The Lingering Questions About the Benghazi Controversy

Newly leaked documents about the government's response to the Benghazi attacks raise more questions than they answer.

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Yuri Gripas / REUTERS

From left: Mark Thompson, Gregory Hicks and Eric Nordstrom are sworn in before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on "Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage" on Capitol Hill in Washington May 8, 2013.

The cover-up is often worse than the crime, they say. And that’s true. But these days there is also a corollary in Washington: the partisan outrage over a potential scandal is often more confusing than the alleged cover-up.

So it is with the unfolding Benghazi controversy, which Republicans are eagerly comparing to Watergate and Iran-Contra. Last week, Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, even invoked the possibility of impeaching President Barack Obama for his handling of the episode, despite the fact that Congressman Darrell Issa, the California Republican overseeing the House investigation, said on Sunday that Obama “is not a target.” Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, went on CNN Sunday to argue that lives could have been saved had the military responded quicker to the attacks in Benghazi, even though the Pentagon and the State Department have both concluded that this is not the case.

(VIDEO: Michael Crowley on the Politics of Benghazi)

As more facts have emerged, few of the tidy story lines about the September 11, 2012 attack have held up. Republicans have long maintained that the Obama administration misled the nation by blaming the assault on a spontaneous demonstration, but leaked documents now show the intelligence community independently held this same misconception in the days after the attacks. Meanwhile the White House finds itself trying to explain away old statements that are clearly contradicted by newly public facts.

One of the most newsworthy developments took place on Friday in the White House briefing room, when Press Secretary Jay Carney attempted to deal with incongruities between his past statements and newly leaked documents. He boldly claimed there were no contradictions.

Carney has repeatedly argued that the intelligence community’s talking points on Benghazi had not been substantially edited or rewritten. “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate,” Carney said last November.

(MORE: Terror, Security, and Hillary 2016: Making Sense of the Benghazi Hearings)

Now we know that this was not the whole story. According to leaked emails made public last week, the State Department requested substantial revisions to the talking points, including the removal of direct references to Ansar al-Sharia, a group with ties to Al Qaeda.

Rather than acknowledge this contradiction, Carney now maintains that State Department involvement in these revisions do not count as revisions, because they occurred during an “iterative process” before the final draft of the talking points was issued by intelligence officials. It’s a bit like saying a chef had nothing to do with a cake, since he helped choose the ingredients before someone else baked it.

The official White House line—admitting no error—is a bit of a gamble, since it calls into question the meaning and reliability of other White House statements. And with the possibility of other scandals lurking, including the recent admission by the Internal Revenue Service of targeted audits on conservative groups, it runs a real risk of backfiring.

(MORE: Joe Klein: Republicans Chasing Their Tails on Benghazi)

Another unresolved issue is the question of whether turf wars colored the initial public response after the attack. Hardly any corner of the federal government is apolitical; even when officials lack partisan interests, they likely have parochial ones. Based on the evidence revealed last week, inter-agency skirmishing may have affected ostensibly objective reporting in the wake of the Benghazi attacks. The State Department seemed worried that the Central Intelligence Agency was passing the buck; a State spokeswoman also expressed concern that Congressional Republicans would use information about past attacks in Benghazi for political gain. Key sections of the talking points were therefore removed.

This raises real concerns about how information is communicated to Congress and the public in times of national emergency. On NBC’s Meet The Press Sunday, California’s Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made clear that she wanted the system to change, and that she planned to make a formal recommendation in the weeks to come. “I think the talking points should not be written by the intelligence community,” she said. “Talking points can’t be done by committee either. And these were.”

Feinstein’s committee is one of several groups, in and outside of Congress, picking over the controversy as new facts trickle out. Issa said Sunday that he plans a full probe of the State Department’s internal review of the attacks, beginning by taking depositions as early as Monday from Admiral Mike Mullen and Ambassador Thomas Pickering, the report’s authors. “We have an obligation to look for any of the inconsistencies,” Issa said.

Hopefully, clarity can follow as well.

