed toward Diplomats in Libya and, specifically, toward the consulate in Benghazi. In April of 2012, terrorists threw an IED over the consulate wall. In May of 2012, terrorists attacked the Red Cross and warned U.S. officials of additional impending attacks. In June of 2012, terrorists blew a hole in the consulate gate and the British Ambassador to Libya was the subject of an assassination attempt. Subsequently, Britain withdrew its diplomats from the country.
In the midst of the unrest, there were also multiple reports indicating that Al Qaeda forces were openly rallying in Benghazi and multiple pleas for additional security, dating at least as far back as March of 2012. In July of 2012, Ambassador Stevens requested a minimum of thirteen more security personnel. On August 2, 2012, Ambassador Stevens sent an urgent cable to the Secretary of State’s office requesting “protective detail bodyguard.” These requests were either directly or tacitly denied. In fact, instead of providing additional forces, security personnel available to the Ambassador was reduced during this time period.
On August 16, 2012, the Regional Security Officer, Eric Nordstrom, sent an email to Secretary Clinton’s office warning of a dire security situation. On September 8, 2012, local officials in Benghazi warned the U.S. of escalating violence and the potential for attacks. On September 10, 2012, just one day prior to the attack, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahri called for Libyans to avenge the death of his deputy Abu Yahya al-Libi.
The September 11th attack on the Benghazi consulate began at 9:40 PM local time—3:40 PM in D.C. By 9:59 PM (3:59 PM EST), the Department of Defense ordered an unarmed surveillance aircraft to monitor the consulate. By 10:32 PM (4:32 PM EST), Secretary of Defense Panetta had been informed of the attack and by 11:00 PM (5:00 PM EST), he, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were meeting at the White House. By 6:06 PM EST, State Department emails indicated that Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militia group advocating strict Sharia law in Libya, had taken credit for the attack. At 11:00 PM EST, Secretary Clinton blamed the aforementioned internet video.
When the smoke cleared, the CIA, State Department and White House worked together to develop talking points. According to then-CIA Director David Petraeus, the CIA acknowledged from the outset that the incident in Benghazi was a planned act of terror and involved Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda. However, the talking points that were ultimately adopted were scrubbed to remove any reference to the threat environment in the region or links to terrorist organizations and instead focused on the film. An internal State Department accountability review has since acknowledged that there was no spontaneous demonstration at the compound on the night of the attack.
It begs the question: why hide what we knew about conditions in Benghazi and what actually precipitated the attack on September 11, 2012? There is no indication, and no good reason to think, that it was necessary to preserve assets on the ground or was otherwise vital to national security. Rather, it seems the most logical, albeit deplorably unsatisfying, explanation is that the administration’s strategy was intended to circumvent potential criticism that the attack could have been avoided had we heeded warnings and been responsive to the threat environment. In short, it appears to have been a matter of electoral politics.
The truth is that no one knows if the lives of Stevens, Smith, Doherty and Woods could have been saved on September 11, 2012 had the State Department responded favorably to the requests of Stevens for additional security. It is possible that the result would have been the same and that this is a case of the cover-up being worse than the alleged “crime.” What is beyond any reasonable doubt is that there was a cover up. Unfortunately, the media has been largely complicit, not only by ignoring established fact, but by embracing an all too common and effective political tactic—demonizing those who dare to ask tough questions. It has failed to hold our leaders accountable.
When she was questioned before Congress on why the attack on the Benghazi consulate had occurred, Hillary Clinton retorted “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Perhaps Nordstrom, the regional security officer who had warned of escalating violence in the region prior to the attack, put it best, “It matters to me personally and it matters to my colleagues at the Department of State. It matters to the American public for whom we serve and most importantly, it matters to the friends and family of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, who were murdered on September 11th.” At a time when the service of these men demanded honor, it was tarnished with a betrayal of public trust—a betrayal every bit as harmful to the Republic as the vitriol and weapons of our enemies. It matters, or at least it should.
About Russ Latino: Russ is an attorney with Wells, Marble and Hurst Law Firm in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Prior to attending law school, Russ was a Dean’s List scholar at Tulane University, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science and History. He is a passionate conservative political analyst and a student of the revolutionary founding of the country. He can often be heard filling in as a guest host for local conservative talk radio.