Many Questions To Be Answered, Publicly and Quickly (III)

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.

Many Questions To Be Answered, Publicly And Quickly

Many Questions To Be Answered, Publicly And Quickly (II)

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How To Respond To Muslim Lectures, Edicts, and Bounties

The Muslim world has been giving the United States a lot of advice and information lately.  No doubt we’ll hear more thoughtful recommendations and guidance in the next few days, as Muslim leaders come to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.  America needs to decide how to respond.

In Egypt — where only days ago raging mobs stormed the U.S. embassy and ripped down our flag — the new President, Mohamed Morsi, says in an interview with the New York Times that the United States needs to fundamentally change its approach to the Muslim world and show greater respect for Muslim values.  In the meantime, the head of the largest fundamentalist Islamic party in Egypt, which supported Morsi, is calling for U.N. to act to “criminalize contempt of Islam as a religion and its Prophet.”  And in Pakistan — a supposed ally — the government Railways Minister has offered a $100,000 payment to whomever kills the makers of the YouTube video The Innocence of Muslims and called upon al Qaeda and the Taliban to help in murdering the videomakers.  (Fortunately, the Pakistani government says it “absolutely disassociates” itself with the comments of its Railway Minister.  Thank goodness!)  And we haven’t even heard yet from the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, too.

It’s heartening to hear from the enlightened leaders of a region that is widely recognized for reasoned discourse and thoughtful consideration of opposing viewpoints.  But I’d like to see whoever speaks for America at the U.N. General Assembly share some of our views with the assembled Islamic leaders — and do so in pointed terms.  We should say that we relish our First Amendment, and we’re not going to change it no matter how often Muslims go on murderous rampages at some perceived slight.  We should say that will fight any effort to criminalize speech and will veto any ill-advised U.N. resolution that attempts to do so.  We should emphasize that we think that the world needs more freedom, not less, and that we stand with the forces of liberty.  We should tell the Muslim leaders that their real problems are not with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but with tribal-based, anti-female societies that crush individual initiative, medieval economies that leave huge swathes of the population unemployed and ready to riot at any moment, and corrupt leaders who are more interested in amassing their own fortunes than helping their people realize a better way of life.  Oh, and we should make clear that we won’t do business with government where ministers are offering bounties on the heads of filmmakers.

I’m tired of our simpering, whimpering approach to defending our fundamental freedoms.  It’s high time that we stood up for what we believe in and told the Islamic world that they can riot all they want:  we aren’t going to back away from our liberties.

Running American Ads In Pakistan

Our State Department has made the curious decision to spend $70,000 to buy commercial time on seven Pakistani TV channels and run an ad featuring President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton discussing the infamous YouTube video that has been the subject of such controversy in the Muslim world.

The ad apparently is intended to quell the ongoing rioting in the Muslim world.  It begins with footage of President Obama describing America’s tradition of religious tolerance, followed by a statement by Secretary Clinton emphasizing that the United States government had nothing to do with producing the video.  Secretary Clinton adds that the U.S. government rejects the video’s “content and message.”

Some Republicans and conservatives have called the commercial an “apology ad.”  I’m not sure I’d call it that, but I still don’t understand the decision to air the commercial.  We don’t need to explain our system to Muslim fanatics, and it is nonsense to try to respond every time the Muslim world expresses outrage — particularly when it costs us $70,000 to do so.  Pakistan, after all, is only one of 20 nations where rioting has occurred.  Do we really think looting and rioting Muslims are going to change their behavior because President Obama and Secretary Clinton express our belief in religious tolerance and deny that the U.S. produced a cheap, homemade video?

Let’s Not Forget About The First Amendment

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a man who allegedly was involved in making The Innocence of Muslims — the video that the Obama Administration says sparked riots in in the Middle East — has been picked up by police in California.

The stated reason for the pick-up is that Nakoula, who has served time in prison on fraud and identity theft charges, may have violated the terms of his probation.  Those conditions barred him from owning or using devices with access to the Web without prior approval.  Although Nakoula apparently is not under arrest, as he left his home he was accompanied by a large number of uniformed deputies.  In pictures taken of the event, he is wearing a floppy hat and has his face wrapped in a towel; he says he fears for his safety and that of his family.

I’m not defending a convicted fraudster who may have violated the terms of his probation, but I am concerned about the First Amendment.  Consider the message sent by this incident:  An inflammatory video is posted on the internet; Muslims in Egypt and Libya storm our diplomatic outposts and, in Benghazi, kill the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans; members of the Obama Administration repeatedly express their disgust about the video; the Egyptian government says the creator of the video should be charged with a crime . . . and then the man is picked up for questioning about a potential parole violation.  Is that sequence of events really conveying the message we want to send to radical Muslims who, before The Innocence of Muslims was created, found many other reasons to engage in angry anti-American protests?

There’s a reason why the First Amendment is the first amendment.  Freedom of speech is the core freedom we enjoy, from the newspaper reporter to the internet blogger to the person who may harshly criticize our government without fear.  I don’t think we should be suggesting, by our actions, that we will cooperate with foreign governments in cracking down on whatever speech Muslims might conceivably find offensive.  Instead, I’d like to see the Obama Administration engage in a vigorous, public defense of our free speech rights.  The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the other governments in the Middle East, need to understand that we stand by our First Amendment rights and aren’t going to meekly submit to intimidation or demands that those rights be restricted.