MORE: In Libya: Why the Benghazi Investigation Is Going Nowhere

650 comments
eaobatch
eaobatch

If you don't believe me,just ask me !!!!1

eaobatch
eaobatch

if there was as much time spent on invading Iraq as was spent on the Benghazi incendent,neither would have happened,!!!! 

grape_crush
grape_crush

"

ABC News reported that Rhodes wrote: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.” The Weekly Standard reported that Rhodes "responded to the group, explaining that Nuland had raised valid concerns and advising that the issues would be resolved at a meeting of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee the following morning."

Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed. While Nuland, particularly, had expressed a desire to remove mentions of specific terrorist groups and CIA warnings about the increasingly dangerous assignment, Rhodes put no emphasis at all in his e-mail on the State Department's concerns.

Previous reporting also misquoted Rhodes as saying the group would work through the talking points at the deputies meeting on Saturday, September 15, when the talking points to Congress were finalized. While the previously written subject line of the e-mail mentions talking points, Rhodes only addresses misinformation in a general sense.

So whoever leaked the inaccurate information earlier this month did so in a way that made it appear that the White House – specifically Rhodes – was more interested in the State Department’s concerns, and more focused on the talking points, than the e-mail actually stated.

"

NanciF
NanciF

In arguing over who is to blame for Benghazi, did we all forget that Congress voted major cuts in the State Department that drastically impacted embassies in terms of security and staffing?  House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012.  Our embassies, particularly the one in Benghazi, were BEGGING for additional security staff. Yes, the Senate voted some $80+ million back in.  But, big cuts in our State Department, especially in our embassy staffing and security, have been ongoing since 2009.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that when it comes to military response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, he doesn’t believe the would have acted any differently. “Frankly, had I been in the job at the time, I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East…and so getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible.”

Gates, who was appointed by George W. Bush and kept on during President Obama’s first term, continued that he wouldn’t have “approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.”

“It’s sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces,” Gates added. “The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm’s way, and there just wasn’t time to do that.”

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/13/robert_gates_i_would_have_handled_benghazi_the_same_way/

garyp
garyp

I thought that I might read an unbiased story when I read the headline. I should know better. The Liberal writers are finally writing about Benghazi, but it is to obscure and minimalize what the real questions are. Just like the famous Bill Clinton line-it depends on the definition of "is" is, each writer is trying to justify, make excuse for, or create a "fog" for the lying that took place. The sad thing is the Liberal Lemmings could care less. They are very adept at "blaming Bush, blaming others, not caring, saying they did it too, when they know "they" didn't and the old fallback about Iraq when they know Congress including Hillary was for it too.

Carson
Carson

Our assets were tragically exposed in the car bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, under Reagan, and in 911 under Bush.

twb1951
twb1951

Issa translates to one who wastes the taxpayer's time and money

Carson
Carson

What is very curious are published photos of the early stages of the attack, when flames are barely starting to spread around the entry, and under autos parked near the actual Embassy structure. In one, a photographer in the act of taking a photo is captured by another cameraman. It appears that this attack started as a demonstration with typical use of accelerants as are often used in street demonstrations, with possibly no gunfire, which would make close proximity to the structures quite risky. This entire incident continues to be surrounded by mysterious and unexplained  elements that have no correlation to other such attacks in the past, at any American facility. This raises the question of what really motivated the perpetrators, and if the current probe is in reality a carefully orchestrated entrapment.

drwilly
drwilly

Obama Clinton Benghazi - Liars and Incompetents doing what Liars and Incompetents do.  


LouisRenault
LouisRenault

@garyp Mr. President you seriously damaged your credibility and maybe your legacy in Benghazi, when your first instinct was to keep your job, when it should have been to do your job.

bobcn
bobcn

@garyp

So you want to read an unbiased story?  Ok, read mantisdragon91's description of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' testimony (who was placed at Secretary of Defense by GWBush). Or read it at any unbiased news source.  It may not satisfy you if your goal is to cast childish insults at liberals.  But if you're truly looking for the truth, you might learn something.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb George Will? How did his prediction that Iraq had nukes and was behind 9/11 turn out?

