The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will open hearings Wednesday seeking to obtain a clearer picture of Benghazi security failures and a broader understanding of what appears to be Obama’s ill-conceived policies in the Middle East.
Administration explanations for the Sept. 11 event have been difficult to swallow: “Just a group fueled by passionate reaction to an anti-Muslim, California video,” Obama officials told the public. For at least nine days, that was the party line. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice assured Sunday talk show hosts that it was simply a spontaneous reaction. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeated the same assessment. So did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. So did the president …on more than one occasion.
But unruly facts and assertions began to emerge, including some reportedly released by U.S. intelligence officials disturbed by what they believed was an Obama effort to blunt criticism of his Middle East policies prior to the November election. Intelligence operatives reportedly insist that U.S. officials were well aware of the precarious picture on the ground long before the Benghazi uprising. Here are some of the intelligence facts and allegations:
- The Sept. 11 Libyan tragedy was a continuation of threatening security incidents that began at least as far back as April.
- There is clear evidence that Iran and Egypt are supporting jihadists in Libya.
- There are also indications that the terrorist group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. is flourishing under Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt.
- Egypt’s Al-Azhar University in Cairo has become an organizational and training base for al Qaeda.
- Al Qaeda operatives have been sent from Egypt to covertly infiltrate groups in Libya and Syria.
- Iran is directly supporting al Qaeda terrorists based in Egypt with an eye toward creating instability throughout the region.
All of that calls into question the administration’s longer-term version of events in the Middle East, particularly its characterization of “Arab spring” demonstrations as an outbreak of democracy. To the contrary, intelligence assessments suggest that leadership vacuums created by the uprisings have opened the door for intensified terrorist organization, recruiting and activity.
The intelligence also calls into question the president’s assessment contained in his acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention … that “al Qaeda is on the path to defeat.” Clearly, the opposite appears to be true.
The Issa committee has a number of questions to ask administration witnesses:
1. Why were normal security precautions not taken throughout the region, particularly as the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks approached?
2. Why were repeated requests for additional security from our Libyan ambassador ignored by the State Department?
3. Why was a 16-member SEAL team removed from Libya one month before the Benghazi attacks?
4. Why was our ambassador physically in Benghazi on that date since Benghazi is a hot-bed for terrorist groups?
5. What was known by State Department and other administration officials and when did they know it?
6. Were Ambassador Rice, spokesman Carney and others purposely misleading the American people?
7. Why were FBI investigators delayed until Oct. 4 before gaining access to the Benghazi site?
Clearly, the American people deserve a thorough explanation before the polls open on Nov. 6. Whether they get it in time may be another issue.