We continue to get news about the murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and its aftermath — and none of the news is good.
The Obama Administration now concedes what seemed obvious from the outset: that the attack in Benghazi was not a mob action but instead was a terrorist attack. That leaves the question of why the Administration and its spokespeople, like the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, insisted for days that the attack was purely a response to The Innocence of Muslims YouTube video.
It’s also become clear that the burnt-out shell of the consulate was left unprotected for days, making the place ripe for loss of intelligence information. Three days after the attack, for example, CNN found a journal kept by murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on the floor of the consulate. The U.S. State Department has criticized CNN’s use of the journal, but the fact that it was found days after the attack by people wandering through the consulate raises serious issues about the competence of the State Department and its security arrangements. Weren’t procedures in place to destroy sensitive information? Why wasn’t the area secured more quickly? If CNN was able to find the journal by rummaging around the site, what classified information might have been acquired by the terrorists who plotted the attack?
Finally, the New York Times has an article about the catastrophic effect of the Libyan attack on U.S. intelligence gathering activities in the Middle East. As a result of the attacks a number of CIA operators and contractors had to bug out, leaving the U.S. as if it had its “eyes poked out.” The large CIA presence in Benghazi puts the inadequate security arrangements in sharper focus, and heightens concerns that the names of confidential informants and sources, tentative conclusions reached by our agents, and other significant intelligence information may have been acquired by al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. If Benghazi was a major intelligence-gathering center, shouldn’t the security arrangements for the U.S. operations have been far more robust?
The State Department has created a “review board” to examine the attacks, and the FBI is apparently investigating. That’s all fine, but Congress needs to get involved and begin prompt hearings into the incidents in Libya and Egypt — and, particularly, the many apparent failures in U.S. operations there. We need to determine whether advance warnings were ignored, why our security arrangements were so woefully inadequate, why we were unable to secure the area for days after the attack, and what we need to do to ensure that such planned attacks on U.S. installations cannot happen again.