AAC
AAC

@twb1951 

I'm not unhappy that my tax dollars are spent asking questions.

twb1951
twb1951

@drwilly what a remarkably silly thing to say, I realize it's how you feel, but it would appear to be based upon willful ignorance and/or inability to separate fact from fiction

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@drwilly Yes Obama, Clinton, Benghazi, something, something, something. I know they did something wrong I just have no clue what it is.

LouisRenault
LouisRenault

@garyp In president Obama's case he could do nothing since he never convened his security staff to try. We never saw any photos of President Obama & his security people in the situation room did we. He spoke to Leon Panetta ONCE on a prearranged call that had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack and that was the last Sec. Panetta heard from the President. Amb. Stevens and his aid were probably killed too soon for assistance, but the two ex-seals were killed the second day by mortar attacks. Originally it was said the one seal was on a roof lighting up the mortar's position with a laser sight. Why would he expose himself like that if there was not air support in the area? Maybe the mutts with the mortars were on the roof or near a hospital or something but even so that flies in the face of what some have said. I think we need to let this play out to get the facts. And since they threw the CIA under the bus the facts WILL come out now. Either way stay tuned...

paulejb
paulejb

@mantisdragon91 @paulejb

Ask Hillary.

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
-- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

AAC
AAC

@mantisdragon91 @drwilly 

You do realize how specious it sounds to claim no one knows what was going on there except yourself? I know lying is wrong.  I know I don't like when my government purposely lies to me.  


LouisRenault
LouisRenault

@mantisdragon91 So you have gone from a protest over a Youtube video to a trap set to lure our fighter planes into Benghazi. Interesting, I know they are looking for some 10K shoulder fired missiles but I think it is a stretch to think this was that well planned a trap. The non-CIA people from the 33 survivors could shed some light and they are still MIA for all practical purposes.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Because it is an ongoing CIA operation to recover missing surface to air missiles that were looted from Benghazi armories during the revolt. Much of which is still classified.  This is alsowhy even if air cover was available, it would not have been committed, since there was a concern that the initial attack was a lure to get us to send in planes into a pre arranged trap.



mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@LouisRenault @garyp Just for the record both ex seals were on the roof manning a machine gun watch post when the mortar hit. And no one knew there was a mortar in the area until it actually fired. So I ask again what would you have them do, especially as there were almost two dozen CIA operatives with the same background as the two ex seals that died already securing the second facility?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@LouisRenault @garyp So why does Robert Gates state that he would not have done anything different. The facts are already out and its just another GOP witch hunt.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Dachman And I ask you. He fell asleep when the first attack was driven off and there was no indication of another attack in sight. Should he have staid up all night and been infective the next day. How would that have helped save the last two fatalities. If he was awake would he have known that a shell from a hidden mortar that we didn't know was there until it fired was en route?

Dachman
Dachman

Sorry I didnt know we were talking about Bush you asked "What else could he have done" I thought you meant Obama.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Dachman I see so the moment he fell asleep all those men died? Remind me again did Bush stay awake every time US soldiers or contractors under attack in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Dachman
Dachman

He could have stayed awake for starters...

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Freedom311 @mantisdragon91 @sueboss3 @paulejb He claimed the WMDs were there when he left office in 2001 not when we invaded in 2003. Its little rewrites of history like this, that still allow the GOP to maintain any shred of credibility in light of all their lies and deceptions.

sueboss3
sueboss3

@mantisdragon91 @sueboss3   So many forget that Bush and all relied on our intelligence community to provide information and proof of the allegations.  There was proof that Iraq had been trying to develop nukes.  Sites were destroyed - then inspectors were kicked out. Many, like the quoter below believed Iraq was still pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.  You make it sound as though we had absolute proof that no WMD existed any more in Iraq.  That simply isn't true.

Lets ask Patty Murray:

“Over the years, Iraq has worked to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. During 1991 – 1994, despite Iraq’s denials, U.N. inspectors discovered and dismantled a large network of nuclear facilities that Iraq was using to develop nuclear weapons. Various reports indicate that Iraq is still actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability. There is no reason to think otherwise. Beyond nuclear weapons, Iraq has actively pursued biological and chemical weapons.U.N. inspectors have said that Iraq’s claims about biological weapons is neither credible nor verifiable. In 1986, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, and later, against its own Kurdish population. While weapons inspections have been successful in the past, there have been no inspections since the end of 1998. There can be no doubt that Iraq has continued to pursue its goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction.” — Patty Murray, October 9, 2002

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@sueboss3 @mantisdragon91 I lost a friend in 9/11 and two in Iraq so yeah I hate Bush. But yet it doesn't change the facts. Where are the nukes that they used to frighten us into war with Iraq with?

sueboss3
sueboss3

@mantisdragon91 

Dear Mantis:  It appears from your many comments that you obtain most of your beliefs from reading threads like these.  I suggest you spend more time using the internet to research and gather information and less on what others spout off.  You have an obvious hatred of all things Bush.  Perhaps you could start there.  Try finding out the answer to the question you just asked; why the discrepancy?  

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And yet the Bush administration never shared this miraculous discovery with the US public and still admits that no WMDs were ever found. Wonder why the discrepancy?

Freedom311
Freedom311

@mantisdragon91@sueboss3@paulejb 

  What happened to these WMD's?

 "People can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons."

    Former President Clinton
    During an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live"
    July 22, 2003 

Was Bill lying? 

sueboss3
sueboss3

@mantisdragon91 @sueboss3 @paulejb

US did find Iraq WMD  By DON KAPLAN

Last Updated: 8:57 AM, October 25, 2010  Posted: 12:44 AM, October 25, 2010

There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after all.

The massive cache of almost 400,000 Iraq war documents released by the WikiLeaks Web site revealed that small amounts of chemical weapons were found in Iraq and continued to surface for years after the 2003 US invasion, Wired magazine reported.

The documents showed that US troops continued to find chemical weapons and labs for years after the invasion, including remnants of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons arsenal -- most of which had been destroyed following the Gulf War.

In August 2004, American troops were able to buy containers from locals of what they thought was liquid sulfur mustard, a blister agent, the documents revealed. The chemicals were triple-sealed and taken to a secure site.Also in 2004, troops discovered a chemical lab in a house in Fallujah during a battle with insurgents. A chemical cache was also found in the city.

sueboss3
sueboss3

@mantisdragon91 @paulejb   No, let's DO ask Hillary:

Hillary Clinton quote from Oct. 8, 2002

“In the four years since the inspectors left [in 1998], intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.”

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb @mantisdragon91 Why ask Hillary, I'd rather ask the UN inspectors that were in Iraq a year later who claimed that Saddam had no weapons and who the Bush Administration did their best to discredit.

sueboss3
sueboss3

@mantisdragon91 @AAC @twb1951 @drwilly 

So you think it's just Republicans that take us into war?  Does Vietnam ring a bell? An undeclared war killing 55,000 drafted (not volunteer) soldiers and millions of Asians?  A Democrat war.

AAC
AAC

@mantisdragon91 @AAC @twb1951 @drwilly 

I liked McCain.  Palin was a huge mistake.  Very poor judgment.  

What Palin taught us is that there is a large group of Americans who appreciate someone who doesn't insult or look down on it and who doesn't consider it to be redneck rubes.  That should be a lesson for democrats.

AAC
AAC

@twb1951 @AAC @mantisdragon91 @drwilly 

I trust Obama.  I also think he's not as smart as everyone claims and not up to the job.  Like a rookie thrown into a Superbowl game.  Everyone blames the other players for being too tough.  


AAC
AAC

@mantisdragon91 @AAC @drwilly 

Sure, it could be said about any politician, but with the Clinton's obfuscation has been elevated to an art form.  No one stonewalls better than a Clinton.

Bill hired a team of lawyers to craft Hillary's defense before the fires had stopped burning in Benghazi. 

twb1951
twb1951

I would hope you didn't trust Obama's predecessor as that might have caused you no end to stress and possible depression

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@AAC @mantisdragon91 @drwilly I know how ridiculous it is to claim that there must have been some wrong doing or incompetence there simply because you don't like the people in power.